Cain Claims Koch a 'Brother From Another Mother;' Meets With Kingmaker DeMint
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As conventional wisdom heralded an end to Herman Cain's presidential campaign due to the sexual harassment scandal that has excited the media, Cain appeared unrepentant Friday before an adoring crowd at the annual convention of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which is chaired by billionaire David Koch.
Indeed the deep-pocketed and powerful men who speak admiringly of Cain, the former CEO of Godfathers Pizza and a former stump speaker for AFP and its Foundation, seem little inclined to back away from the "unconventional" candidate. Koch beamed as Cain issued a shout-out to him and his brother, Charles (who was not present at the gathering), saying that he regards them as family. "I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother...and proud of it!" Cain said. And earlier in the week, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a powerful figure in the Tea Party movement, met privately with Cain to discuss the presidential election.
A just-released poll by the Washington Post poll shows Cain, even in the wake of the sexual harassment story, still running neck-and-neck for the GOP presidential nomination with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who delivered a lackluster speech at the gathering that was politely received. The Post reports:
Seven in 10 Republicans say reports that Cain made unwanted advances toward two employees when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s — allegations which have been stiffly rebutted by Cain’s campaign — do not matter when it comes to picking a candidate.
Even as the drip, drip, drip of revelations about settlements paid on his behalf to women he allegedly sexually harassed challenged Cain's own multiple versions of just what took place between himself and at least two women who worked for him when he led the restaurant trade group in the 1990s, Cain met nothing but adoration from the Tea Partiers assembled in the Washington (D.C.) Convention Center, evoking thunderous applause for his remarks about the Koch brothers, the right-wing mega-donors who are together worth an estimated $50 billion.
Still, the morning began for Cain with yet another bit of bad news: The New York Times, picking up on revelations by the Miwaukee Journal Sentinel (which AlterNet reported on Tuesday) about the apparently illegal use of funds from a Koch-linked non-profit to pay some of his campaign expenses, laid out the case AlterNet has been making since June: that Herman Cain, who has done quite a lot of paid work for Americans For Prosperity and its foundation since 2005, is a favorite of the Koch brothers.
For the crowd in the convention center though, that the story appeared in the New York Times -- a newspaper regarded by Tea Partiers as a tool of the left -- only added fuel to the persecution narrative that Cain has been spinning ever since Politico broke the story of the alleged sexual harassment settlements on Sunday. From Cain's speech:
You know, I've been in Washington all week, and I've attracted a little bit of attention. There is an article in the New York Times today that has attempted to attract some more attention. That's what happens when you start to show up at the top of the polls...The article tries to make a case about how close the Koch brothers and I are. I'm proud to know the Koch brothers. I'm very proud to know them. [BIG APPLAUSE] They make it sound like we've had time to go fishing together, hunting together, skiing together, golfing together. But just so I can clarify this question -- this may be a breaking-news announcement for the media -- I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother...and proud of it!
The rest of the speech was pretty much Cain's standard stump remarks -- a bit on his 9-9-9 tax plan (comprising a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax, and a 9-percent national sales tax), a bit about a foreign policy based on clarity, with some EPA-bashing thrown in for good measure, all delivered in a snappy, humor-laden manner.
A Persecution Narrative
Not a word passed his lips about the sexual harassment scandal, or the growing scandal surrounding his campaign finances, which the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the Federal Elections Commission to investigate.
At the Herman Cain super PAC, though, the sexual harassment allegations were all that were being talked about. Taking a page out of the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings, the Herman Cain for America PAC sent out a fundraising e-mail and posted an internet video ad accusing the media (described as liberal, of course) of conducting a "high-tech lynching" of Cain around supposedly baseless charges -- because he is black.
"It has already benefited him tremendously," said Washington Post reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, speaking on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show. Since the story of the sexual harassment allegations against Cain broke earlier this week, she said, Cain has already raised $1.2 million. Henderson said she talked to DeMint, who actually told her that he thinks the sexual harassment allegations will ultimately help Cain -- as long as "no more details are released."
DeMint's endorsement is believed to be perhaps the key nod that any GOP presidential candidate will need in order to win the nomination. His power within the party's right-wing base is formidable, as is his perch as a U.S. senator from the largest of the early-primary states.
I asked Cain's spokesperson, J.D. Gordon, just what exactly was the purpose Cain's and DeMint's meeting on Wednesday night. "It was about the election," he said.
When I asked if Cain was seeking DeMint's endorsement "I really don't have anything else on that for ya, and I have to run."