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Context of 'October 30, 2011: Cain Presidential Campaign Allegedly Committed Campaign Finance Fraud, Press Reports Show'

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Tea party activist Mark Williams, who resigned from the Tea Party Express for racially inflammatory comments (see July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, July 17-18, 2010, and July 19-23, 2010) and who now heads a tea party-affiliated political action committee (see August 6, 2010), declares on his blog, “MarkTalk,” that he intends to “infiltrate” the ranks of protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, and Sacramento, California, and “expose” them as “goons.” He calls for volunteers to join him. Williams writes that he wants to infiltrate the ranks of Wisconsin protesters who have taken to the streets of Madison to protest Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and his attempts to cripple the ability of unions to organize among public sector workers. Williams says he and his prospective fellows will dress up like members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU): “[W]e are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there… we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like ‘screw the taxpayer!’ and ‘you OWE me!’ to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us)… we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters.” Williams later updates his blog post to report that tea partiers in several other states have called him to share “their own creative ruses” for embarrasing the union demonstrators. “Several have also reminded me that we have a distinct advantage in that the SEIU primarily represents non-English speaking illegal aliens so we will be the ones whose comments will make air!!!!” he writes, and continues: “Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media, and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.” The progressive magazine Mother Jones, reporting on the blog post, writes: “Thus far, demonstrations and counterdemonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, have been peaceful.… Anti-union protesters, led by media mogul Andrew Breitbart, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, and ‘Joe the Plumber,’ largely fizzled after a rally on Saturday. And the image of union workers that Williams seeks to portray seems to run uphill against the images of the employees’ leaders seen thus far. But as labor disputes spread to other states, it remains to be seen whether tactics like those proposed by Williams will be effective in embarassing the public employees… or embarrasing the tea party ‘plants’ themselves.” [Mother Jones, 2/20/2011] Sometime after the press begins reporting on Williams’s blog post, the post disappears from the blog.

Entity Tags: Service Employees International Union, Scott Kevin Walker, Mark Williams (radio host), Mother Jones, Tea Party Express

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The John Birch Society booth displays a banner at the ‘Freedom Rally’ before the debate.The John Birch Society booth displays a banner at the ‘Freedom Rally’ before the debate. [Source: Think Progress]Several prospective contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 participate in a debate in Greenville, South Carolina. The debate is presaged by a “Freedom Rally,” co-sponsored by local tea party groups, the local chapter of the far-right, implicitly racist John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), and a far-right militia organization, the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009). The rally features speakers such as Judge Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who lost his job after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, and Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC). “The change we’ve done in South Carolina can be done across the country,” Haley tells a crowd of some 200 members. “We need to change the person in the White House.” Other speakers talk about issues such as defending traditional marriage and making gold and silver legal tender in South Carolina. The JBS has been considered so extreme that until 2010, mainstream Republicans refused to countenance its involvement in their political events and campaigns (see April 19, 2010). Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM), and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain take part in the debate. Paul and Johnson are libertarians; during the debate, Paul argues for the legalization of heroin, Johnson calls for the legalization of marijuana, and both call for the US to end its military involvement in Afghanistan. [Fox News, 5/5/2011; Think Progress, 5/5/2011; Washington Post, 5/5/2011] Many credit Paul with bringing the JBS back into “favor” with the Republican Party (see July 22, 2007 and August 4, 2008). Fox News host Glenn Beck has also praised the JBS in his broadcasts (see November 9-11, 2010 and After).

Entity Tags: Tim Pawlenty, Roy Stewart Moore, Ron Paul, Nikki Haley, Republican Party, Herman Cain, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Gary Earl Johnson, Oath Keepers, John Birch Society, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2012 Elections

An unofficial logo for the Cain presidential campaign.An unofficial logo for the Cain presidential campaign. [Source: Draft Cain (.org)]Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-GA), who is battling allegations that he sexually harassed two former employees, is further shaken by reports that his campaign may have accepted illegal corporate donations. The apparently-defunct corporation, Prosperity USA, was run by Wisconsin political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, who now serve as Cain’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively. The corporation, which incorporated itself as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under federal tax law, helped get Cain’s campaign up and running by paying for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, including computers, chartered flights, and travel to several states. Such payouts are possible violations of federal tax and campaign law. According to documents obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Prosperity USA claims it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. It is unclear whether the Cain campaign has reimbursed Prosperity USA. Cain began taking donations for his presidential bid on January 1, 2011, but records indicate Prosperity USA may have been spending money on behalf of him well before that date. The records have been verified as authentic by sources close to Prosperity USA. Cain’s federal election filings make no mention of monies owed to Prosperity USA, and the figures in the documents do not match payments made by the Cain Campaign. Other payouts include a $100,000 fee to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a conservative black organization; Cain spoke at the organization’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in mid-January, an event hosted by controversial conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. CORE is heavily involved in tea party events. Apparently Cain was not paid for the appearance, inasmuch as his personal financial disclosure forms do not show any honorariums for speeches. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 10/30/2011; USA, 10/31/2011 pdf file]
Apparent Violations of Tax, Campaign Law - Election law experts say the transactions raise many questions about Priorities USA and its connection to the Cain campaign. A Washington, DC, lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues, and refuses to be publicly identified, says, “If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds.” She says it is a violation of tax law for Prosperity USA to advance money to the Cain campaign for the items invoiced, and the expenditures also seem to violate federal campaign regulations. “I just don’t see how they can justify this,” she says. “It’s a total mess.” Wisconsin campaign attorney Michael Maistelman, a Democrat who has worked for candidates from both parties, agrees, saying, “The number of questionable and possibly illegal transactions conducted on behalf of Herman Cain is staggering.” Think Progress legal expert Ian Millhiser writes that “if Prosperity USA effectively donated money to the Cain campaign by fronting money to them and agreeing not to be paid back, that is a violation of federal election law,” even if the Cain campaign eventually pays the money back. Block and Hansen have refused to comment on the issue. In 1997, Block, then advising the campaign of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox, settled allegations of election-law violations by agreeing to pay a $15,000 fine and to stay out of Wisconsin politics for three years. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 10/30/2011; Think Progress, 10/31/2011] Election lawyer Lawrence H. Norton, who formerly served as a general counsel for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), later says, “If they are supporting his campaign, whether directly or indirectly, they are violating the law.” [New York Times, 11/3/2011]
Connections to Koch-Funded Political Organization - In recent years, Block has run the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004), a nonprofit conservative lobbying and political action group co-founded by the conservative Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011). AFP played a key role in organizing the tea party movement. Block met Cain through AFP, and encouraged him to run for president. Block has incorporated a number of offshoot organizations and corporations from AFP, most of which bore the word “prosperity” in their names. AFP officials insist that Block’s organizations are legally separate from theirs. Documents show that when Block left AFP at the beginning of 2011, he left behind tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices.
History of Involvement with Cain Campaign - Block’s largest group was the now-defunct Wisconsin Prosperity Network (WPN), envisioned as an umbrella organization that would spend over $6 million a year underwriting other conservative political organizations. Hansen was the group’s executive director. WPN was also set up as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Under the law, neither WPN nor Prosperity USA can have direct political involvement with any candidate or candidate organization. Sources familiar with the situation say the two organizations were closely linked, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wisconsin conservatives. One supporter, who still advocates for Cain and thusly refuses to have his name publicly disclosed, says he and many others are very upset with the groups for failing to use the money they raised for their intended purposes. The supporter names Hansen as being particularly responsible for the groups’ money usage. By February 2011, both groups were deeply in debt, with WPN showing a net loss of $62,000 and Prosperity USA showing net losses of $110,000. Prosperity USA’s biggest debt was an almost-$40,000 debit to “FOH,” which records show means “Friends of Herman Cain,” the name of Cain’s presidential operation. The debt includes almost $15,000 for what is called an “Atlanta invoice”; $17,000 for chartered flight service; $5,000 for travel and meetings in Iowa, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and Louisiana; and $3,700 for iPads purchased for the Cain campaign. Other small-ticket items for travel and expenses by Block are listed as “not billed to FOH but due from them.” Other expenses include a September 2010 bill for $5,000 for costs incurred by Cain’s speech to the conservative Right Nation rally in Chicago, which records show Cain attended at the request of AFP; the Cain campaign later used a segment from that speech in a campaign ad. Prosperity USA also paid for a trip by Block to Washington, DC, to meet with billionaire oil magnate and conservative financier David Koch. Singer Krista Branch, who recorded “I Am America,” the unofficial anthem of the tea party movement, was supposed to be paid $3,000 by Prosperity USA; Cain has since adopted the song as his campaign theme. Branch’s husband, Michael, is a Cain campaign and fundraising consultant. The records also show $150,000 in loans from individuals who are not identified. Sources say Hansen paid much of that loan money to CORE earlier in the year. Michael Dean, the attorney for both Prosperity USA and WPN, resigned his position with WPN in the summer of 2011, and contacted the IRS about the organization’s tax-exempt status. And WPN is a listed litigant in a case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
'Outside Counsel' Will Review Allegations - The Cain campaign will respond by saying that an “outside” lawyer will review the allegations. “As with any suggestions of this type, we have asked outside counsel to investigate the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s suggestions and may comment, if appropriate, when that review is completed,” says campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon. Gordon refuses to identify the “outside counsel,” or give a time frame as to when the review will be complete. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 10/30/2011; New York Times, 11/3/2011]

Entity Tags: Herman Cain, Americans for Prosperity, Ian Millhiser, Andrew Breitbart, Congress of Racial Equality, Herman Cain presidential campaign (2012), Wisconsin Prosperity Network, J.D. Gordon, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Prosperity USA, Linda Hansen, Lawrence H. Norton, Mark Block, Michael Dean, Michael Maistelman, Jon Wilcox

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections

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