Herman Cain's Koch Connections

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The Associated Press delves into Herman Cain's history with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who for years have helped to bankroll conservative political organizations and rallies, stiffening the spine of the movement that would become the Tea Party. Turns out they go back a long ways.

Cain, who is steadily rising in Republican primary polls on a call for tax cuts and reduced government, worked with Americans for Prosperity, the political committee founded by the Koch brothers to advocate lower taxes and spending cuts. Cain traveled the country as the group's chief spokesman in 2005 and 2006, the AP says, working alongside Mark Block, the Republican operative who is now Cain's campaign manager.

And a friend from AFP days, Rich Lowrie, inspired Cain's "9-9-9" plan for tax reform: a nine percent corporate tax rate, a nine percent national sales tax, and a nine percent flat income tax rate.

Cain's close ties to the Koch brothers seem unlikely to hurt him with Republican primary voters. Those voters certainly have not been eager to turn on the Kochs, even as they have come to take the place of previous conservative benefactors (think Richard Mellon Scaife) in the pantheon of influential people loathed by Democrats. The AP wonders if the connection to the Kochs might tarnish Cain's cherished status as the outsider in the Republican field — the fed-up businessman just trying to talk some sense into his competitors.

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It's not clear if that's a risk, but should Cain make it to a general election, there is one attack about Koch connections that is surely in every opposition research dossier at Obama HQ in Chicago. That would be this story. Having friends who do business (albeit through layers in incorporation) with Iran doesn't seem like it'll play well with any section of the electorate.

Yet it's mostly good news for Cain right now. Once dismissed by fellow contestant for the right wing of the primary electorate Michele Bachmann as "flavor of the month," Cain's appeal to conservatives appears to be real, and to be helping him where he could really use help: in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But why, the Des Moines Register asks, does Cain seem to be "ignoring Iowa?"

After Iowans’ ardor for Cain cooled a few months ago, he went elsewhere in the country to see whether he could electrify the electorate, several Republican politics watchers here said.

In the early days of his campaign, Cain barnstormed Iowa, whipping up praise during more than 30 days on the campaign trail in Iowa from July 2010 through the straw poll. One turning point: Some Iowa social conservatives, who oppose homosexuality and gay marriage, said they were turned off by Cain’s comment during a Pella stop June 6 that he would have no problem appointing gay staff members to work in the White House.

Then Cain and his Iowa staff had a bitter falling out over campaign strategy, as well as allegations they were asked to mislead supporters about the role of an adviser who is gay. His three Iowa team leaders quit in late June. Two later appealed for unemployment benefits and won, evidence indicating they quit for good reason.

Cain visited Iowa only twice in July, but dedicated a full week here before the straw poll Aug. 13. He hasn’t returned since.

But conservative interest in the candidate is building again, the Register reports, right on time.

Update: Politico's Ben Smith asks, does it matter if Cain is "clueless" about foreign policy? When there's little discernible difference between Barack Obama's and George W. Bush's philosophical approach to projecting power, is this even an area in which a candidate like Cain needs to come up with some ideas of his own?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.