UPDATE: Since we went to press with this article, the Associated Press published a piece about Cain and his corporate sponsor, David Koch (via Americans for Prosperity and the AFP Foundation). The AP is a non-profit organization funded by the nation's major news outlets.
With two major polls showing Atlanta businessman Herman Cain now moving ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to claim the top spot among the contenders for the GOP presidential nomination, media are beating a path to his door. Given Cain's clear and strong connection to the billionaire newsmaker David Koch, you'd think that Cain's longstanding ties to the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which is chaired by Koch, and its sibling organization, simply known as Americans For Prosperity, would be a meaty topic for enterprising reporters. Apparently not.
Mainstream media outlets have also ignored the checkered past of Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, who was banned from participation in Wisconsin politics for three years, 2002-2005, because of campaign law violations.
Significant players on Cain's campaign staff are draw from the ranks of Americans for Prosperity or related organizations, beginning with campaign manager Mark Block, who served for six years as director of AFP's Wisconsin chapter. And Cain himself, before launching his presidential campaign, was a frequently featured speaker at events hosted by the Americans For Prosperity Foundation.
At AlterNet, we've been keeping tabs on Cain's Koch connection for more than a year, detailing his ties to Americans For Prosperity, as well as to Prosperity 101, a Koch-linked "worker education" program presented to employees of participating companies in their workplaces, mostly in Wisconsin, during the 2010 mid-term elections that yielded victories for Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson, and a bevy of Tea Party candidates for Congress and the Wisconsin state legislature. We reported the involvement Mark Block in a voter-suppression scheme in Milwaukee, during his tenure as Americans For Prosperity's Wisconsin director. And, in June, we laid out the reasons why a Cain campaign makes good political sense for the interests of Koch and Americans for Prosperity. Here's an excerpt:
When Cain's presidential candidacy was launched, it's likely that his AFP-linked backers never expected he would win the GOP presidential nomination, but that he would make an effective messenger for pushing the party further to the Koch positions. As it looks now, Cain could do even better than that, given the weak GOP presidential field. With each contest in primary season, contenders win delegates to the national convention, where the party platform is laid. Cain will likely do well in New Hampshire -- he could even win the state, as Patrick J. Buchanan did with his populist rhetoric in 1996. And with that win, and strong showings in a few other states, the Buchananites won control of the GOP platform, causing the nominee, Bob Dole, to run on a platform he could hardly stomach.
Below, we offer a rundown Cain's own Koch connections, and those of members of his campaign staff, as well as their significance in the battles currently raging over tax cuts for the wealthy, and collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate - The GOP frontrunner likes to tout his former role as CEO of Godfather's Pizza; he's less vocal about his former position in Americans For Prosperity, which dates back to 2005, for which he served as leader of the "Prosperity Expansion Project." It's difficult to know just what this project is (or was), since any description of it appears to have been scrubbed from the Americans For Prosperity Web site. Since then, Cain has been a featured speaker at virtually every conference the Americans For Prosperity Foundation has sponsored.n July of 2010, we found Cain at the AFP Foundation's RightOnline conference, telling the audience of a well-attended breakout session how he came to be the spokesperson for Prosperity 101, a program designed for company owners to present to employees in their workplaces. The program enlisted Cain and Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member Stephen Moore to tell workers that policies typically identified with Democrats, such as environmental regulations and the right to bargain collectively, could cost them their jobs if enacted. The program was presented during the campaign for the 2010 mid-term elections. (Find AlterNet's in-depth report, done in partnership with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, here.)
Cain was recruited to the Prosperity 101 program, he told the RightOnline audience, by Mark Block and Linda Hansen, then executive director of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, an umbrella group for right-wing organizations put together by Block. (Hansen was an AFP activist.) According to Hansen, Cain called the program, when described to him by Hansen, "the answer to ACORN." Block is also credited with convincing Cain to run for president.
Mark Block, CEO and chief of staff, Herman Cain for President, Friends of Herman Cain, Inc. - Block has a past in Wisconsin state politics, and it's not a pretty one. As we previously reported:
In late 2010, the liberal advocacy group, One Wisconsin Now, caught a Tea Party organizer on tape discussing Block's role in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress voter turnout in two Milwaukee districts that are heavily populated by college students and African Americans.
At first, Block denied any involvement in the scheme, until Tim Dake of the Tea Party group, Grandsons of Liberty, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he had personally spoken to Block about it. Block then conceded that AFP had done the mailing, but said they had abandoned the effort....
The 2010 vote-caging scheme hardly marks Block's first game of dirty politics. In fact, his first day at Americans for Prosperity marked the expiration of a four-year ban on political campaign involvement imposed on him by a Wisconsin court for his illegal activity in a 2001 election.
Then, Block's triumph as campaign manager for Judge Jon Wilcox's successful run for state Supreme Court was tempered by a $15,000 fine for illegally using an outside group, the Wisconsin Citizens for Voter Participation, to conduct campaign activities.
Linda J. Hansen, Executive Vice President/Deputy Chief of Staff, Friends of Herman Cain, Inc. - Tapped as the Cain campaign's chief fundraiser, Hansen appears to have no political experience beyond that gleaned through her connections to Americans For Prosperity. In 2009, Block tapped her to lead the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, an umbrella group based modeled on a coalition built by liberals in Colorado that ultimately turned that red state blue in 2004. From AlterNet's June report:
[T]he Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity hatched its own alliance in 2009 called the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, which came to life as a sort of coalition-in-a-box. With an estimated start-up pot of $6.4 million, the initial plan called for the instant creation of 14 new entities that would work together with the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
When a leaked PowerPoint presentation found its way into the hands of the Wisconsin State Journal, Block conceded to reporter Mark Pitsch that he was the network's "main organizer." Among the new entities created for the network is the MacIver Institute, a right-wing think tank, on whose board sits Scott Jensen, a former state assembly speaker now facing trial for using taxpayer funds for personal expenses.
A major proponent of Scott Walker's union-busting bill, the Wisconsin Prosperity Network sponsored, with Americans for Prosperity, a "Stand With Walker" campaign during the days of protests earlier this year -- busing in Tea Partiers to rallies, and launching TV advertisements, Web sites and petitions.
Hansen went on to serve as the evangelist and registered agent for Prosperity 101, the workplace "education" program for which Cain and Moore served as frontmen. Prosperity 101 is set up as a for-profit, limited liability company. Among the workers treated to the Prosperity 101 indoctrination were those of Menard's, a notoriously abusive employer, and the nation's third-largest home improvement retail chain. (See AlterNet's report on Menard's here.)
Rich Lowrie, vice president of policy; economic advisor, Friends of Herman Cain, Inc. - Lowrie enjoyed a brief moment of fame when Cain named him, in Tuesday's Washington Post/Bloomberg News debate, as the author of his "9-9-9" tax plan, which calls for a reduction of income and corporate taxes to 9 percent, and the imposition of a national 9 percent sales tax. (Cain also mistakenly named Lowrie as an economist; he's actually a "wealth management specialist" in a division of Wells Fargo Bank, with a bachelor's degree in accounting.) In Lowrie's LinkedIn profile, unearthed by Comedy Central's Indecision Web site, he says he sat on Americans For Prosperity's Board of Advisers for three years.
Dan Tripp, national field director, Herman Cain for President - Tripp's resume says he most recently served as national political director for Americans For Limited Government, the group launched by New York real estate magnate Howard Rich. Politico's Kenneth Vogel reported in February that Americans For Limited Government received substantial funding from the big-money donors who regularly take part in the twice-yearly retreats convened by Charles and David Koch.
Michael Johnson, new media specialist, Herman Cain for President - According to a staff description at Democracy In Action's P2012 Web site, Johnson "previously worked with Mark Block at Americans For Prosperity in Wisconsin."
As the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination progresses, David Koch, and his brother, Charles -- two of the richest men in America -- will likely be felt in ways large and small. Reporters in mainstream outlets note repeatedly that Herman Cain can't possibly do well in the primaries, ostensibly because he has no ground organization. But Americans for Prosperity has chapters in 36 states, and Block has proven himself to be a talented organizer, if not a particularly honest one. The longer Herman Cain stays in the race, any potential nominee deemed more likely to become the Republican presidential candidate -- say, Mitt Romney -- will be compelled to adopt a more Koch-friendly agenda. And that's not good for anybody -- except, of course, the 1 percent.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter: