Cain supporters launch ‘super PAC’

Rachel Rose Hartman

Herman Cain this week became the latest GOP presidential candidate to join his top-tier competitors in getting his very own "super PAC." These new fundraising operations have sprouted up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision rolling back most forms of federal campaign finance regulation; they permit political campaigns to raise unlimited funds.

Supporters unveiled "Americans for Herman Cain" minutes before their candidate took the stage for Tuesday night's presidential debate in Nevada. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and other candidates already have super PACs collecting big-ticket donations. And as a sudden frontrunner who initially had been running his campaign on a shoestring, Cain now sorely needs to ramp up his own fundraising.

Cain reported raising $2.8 million in the third quarter (which included a $175,000 personal loan) and spending $2 million. Those totals put him far below his competitors including Perry, who raised $17.2 million last quarter and reported more than $15 million remaining.

The man behind the committee for Cain is Jordan Gehrke, a direct-mail and campaign operative who worked on Sharron Angle's Nevada senate bid in 2010. Gehrke previously worked for the direct-mail firm Base Connect--which has made headlines for charging high premiums to candidates.

Gehrke told CNN he plans to raise enough money to hire "experienced operatives" for Cain in early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Much media speculation has surrounded Cain's meager campaigning--Cain still lacks strong organizations in voting states, and he continues to keep to a fairly light campaign schedule, intermingled with many stops to promote his book, This Is Herman Cain.

Following last Tuesday's presidential debate at Dartmouth College in the key early voting state of New Hampshire, local news reporters quizzed Cain on why he hadn't devoted more time and attention to their state.

"I've had to spend time and attention on some of these other places," he told them. "But don't worry. I'll be back."

Super PACs are required to operate independently of candidates. Campaign finance watchdog group Democracy 21 said Wednesday that the name "Americans for Herman Cain" violates that stipulation.

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