Wisconsin nonprofit allegedly paid for Cain’s campaign expenses

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

It's not just past claims of sexual harassment that have Herman Cain on the defense today.

The Republican presidential candidate is also facing scrutiny for allegations his top political advisers illegally used a Wisconsin nonprofit group to get Cain's 2012 campaign off the ground.

Records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice show Prosperity USA, a now-defunct Wisconsin organization founded by Cain chief of staff Mark Block and his deputy Linda Hansen, paid for "tens of thousands of dollars" in early expenses by the former Godfather Pizza chief's presidential campaign.

According to Bice, Prosperity USA, which billed itself as a tax-exempt nonprofit, fronted cash for iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas on behalf of the Cain campaign—payments that would clearly violate campaign finance laws that strictly limit political groups from paying for candidates' expenses:

It is not known if Cain's election fund eventually paid back Prosperity USA, which now appears defunct. The candidate's federal election filings make no mention of the debt, and the figures in the documents don't match payments made by the candidate's campaign.In addition to picking up these expenses at least initially, Prosperity USA also paid as much as $100,000 to the Congress of Racial Equality, a conservative black organization, shortly before Cain was a featured speaker at the group's annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in mid-January.

Cain, who has surged to a top-tier presidential candidate in the past month, apparently was not paid for the appearance. The personal financial disclosure forms for the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza list no honorariums for speeches.

According to the paper, Prosperity USA had been doing well financially until earlier this year, when it reported major debts. Its biggest asset, according to records, was $40,000 owed to the group by "FOH"—which appears to stand for Friends of Herman Cain. Among other things, internal records show the group billed Cain's campaign for $17,000 in chartered flights, $5,000 for travel and meetings in Iowa, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas and Louisiana, and $3,700 for iPads.

Block, who founded the group last year, dodged requests for comment from the Journal Sentinel on the story, telling Bice in an email Friday he would respond to his questions but he was simply too busy running a presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Cain, in an interview with Fox News Monday, said he and his staff were unaware of the story.

"I'm not aware of this report so my staff did not have time to go through it," Cain told Fox News. "We are going to look at it and see if there's any validity . . . but at this point I didn't even know about this report until I saw it on your show."

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