Herman Cain, the Koch Industries' Candidate in 2012


Herman Cain admitted yet another area of complete cluelessness yesterday morning on Meet the Press, stating he is “not familiar” with the neoconservative brand of foreign policymaking. This revelation dovetails nicely with a recent investigation by the Associated Press revealing Cain’s long-term association with Koch Industries, now facing a probe into its alleged illegal petrochemical deal with Iran.

It is unclear how a presidential candidate could be so unfamiliar with America’s primary foreign policy direction for the past decade. The only real explanation is that candidate Cain really has no interest in developing an independent understanding of campaign issues, because he essentially takes his positions directly from moneyed interests such as Koch Industries and their allies in the lobbying industry and conservative think tanks.

The AP revealed that Cain, who has continually portrayed himself as an outsider, has a long and storied history with Charles and David Koch, the reclusive ultra-conservative billionaires who have pumped millions of dollars into right-wing political candidates and lobbying groups in the past decade. Most analysts credit the Koch brothers’ lobbying machine with the creation of the Tea Party, and his recent success in the polls is widely attributed to his attempts to satisfy that demographic; for example, his “9-9-9” tax plan is perfect for Tea Party tax hawks, who like the idea of a “simplified” tax code that would dramatically reduce federal revenues.

What Cain will not tell you, and has been trying to hide, is that his chief economic advisor and the creator of 9-9-9 Rich Lowrie, was on the board of a Koch-funded advocacy group and think-tank named Americans for Prosperity (AFP) from 2005-2008. Lowrie has little, if any, economic credentials. He recently downplayed his lack of economic expertise, instead claiming the 9-9-9 plan “focused on simple truths of economics, the same way it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to know what would happen if I held a bowling ball and then dropped it.”

Further links are much deeper and far more damaging. It turns out Cain was the public face of AFP’s ”Prosperity Expansion Project,” traveling the country from 2005 to 2006 promoting the group and encouraging activists to begin local AFP chapters from coast to coast. His campaign manager, Mark Block, was the State Director of AFP from 2005 to 2010. Block was also legally barred from engaging in organized politics for three years following the 2001 resolution of a suit which accused him of illegally arranging a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice’s re-election campaign with a lobbying group. Last month, allegations emerged that Block was involved in an illegal Wisconsin vote-caging scheme designed to disenfranchise college and minority voters – also funded by AFP.

Cain’s dense connections with the Kochs, combined with his and his staffers’ apparent ignorance of even the basic principles of various schools of political and economic thought, are deeply troubling. He is increasingly appearing to be the first presidential candidate who is not only beholden to corporate money, but in fact running on a corporation’s behalf; the head of a liberal Wisconsin organization, Scot Ross, called him a “presidential corporate spokes-candidate.”

Cain is uniquely suited to such a role. His public disregard for appearing logical or knowledgeable on a huge swath of policy directives no doubt harms his chances. However, these very public gaffes are also very telling. When pressed, Cain usually defers to undefined “experts,” or “numbers” he tellingly does not have on-hand at the time of the interview. President Cain would have no ability, and probably no desire, to become profoundly engaged with the issues. Instead, he would take direction from these various so-called “experts,” all of whom would likely be bankrolled by and ideologically friendly to corporate experts.

In the ongoing Koch Industries Iran scandal, Koch managers have quickly distanced themselves from the sales, essentially claiming they were the brainchild of a few salesmen acting outside proper corporate procedure and the boundaries of American law. Against Koch Industries’ well-documented history of flouting environmental law, bribing public officials, union-busting efforts, and safety violations, this defense is laughable. Even so, it is hard to imagine a future President Cain indebted to Koch lobbyists not letting the corporation entirely off the hook.

The evidence is mounting that Cain is nothing but the public face of Koch Industries. Cain is the focus of the corporate lobby’s long-shot effort to place a man into the highest office in the country; only time will tell if Republican primary voters will buy his line. If he continues hawking the corporate line, he will almost certainly have the money and resources to fight a hard campaign against other GOP contenders.

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