The 2012 Vote
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|Michael Beckel||May 9th 2011|
Businessman and conservative radio host Herman Cain argued his outsider status was one of his strongest assets during the first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle Thursday night in South Carolina.
But while Cain has never occupied elected office, he is no stranger to Washington's world of money in politics.
A former chairman of Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and senior adviser to the 1996 presidential campaign of Republicans Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, Cain has regularly opened his wallet for political allies, and he even operates his own political action committee, called the Hermanator PAC.
Since the 1990 election cycle, Cain, along with his wife, Gloria, has donated $134,100 to federal candidates, parties, and committees, including $25,600 during the 2010 election cycle.
All of Cain's donations during the 2010 midterm election cycle benefited Republicans and conservative groups. And during the past two decades, 70 percent of Cain's money has aided Republican candidates and committees, according to the analysis.
Only 2 percent of Cain's donations have benefited Democrats. These donations—which totaled $3,000—all came during the 1990s and mainly benefited Nebraska Democrats such as Ben Nelson, Bob Kerrey, and Peter Hoagland. During this period, Cain lived in Omaha and was the chief executive officer of Godfather's Pizza.
The rest of Cain's donations—about 27 percent—flowed to the coffers of the political action committee of the National Restaurant Association, which Cain also headed during part of the 1990s.
According to the analysis, Cain has donated to 52 candidates and eight political committees over the past two decades.
The top beneficiaries of Cain's financial largess over the years include:
- the National Restaurant Association's PAC ($36,500)
- the National Republican Congressional Committee ($5,000)
- former Rep. Jack Kemp of New York ($5,000)
- Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, who was elected to office during the 2010 midterms ($4,400) and
- former President George W. Bush ($4,000)
Some other notable beneficiaries of Cain's cash during the 2010 election cycle include Scott Brown, who unexpectedly prevailed during a U.S. Senate special election in Massachusetts in January 2010; former Club for Growth President Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November; and Danny Tarkanian, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary in Nevada to Tea Party darling Sharron Angle.
Cain and the Restaurant Lobby
Cain first joined the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association in 1988.
It was in this leadership role that Cain notably challenged then-President Bill Clinton about Clinton's proposed health care reforms at a town meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in 1993.
For its part, the National Restaurant Association's PAC has long favored Republican candidates with its giving.
During the 1996 election cycle, for instance, when Cain was elevated to serve as the group's president and chief executive officer, the National Restaurant Association PAC donated about $780,000 to Republicans and about $100,000 to Democrats.
Cain’s presidency at the National Restaurant Association lasted until 1999. At that time, the National Restaurant Association was spending about $900,000 per year on federal lobbying.
The Hermanator's Stock on the Rise?
During the 2010 election cycle, Cain launched a PAC of his own—called the Hermanator PAC.
The Hermanator PAC raised $221,950 during the 2010 election cycle.
Many of the PAC's top donors are among Cain's business world connections, including executives at Hallmark Cards and Whirlpool, on whose boards of directors Cain serves. Notably, in December, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and his wife, Janice, also each donated the legal maximum of $5,000 to the Hermanator PAC.
The Hermanator PAC spent the bulk of its money on administrative costs, according to the analysis, including salaries (about $57,000) and travel (about $65,000). It also invested in social media and website consulting, as well as reporting fund-raising expenses.
The Hermanator PAC donated just $2,000 to federal candidates during the 2010 election cycle—$1,000 a piece to Republican congressional candidates Daniel Benishek of Michigan and Brad Zaun of Iowa. Benishek prevailed on Election Day in November in an open seat race to replace retiring Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), while Zaun failed in his challenge to unseat Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa).
Until declaring his 2012 presidential aspirations, Cain hosted a radio talk show in Atlanta.
In 2004, Cain ran an unsuccessful campaign in the GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. During that campaign, he raised about $3 million, including $75,000 of his personal funds that he invested in his bid.
Cain recently told TIME that he would again rely on some self-financing for his presidential campaign. "I will put some of my own money in," he told the news magazine. "But it will not be in the millions, because I don’t have millions to put in."
Cain was heralded as the winner of the Thursday's debate by a focus group led by GOP pollster Frank Luntz for Fox News, one of the sponsors of the debate. The event also featured former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
When asked during the debate about his inexperience in elected office, Cain retorted, "Everyone in Washington has held public office before. How's that working out for you?"
That line drew applause, as did barbs he directed at President Barack Obama.
At one point in the evening, Cain questioned Obama's White House tenure, despite Obama's recent success in tracking down—and killing—terrorist Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and leader of al-Qaida.
"One right decision does not a great president make," Cain said.