Cain’s Other Scandal

Herman Cain is having a moment. Thanks to his economics-by-mnemonics plan and his unconventional, smoke-filled ads, Cain recently shot to the top tier of the GOP campaign. He became what Ryan Lizza called the fringe frontrunner.

But when you step to center stage, you realize just how glaring the spotlight can be. Cain’s campaign is reeling from revelations that two former employees at the National Restaurant Association accused Cain of “inappropriate behavior.” His inconsistent statements about the ordeal are only making matters worse.

The harassment story will dominate Cain’s coverage for some time to come, but there is another scandal lurking in the background that deserves attention as well.

Mark Block, Cain’s chief of staff, has been implicated in a host of campaign financing improprieties. And as researchers pore over financial documents, they have found substantial links between Cain, Block, and the Koch Brothers.

Koch Industries own oil refineries and 4,000 miles of pipeline and was named one of the top 10 air polluters in the nation in a 2010 UMass-Amherst report. The Kochs’ political donations are often aimed at promoting their Libertarian views, but they also directly benefit their own profit margins. They have donated millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that fight environmental regulation and seed doubt about climate science. A Greenpeace report called them a “kingpin of climate science denial.” And though green groups tend to paint ExxonMobil as the worst of the worst when it comes to lobbying against climate legislation, Koch outspent even them.

It’s no surprise that Cain would attract Koch money and dollars. He says he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he believes public health and environmental safeguards are “burdensome.” Those are appealing positions for dirty polluters like the Koch’s business interests.

But now we can connect the dots. Cain’s Chief of Staff Mark Block ran the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group cofounded by the Koch brothers to develop the Tea Party movement. Block met Cain through Americans for Prosperity and encouraged him to run for president. Block then launched spinoff groups from Americans for Prosperity, including Prosperity USA, which gave money and services to Cain’s campaign. It also paid for Block’s trip to meet with David Koch in Washington.

This doesn’t mean Cain was the Koch brothers’ top choice. They fund several candidates who back their anti-regulation, anti-clean energy, and anti-climate action agenda. They were major players in the midterm election and they will likely continue paying to keep their dirty talking points at the forefront of the presidential race.

That is their right, according to current campaign finance laws. But it is also voters’ right to know where the big money comes from and what kind of influence it buys. In the case of the Koch brothers, it seems to advance candidates who give polluters a free pass and disregard how this will damage the health of American families.

Walker Isolated

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), today:

I'm not sending the state police after anybody. I'm not gonna divert a single trooper from their job of protection the Indiana public. I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work. ... For reasons I've explained more than once I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), today:

My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), tonight's "fireside":

The missing Senate Democrats must know that their failure to come to work will lead to dire consequences very soon.   Failure to act on this budget repair bill means (at least) 15 hundred state employees will be laid off before the end of June.  If there is no agreement by July 1st, another 5-6 thousand state workers -- as well as 5-6 thousand local government employees would be also laid off.

Tone.  Deaf.  Someone has been giving Walker some very bad PR advice.  The real fight at this point is whether Republicans in the legislature will do the walking back, letting Walker save face, or if they'll let him shoulder the over-reach alone.  Walker, legislative Republicans or Democrats, someone has to back down, and momentum is behind the state Democrats standing their ground.  And the longer the fight continues, the more discussion around Walker's proposal -- designed as a reactionary, quick, "crisis" driven move, not ready for prime time scrutiny -- the better the position for unions and Democratic lawmakers.

Public support for union bargaining rights nationwide is high, the unions have agreed to the financial concessions, and rally's from Colorado to New Jersey to Montana in support of Wisconsin workers have drawn headlines.  Walker's only hope here is that the toxicity the battle he and state Republicans have chosen doesn't hang with them for the next four years.

But here's hoping it does.

Diaries

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