Good News and Bad News About Herman Cain's Fundraising


The Hill reports that Herman Cain fans showed their support with their wallets after the candidate was assaulted with nebulous sexual harassment charges:

Herman Cain‘s presidential campaign raised one quarter of a million dollars on Monday, just as sexual harassment allegations swirled about the candidate and his campaign was forced into its most defensive position to date.

“It was one of our best fundraising days ever,” campaign manager Mark Block said Tuesday, adding that Cain’s economic message and outsider status were clearly resonating across the United States.

The purpose of a story like the Cain sexual-harassment hit is threefold:

1. Give the media an indefinite license to describe the target as “embattled” or “controversial.”

2. Repulse low-information voters who will forget virtually everything else about the candidate except the manufactured controversy.

3. Frighten away skittish high-information voters who become convinced the tarnished candidate is now “unelectable.”

It doesn’t look like dynamic Number 3 is coming into play, at least not yet.  Number 2 might dissolve if low-information news consumers find themselves liking Cain after sustained exposure to him, and he doesn’t allow secondary controversies to take root.  More than one media assault has taken down a target long after everyone has virtually forgotten the original story.  (One word: “Macaca.”)

There’s a bit of buzz among even those who are not generally hostile to Cain that he and his campaign could have handled this incident a lot better.  They did have time to prepare (Politico gave the campaign ten days’ notice that the story was coming) and there were too many conflicting responses from Cain concerning what he did or didn’t know about the case.  Nothing gets those secondary controversies brewing faster than contradictory statements separated by only a matter of hours.  It seems sloppy at best, and duplicitous at worst.  “Sloppy” is scary to voters concerned with electability.

As for Dynamic Number 1, well, that’s both inevitable and nearly unstoppable.  Once the media has decided a Republican or conservative is “controversial,” they always will be, unless public support is so pronounced and sustained that the media feels silly about pushing the meme too hard.

The Hill report alludes to a new scandal brewing for the Cain campaign, this one revolving around campaign finance laws, as broken in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Herman Cain‘s two top campaign aides ran a private Wisconsin-based corporation that helped the GOP presidential candidate get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas – something that might breach federal tax and campaign law, according to sources and documents.

Internal financial records obtained by No Quarter show that Prosperity USA said it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. Cain began taking donations for his presidential bid on Jan. 1.

Prosperity USA was owned and run by Wisconsin political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, Cain’s current chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively.

The authenticity of the records was verified by two individuals close to the firm.

That would be the same Mark Block who boasted of the excellent fundraising day his campaign enjoyed after the sexual harassment story broke. 

Prosperity USA is gone now, and no one is quite sure whether the Cain campaign ever paid them back.  They were $110,000 in the red, according to the Journal-Sentinel report, and the biggest asset on their books was the $40,000 Cain’s campaign owed them.

These should be easy questions for Mark Block to answer.  He should take a lesson from the sexual harassment flap, and put some quick, clean, thorough answers on the table.  Campaign finance laws are complex, and enforced in large measure by the media.  They weren’t very interested in Barack Obama’s huge take from questionable donors, but that doesn’t mean they won’t become keenly interested in Prosperity USA, if they smell some blood in the water.  I would hope everyone understands how these games are played by now.