October 20, 2011

No, THIS is Herman Cain!


American politicians have shown an amazing ingenuity for raising the bar on cynicism the last few years, the most recent example being Herman Cain, presidential candidate and author of the book This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.  Now, it seems Cain has been using campaign funds to buy copies of his own book … from himself.

The news broke in a Bloomberg News story that reports Cain made a payment of $36, 511, then another of $64,000, to a company he set up to support his books and speaking tours, T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., to buy copies of his new book, as well as his previous book, They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It, as well as some political pamphlets he wrote. Another report, from Talking Points Memo, says the purchases amounted to over $100,000.

As Bill Allison from the Sunlight Foundation — “a nonpartisan group that tracks political money” — explains in the Bloomberg story, “All candidates publish books and they offer them as premiums to donors, but most candidates aren’t buying them from their own companies. It raises the question of his campaign contributions ending up in his own pocket.”

Which is problematic and, well, stupid, in more ways than one. For one thing, what donor wants to give money to a candidate that rips off his own campaign to keep the money? Then there’s the fact that it could constitute an illegal corporate contribution, says Public Citizen lobbyist Craig Holman in the Talking Points Memo report. What’s more, says Holman, “no serious presidential candidate will wade into these murky waters. Presidential campaigns involve more money, frequently using public funds, and presidential candidates are held to a higher bar. The appearance that a presidential candidate may be personally benefiting from the campaign, particularly if public funds are at stake, can be potent fodder for the campaign’s opponents.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives