Former pizza executive Herman Cain’s rise to the top of the Republican presidential pack will undoubtedly put smiles on the faces of two Omaha brothers: Charles and David Koch.
The Koch Brothers are infamous for using their billions to finance the Tea Party and helping to gut business and environmental regulations. They have not been shy about influencing conservative politics, both through large direct contributions – the Kochs have pledged to raise $88 million for the 2012 election – and funding corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity.
Though the Kochs have not made a public endorsement in the Republican presidential contest, Herman Cain’s rise from niche radio host to presidential frontrunner appears to have been largely fueled by the Koch network. From Cain’s early foray into politics to his presidential campaign speeches to his top staff, the former pizza executive has had close, consistent ties with the Koch Brothers.
Given the extensive connections between Herman Cain and the Koch Brothers, ThinkProgress asked the former pizza executive about his thoughts on David Koch back in March. Cain called David Koch — as well as his brother Charles — a “patriot”:
Here is a rundown of the numerous ways in which Cain and the Kochs have worked hand-in-hand for years to advance corporate-friendly conservative policies:
- Cain held an official position in the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity: Dating back to 2005, Cain led Americans for Prosperity’s new “Prosperity Expansion Project.” The position allowed Cain to barnstorm the country, giving speeches, holding town halls, and sharpening his skills for an eventual presidential bid.
- Cain’s campaign manager is the former president of Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin chapter: Prior to becoming Cain’s campaign manager and chief of staff, Mark Block served as the president of Americans for Prosperity’s Wisconsin chapter. At the same time Block was serving in that position, he is credited with “talk[ing] Herman Cain into running for president”. As AFP-Wisconsin president in 2006, Block even tried to convince Cain to run for president in the 2008 election because of the former pizza executive’s rousing speeches at Americans for Prosperity events. Block has a history of electoral dirty tricks and once fined $15,000 for violating Wisconsin election law.
- Cain attended the Koch Brothers’ private biannual meeting in Palm Springs: In January, the Kochs hosted one of their biannual meetings of top corporate and political figures in order to coordinate strategy and raise money for the conservative movement. Cain was among the small group of conservative politicians invited to attend.
- Cain traveled to Wisconsin in support of the Koch-funded union-busting bill: During the apex of the fight in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting bill this spring, Cain traveled to the Badger State to support the conservative power-grab, speaking at a rally in February. The Koch brothers were major players in Wisconsin’s anti-union push.
- Cain headlined a Koch-funded anti-climate rally in New York: As other presidential candidates focused on glad-handing with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Cain took time out in June to travel to New York and headline a Koch-backed anti-climate rally. The rally, held by Americans for Prosperity, protested New York’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an important project to fight global warming that has been long-opposed by the Koch Brothers.
The Koch Brothers’ investment in Herman Cain appears to already be paying dividends in advancing their corporatist agenda. Cain has centered his presidential bid around the “999″ economic plan, an enormous corporate giveaway that would reduce companies’ income tax rate from 35 percent to 9 percent. Not only would Koch Industries reap massive benefits, but the Koch Brothers themselves — already tied for the fourth richest people in America — would personally see their tax rates fall from approximately 28 percent to around 11 percent.