by Charlie Leck
Since I wrote the last draft of this blog, I read about the name of Herman Cain's campaign organization. It is Americans for Cain (AFC). Nothing too startling, is it? However, as you read this blog notice how similar it is to so many other organizations in the conservative world that have been funded by and encouraged by the very strange Koch brothers. [You can view the first ad in Iowa that AFC is running on Cain's behalf. It goes after both Perry and Romney.]
So, by all indications, Herman Cain is “sitting in the catbird seat” in Iowa. Oh, how I remember the legendary, great baseball broadcaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Red Barber, using that expression to describe situations in ballgames. For the moment at least, that’s where Herman Cain is among Republicans in Iowa and, according to some political analysts, nationwide – he’s in the catbird seat as well.
What if, to everyone’s surprise, Herman Cain got the nomination in the Republican Party? Who the heck is Herman Cain?
Well, hold on to your hats folks, because I think we are all about to find out about him in the coming months. Those of us who thought he was a mere joke are about to learn a lesson about hasty assessments. Herman Cain is for real and we’d better take a close look at him.
I like to think of him as a former resident of Minneapolis. He came up here from Atlanta in 1977 to go to work for the Pillsbury Company after beginning his business career with Coca-Cola. He rose quickly through the ranks and took an important position with the company’s Burger King operations and then took over as the President of the Godfather’s Pizza division in 1986. Two years later, he and some other investors purchased the pizza retailer and began running it as an independent company. He resigned from that company in 1996.
Herman Cain has a head on his shoulders and I think he is in this campaign for real. I also think, in spite of the doubters, that he can raise the money to make a real race of it. Yet, he is also an enigma and he should be looked at cautiously.
You could easily go to Wikipedia or many other sources to get biographical information about Herman Cain, but I’ll give you a quick summary here – by way of introduction. I’ll try to be fair even though I’m generally suspicious of his candidacy because of his pretty close connections with the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is pretty solidly funded by the Koch brothers. (See more about AFP a few paragraphs down this blog!)
was born in December, 1945 in Memphis. Twenty-two years later, he graduated from Morehouse College as a math major and received a MA in computer sciences a couple of years later. After graduation, he worked for a short time as a civilian employee of the United States Navy. His business career began to take off in Atlanta, where he worked for Coca-Cola as a computer analyst and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1977, as I’ve already explained, he joined Pillsbury up here in Minnesota.
A fellow I played some golf with up here in the 90s, who ran both Green Giant and Burger King for a while, has been quoted as speaking highly of Cain’s time with Pillsbury.
He has served on the board of directors of a number of significant companies and was also the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (’95-’96), serving as a Deputy Chairman (’92-94).
Currently, Cain writes an opinion column for the North Star Writers Group. He’s also done some radio work and has identified himself as a strong conservative through both these media endeavors.
Over the years, he has received honorary degrees from Creighton U., Johnson & Wales U., Morehouse College, the University of Nebraska, NYC Tech., Purdue U., Suffolk U., and Tougaloo College.
In 2005, Cain began working for Americans for Prosperity (AFP). There, Cain worked with Mark Block, who would later become his campaign manager.
He lives these days in Atlanta (suburban Sandy Springs) and is a member of the Antioch Baptist Church North, which boasts that it is a liberal, activist church. Cain has served as an associate minister of the congregation without pay. It appears that he sometimes a divisive force in the church, offering opinions that differ greatly from the senior pastor.
He is married and has two children.
The heart of his current campaign appears to be a plan to restore economic strength and power to America though a 9-9-9 tax plan. He explains it simply as a replacement for the current tax code and would institute a 9 percent, across-the-board tax on income, a 9 percent business transactions tax and a 9 percent federal sales tax. (Robert Reich, who I admire, is an ardent critic of the Cain plan and calls it “a fraud” and says it “raises taxes on the poor and lowers them on the rich!” [Click here to read Reich’s criticism!] And, Tuesday’s Washington Post carried this front page story about Rick Perry’s new flat-tax plan.
That’s a decent sketch of Herman Cain’s life. To this point I think I’ve been unbiased, but now let me turn to what troubles me and to the disagreements I have with the Cain philosophy. In many ways it would be a blessing for the Obama administration if Cain were his opponent. It would be difficult for anyone to agree with all of Cain’s radical ideas and Obama would capture the fabled center of the campaign.
What is Americans for Prosperity (AFP)?
AFP appears quite certainly to be the organization that provides the major funds to keep the Tea Party Movement going! It also appears to front the very special interests of the Koch brothers, a couple of billionaire guys I’ve written about here several times. AFP clearly works against the interest of progressives and the initiatives of the Democratic Party, including labor unions and the protection of the environment (lobbying against international climate talks). It stands against most health care reform proposals. The organization is emphatically anti-Obama. The AFP budget in 2010 was in excess of 40 million dollars and most of that was spent in the election to defeat Democrats.
If you want to understand how AFP works and, more importantly, the Koch brothers, I strongly recommend an amazing article in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer: Covert Operations. It’s not a short piece by any means, but it’s extremely well written and it will give you a very good look at the goals of libertarians, David and Charles Koch.
“In Washington, [David] Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular.”
“With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars.”
There’s a Koch Industries refinery operating here in Minnesota, just southeast of the Twin Cities. The company also operates refineries in Alaska and Texas. The company also owns a number of other companies, a few of which are Brawny (paper towels), Dixie (cups) Georgia-Pacific (lumber), Stainmaster (carpet) and Lycra.
Koch Industries, after Minnesota’s Cargill Corporation, is the second largest privately owned company in America.
David and Charles are worth somewhere around 17 to 25 billion dollars each! Only Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are worth more among Americans. Unlike Buffett and Gates, the Koch brothers are libertarians. They believe in and work toward much lower personal and corporate taxes and much less regulation of American industry. They also oppose the amount of social services that America provides to the needy through the federal government.
Now, on the other hand, a study released by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst accuses Koch Industries of being one of the top ten polluters in the United States. Greenpeace goes further and says Koch Industries is the “kingpin of climate science denial.”
“They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation and obfuscation!”
Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, puts it more strongly: “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
AFP is the nation’s leading advocate of the Tea Party Movement and AFP exists on a foundation constructed by and funded by the Koch brothers.
Peggy Venerable, a close friend of the Koch brothers and a clear organizer on their behalf, recently said: “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool.”
It’s clear that the Koch brothers want to bring down President Obama. He shouldn’t take it personally because the brothers oppose anyone with a progressive agenda – anyone who wants to take a strong stand on protecting the economy – anyone who wants to increase protections for the workers – anyone who wants the wealthy to pay a greater share in funding the American agenda and the American dream.
David and Charles were raised as libertarians – radical ones at that. Their father, Fred Koch, was one of the original members of the John Birch Society that had been behind the incredible spread of the fear of communist take overs in the 50s. The Society considered Dwight David Eisenhower, our President, as a communist. Fred was adamant about communist control over the civil rights movement of the late 50s and 60s. Though it is clear that the two brothers grew to think the ideas of the John Birch Society were on the “whacko” side, they seemed to transfer that distrust and suspicion to the very government of the United States.
Look at some of the ideas of the libertarian movement that Charles and David Koch support so vehemently. They want to abolish the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. and federal regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. They want to end Social Security and minimum wage laws, gun control and all personal and corporate income taxes. The Libertarian Party has endorsed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs and suicide.
William Buckley, America’s best know and most famous conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”
The Libertarian Party was a flop in America and the Koch Brothers knew their approach to politics had to change. The brothers have created numerous foundations and political action committees and funded them with hundreds of millions of dollars – more money than we will ever know about because the bucks are nearly untraceable.
The Koch brothers are behind the creation of the Cato Institute, the nation’s leading far-right-wing think tank. No institution has been more involved in promoting aggressive opposition to the climate-change movement than Cato.
Think about it! The Kochs are considered among the very biggest polluters in America. The Koch brothers fund dozens of organizations that pooh-pooh any concepts of global-warming and pollution. You don’t suppose there is a connection, do you?
Give me a giant break, will you?
The brothers have set up and funded a number of these ultra-conservative think tanks and some of them in surprising places. One, for example, is at George Mason University – a public institution. It’s called the Mercatus Center and promotes itself as being part of the University. The Kochs control it and the University hosts it. Something doesn’t smell right.
It’s through Koch brother dollars that Citizens for the Environment was set up. It calls acid rain and global warming a “myth.” So far no one has been able to find any members of this organization and it appears to be only a spinoff organization of Citizens for a Sound Economy (another group supported by the Koch brothers).
The Koch brothers have established themselves as patrons of radical, right-wing, anti-establishmentarianism in America. The over-riding concept they want to sell, however, is that strong pollution controls hurt American industry and the American economy and that the concept of global warming is a farce.
And, Herman Cain is their man!
Now, granted and fully admitted, the guts of this blog is based on the extraordinary article by Jane Mayer and I promised you that the article is carefully sourced and appropriate and impressive documentation is provided. As I said earlier, it’s very lengthy, but you’ll learn just how deeply the Kochs influence contemporary ultra-conservative political thinking. Their fortune is the engine driving strange conservatism in America today. She concludes her long essay with this paragraph:
“The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called ‘the largest company that you’ve never heard of.’ But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind ‘groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.’ Obama said, ‘They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation’—or even, he added, ‘a big oil company.’”
Read more at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer#ixzz1bn6e1JM8
The Koch brothers will be an enormous force in the 2012 elections. The Supreme Court has made the use of such influence so much easier than it was in past elections. It will be difficult to stand up to the fortune they will spend to spread their message and to elect their candidates.
If the American people could understand who is driving these ideas and how that particular political agenda benefits large corporations and the extremely wealthy, then they might rise up in united numbers to vote against such extremism.
Now, we began with Herman Cain and ended up discussing the Koch brothers. I hope you see the connection. Mr. Cain is their man! See this extremely good article on Alternet if you want to understand that further. You'll also find information there about Mark Block, who organizes for Mr. Cain and runs the campaign. For instance, Block was banned from involvement in Wisconsin politics for a period of three years because of violations of fair campaign law. Block also chaired Wisconsin's chapter of the AFP for six years. Alternet draws very clear lines from Herman Cain to his involvement with the Koch boys. Then read on about Cain's campaign staff and how deeply they have been involved in the ultra-conservative movement in American politics.
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