With charisma and national name recognition but no imminent political prospects, onetime Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is using the donor-fueled political action committee created in his name in unusual ways.
The former pizza executive and talk-show host, who briefly led the GOP presidential polls late last year, has created a complicated network of political, nonprofit and for-profit entities that sometimes share funds, campaign finance disclosures filed this week showed.
Cain Connections, the super PAC run by Mr. Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, raised $265,000 in the April-to-June quarter, and spent nearly all of it. But hardly any of the PAC’s money appears to have gone toward traditional political advertising or to the causes and candidates Cain Connections cites in its appeals to potential donors.
The PAC has raised money by sending multiple solicitations weekly to supporters, making pleas such as “We’ve got Gov. Scott Walker’s back, and we have committed to help fund critical ads in the coming weeks before the election. We need you” to donate to the Cain committee. The message was referring to Wisconsin’s Republican governor who survived a fierce recall election battle in early June.
Mr. Block said the primary way Cain Connections supports the candidates mentioned is “by endorsing them. Especially if they are endorsing 9-9-9” — Mr. Cain’s proposed solution to the federal deficit crisis.
“We put out a press release,” Mr. Block said.
He said that in the case of Mr. Walker, the super PAC did give money to a Wisconsin group organized as a nonprofit to run ads there, but he could not recall the name of it. He said his group neglected to disclose the transaction because it hadn’t received an invoice.
Campaign finance rules require such expenditures to be reported during the period that the ad ran, specialists said.
“That’s clearly wrong. It has to be reported in the report covering the date incurred — the date of the transaction, the date the ads ran, not the date the bill is received,” said Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
Novel spending ideas
Mr. Cain is not the only former high-profile candidate operating his PAC in novel ways, according to the latest filings with the federal government.
The PAC of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and one of the party’s biggest draws, raised nearly $600,000 in the second quarter of this year, mostly from small donors, but reported giving only $15,000 — less than 3 percent — to candidates.
According to official filings, Mrs. Palin’s political committee spent $355,000 mailing out the solicitations that brought in those checks. It spent $15,000 on airfare and $2,000 on meals, including a $296 tab at Florida’s Bern’s Steakhouse. She spent $21,000 on speechwriters and paid $151,000 to consultants.
Only three candidates received contributions — the traditional purpose of a political action committee — from Mrs. Palin’s PAC, each for the maximum legal limit of $5,000. The candidates were Ted Cruz of Texas, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, all Senate challengers rather than incumbents.