The other Cain scandal of the day

Allegations that Herman Cain sexually harassed two women in the 1990s is causing his campaign plenty of heartburn today. The Republican candidate ran to — where else? — Fox News this morning and conceded he’d been accused of harassment, but the allegations were “trumped up” and “totally false.” He wouldn’t, however, speak to the financial settlement the women received.

The basics of the Politico article, then, appear to be true — Cain was accused of misconduct and the women who made the accusations accepted settlements.

That’s the main Cain controversy of the day. There is, however, another one, and this other controversy points to possible campaign-finance irregularities

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 [the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Daniel Bice] 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.

This looks awfully bad for Team Cain. The report points to evidence that two of Cain’s top aides set up a now-defunct non-profit entity that illegally financed the campaign, effectively helping it get off the ground. There’s nothing in FEC filings to suggest the campaign ever paid Prosperity USA back for the substantial funds it spent on Cain’s behalf.

“If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds,” said a Washington, D.C.-based election lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues. The lawyer asked not to be identified because of those affiliations.

Michael Maistelman, a Wisconsin campaign attorney, agreed. “The number of questionable and possibly illegal transactions conducted on behalf of Herman Cain is staggering,” said Maistelman, a Democrat who has represented politicians from both parties on campaign issues.

The unnamed Republican expert on elections law concluded, “I just don’t see how they can justify this. It’s a total mess.”

Keep in mind, even post-Citizens United, a corporation cannot simply give a candidate tens of thousands of dollars. Indeed, even if it was a loan — which has not yet been paid back — as Ian Millhiser explained, that would be illegal, too.