Herman Cain Spends $36,000 In Campaign Funds To Buy His Own Books
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is his own biggest fan. Through Sept. 30, his campaign spent $36,511 to buy copies of books he authored, including his latest, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.
Cain said he plans to hand out the books to supporters so they can get to know him (and his terrible pizza). It probably didn't hurt that his newest book debuted over the weekend at number four on the New York Times Best Seller List (really, America?).
This is Herman Cain! was published by a division of Simon & Schuster. But the money was paid to T.H.E. New Voice Inc., which is Cain's motivational-speaking company. In fact, his campaign paid the company more than $64,000 for airfare, lodging, and supplies, in addition to the books.
The big question now is: Was this illegal? The Federal Election Commission regulates how campaign money can and can't be spent. Unfortunately, the FEC is made up of political appointees, and despite a bevy of rules designed to keep them impartial, they are still political appointees.
Now, there is some precedent here that would prevent Cain from seeing a financial windfall. The FEC lets campaigns buy candidates' books as long as they don't profit. In 2001, Arlen Specter (Remember him? Neither does anyone else!) was allowed to buy his autobiography to give to donors, as long as he didn't get any royalties or count those books for future payments. A similar issue was raised in 2004 with obstructionist bog monster Joe Lieberman.
The good-government types are asking the FEC to take a deeper look into the Cain's expenditures, which they absolutely should. Even if Cain doesn't see a single cent from the sale of those books, it probably helped him land his spot on the NYT Best Seller List. That's not exactly an incidental perk. And then there's the question of why the purchases needed to be made through a company he owns.
Campaign finance laws are interesting, in the way that dissecting a cadaver on a hot summer day is interesting. You can learn a lot by rooting around in there, but it's not a pleasant experience. The laws tend to be malleable, and while the FEC isn't shy about smacking groups who break the rules, there's also a lot of gray areas which are routinely exploited.
Luckily, Cain is far too insane to actually be elected president.
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