Pow! Bam! Herman Cain Appears To Have Accepted Campaign Support From Tax-Exempt Org Founded By Aide

Looks like the indiscretions more likely to sink Herman Cain are these financial allegations, and not sexual harassment settlements. But I will say this one-two punch has opposition research written all over it -- Mittens, or Rove working on his behalf? Either way, reporters will seize on this because it's a much more straightforward story:

Early in his candidacy, Herman Cain may have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in goods and services for his campaign from a tax-exempt organization founded by his top aide, documents from the organization show, raising the prospect of serious violations of tax and election law by both Mr. Cain’s campaign and the organization.

The documents suggest that the nonprofit organization, Prosperity USA, effectively subsidized some early costs of his presidential bid, paying for computer equipment, charter planes and air travel for Mr. Cain or the aide, Mark Block, who is his chief of staff.

Such expenditures would violate federal election and campaign laws, which prohibit tax-exempt groups from engaging in any political activity or contributing to election campaigns, a major problem for Mr. Cain. He spent much of Monday fending off accusations that he had sexually harassed two former employees of a trade association he once led.

The nonprofit’s internal documents cite costs “due from FOH” — apparently short for Friends of Herman Cain, the name of Mr. Cain’s presidential campaign committee — during late December 2010 and January 2011. Those costs include thousands of dollars in travel expenses to Iowa, Louisiana, Las Vegas and Houston for “travel and meetings.” An additional $3,764 was owed for iPads.

“If they are supporting his campaign, whether directly or indirectly, they are violating the law,” said Lawrence H. Norton, an election lawyer at Womble Carlyle and a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

The documents were obtained and posted online by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which reported on the discrepancies on Monday. A spokesman for Mr. Cain did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment, and a lawyer listed on Prosperity USA’s incorporation papers did not return a phone call.

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