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Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is used to buying his way out of trouble.
His past is littered with payoffs, bribes and financial incentives to buy employee loyalty, fix problems and curry favor.
As President of the National Restaurant Association in Washington, Cain racked up huge travel and entertainment bills that angered members of the association’s board of directors, drew attention from auditors and fostered a reputation that money was no object.
Cain hosted drunken parties where lobbyists for the association used lots of booze to influence both members of Congress, state legislators and members of his own board.
He bought employee loyalty with huge salary increases to those who pleased him and large severance packages for those who questioned his practices. He sought to cover up his predatory sexual practices with payoffs and large severance packages.
In interviews with Capitol Hill Blue, former employees of the restaurant trade group, Godfathers Pizza — where Cain served as CEO — tell tawdry tales of a man out of control but with the resources to buy off victims and reward those who helped cover up his excesses.
The restaurant association gave Cain a blank check. Although he continued to live in Georgia, his employer paid for a luxury apartment in the tony Jefferson Hotel in Washington. His meals were expenses, as were clothing expenses, dry cleaning and other personal bills.
“He didn’t pay for anything out of his own pocket,” says a former employee of the trade group. “Everything was charged off to travel and entertainment.”
Cain traveled extensively and ran up thousands of dollars of bills on NRA credit cards.
“I was on the road a lot,” Cain told Fox News on Oct. 31.
His expenses drew the attention of auditors, who issued a “management letter” questioning Cain’s spending and which resulted in closed door meetings of the association’s board of directors.
The letter criticized the NRA for failing to maintain a system of checks and balances on their President’s spending.
But Cain’s excesses weren’t limited to spending. He came on to women, made suggestive remarks about their appearance and was, in the words of one former staff member, “a player.”
“Everybody was aware of it,” Chris Wilson, a partner in an Oklahoma political consulting firm that worked for the National Restaurant Association during Cain’s tenure, told a radio interviewer this week. Wilson’s firm now works for the Perry campaign, leading to charges from the Cain campaign that the Texas governor leaked news about the sexual harassment claims.
The Cain campaign backed off the claim Thursday.
But stories about Cain’s womanizing circulated long before he came to Washington to run the restaurant association.
“Women were always leaving us under a cloud,” says a former employee of Godfather’s Pizza, who worked there during Cain’s time as CEO. “They left with nice severance packages. Everyone knew it was hush money because they had a problem with Mr. Cain.”
Charles Everett, a retired reporter in Atlanta, says Cain was always known around town as “a colorful figure who liked to party and who liked women.”
“Yeah, he played around,” Everett says. “Most powerful men do. Powerful women too.”