By Lisa Lerer – Oct 31, 2011
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain touted his “9-9-9” tax plan in Washington today as his campaign denied a report that he sexually harassed two female employees while he served as head of the National Restaurant Association during the 1990s.
Cain’s campaign said the report, published yesterday in Politico, relied on “thinly sourced allegations,” in a statement released to Bloomberg last night. Cain refused to address the issue today during questions about his tax plan at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.
“I’m going by the ground rules,” Cain said of the forum focused on taxes. He said he would address the allegations later today at a National Press Club luncheon.
“Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can,” campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said in the statement.
According to Politico, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and restaurant association officials about sexually suggestive behavior by Cain. The women, unnamed in the report, received separation packages in the five-figure range, the website reported using anonymous persons.
Cain is facing a new level of scrutiny as polls show him gaining ground in the race for the Republican nomination.
Leaving the AEI forum today, Cain described himself as an “unconventional” candidate with “a sense of humor.” Both are seen in a campaign website ad picturing his manager puffing on a cigarette and closing with a close-up of Cain smiling.
‘Herman Be Herman’
“Some people have a problem with that,” Cain said of his style. “Herman be Herman, and Herman gonna stay Herman.”
The former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive cites his business experience in his campaign, saying his background will help him boost the struggling economy.
In his AEI remarks today, Cain said his ultimate goal is to shift the U.S. to a “pure consumption tax.”
Cain would scrap the tax code and replace it with a 9 percent national sales tax and 9 percent levies on business and individual income. The so-called 9-9-9 plan has bolstered his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Cain spent two years as volunteer chairman of the National Restaurant Association, and then left his company in 1996 to lead the Washington-based trade group full time.
In that role he lobbied against a ban on indoor smoking, increases in the minimum wage, stricter workplace safety standards and lower blood alcohol limits for drunken driving. He also worked in favor of welfare overhaul and bigger tax deductions for business meals.
Cain worked closely with tobacco companies, particularly R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., according to company documents available in an online archive.
Politico reported that the claims of sexual harassment disturbed members of the association board who became aware of them. When confronted by a reporter from Politico yesterday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News, Cain evaded questions about the allegations. “I’m not going to comment on that,” he said, according to the report.