Republican presidential contender Herman Cain used campaign funds to buy his own books from his motivational speaking company, Federal Election Commission records show.
Although his autobiography was published by a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., Cain paid Stockbridge, Georgia-based T.H.E New Voice Inc. $36,511 for books. His campaign spent $4 million through Sept. 30, including more than $64,000 paid to his motivational speaking company for airfare, lodging and supplies, as well as the books.
“They are buying my books and my pamphlets,” Cain said in an interview in between appearances in Arizona yesterday. “The campaign is buying them from T.H.E New Voice.”
Cain’s autobiography, “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House,” made its debut over the weekend in fourth place on the New York Times bestseller list. Cain said the sales are in compliance with FEC rules because the campaign is paying the going rate for the material.
Bill Allison, editorial director at the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that tracks political money, said the transactions deserve scrutiny.
“All candidates publish books and they offer them as premiums to donors, but most candidates aren’t buying them from their own companies,” he said. “It raises the question of his campaign contributions ending up in his own pocket.”
The books being bought are Cain’s autobiography and an earlier volume, “They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It,” as well as a pamphlet on leadership, Cain said.
Gifts for Supporters
The books are being given away to supporters to help Cain acquaint them with his life story, part of his “unconventional approach” to his candidacy, he said, adding that his campaign has seen a $2 million windfall in donations in the last two weeks after a surge in the polls.
The FEC has let campaigns buy candidates’ books as long as they don’t profit by the sale. In 2001, the commission said the campaign committee of then-Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania could buy the lawmaker’s autobiography to give to donors, provided the he didn’t receive royalties or count those books in calculations of future payments. The FEC issued a similar ruling in 2004 concerning Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent.
Another 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, faced ethics issues over a $4.5 million book advance he was offered in 1994 from a publishing unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., shortly before becoming House speaker. Amid criticism from lawmakers from both parties, Gingrich agreed to forgo the advance and just take royalties.
His campaign website features his wife Callista’s new children’s book and a link to the Gingrichs’ production company with an opportunity to buy their new film.
While writing an autobiography has become common for a presidential candidate, their manuscripts can create problems beyond financial issues. Competitors routinely comb through them searching for fodder to use on the campaign trail.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, another Cain rival for the Republican presidential nomination, was forced on the defensive during a Sept. 12 debate in Tampa, Florida, over the criticism of Social Security he made in his book.
“The real question is does Governor Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it is unconstitutional, and it should be returned to the states, or is he going to retreat from that view,” said primary rival Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
Perry said Romney was “trying to scare seniors.”
Romney claimed Perry made those accusations in his book. A review of the book by Bloomberg found Perry raised questions about the program but didn’t directly assert that it was unconstitutional.
Perry made a similar book-based attack on Romney in an ad last month and at the Republican debate in Orlando on Sept. 22. Perry said Romney removed from the soft-cover version of his book a sentence describing the Massachusetts health-care law he signed as a model for the nation. Romney said in the debate that he didn’t promote the state law as an example of what should be adopted by the federal government.
“In my book, I said no such thing,” Romney said. “It’s fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book.”
The Washington Post’s fact-check column said Romney has a long track record of saying that his health-care law wasn’t a model for the U.S. and didn’t write that in his book.
Cain’s company website promotes both “This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House” and a booklet, “Leadership Requires Leadership.” His campaign website includes a link to his company.
Gingrich, a former congressman from Georgia, in 1988 led the successful effort to bring down House Speaker Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat, over Wright’s book deal. Supporters bought thousands of copies of Wright’s book, allowing him to pocket the royalties. Wright faced a House Ethics Committee investigation and later resigned.
President Barack Obama, who has penned an autobiography and a political thesis, hasn’t used campaign funds to buy his books, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.