Herman Cain, who suspended his presidential campaign following allegations of an extramarital affair, walked off the campaign trail having raised at least $14 million and with money in the bank.
It’s likely a sum that puts Cain in a position to still have some influence on the 2012 race by donating to other candidates or traveling to promote his ideas.
Cain’s role would be similar to that of 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose political action committee spent $1.6 million through June 30, much of it on travel expenses, contributions to candidates and communications with her supporters.
“You can fly around, you can support candidates, you can play kingmaker and you can sell books, which he’s already done and she’s already done as well,” said Alex Vogel, a Republican consultant. “He can absolutely continue to make sure that his vision is reflected in the campaign.”
Cain told supporters in an e-mail Dec. 6 that he planned to remain active.
“It is my strong intent going forward to assist not only other campaigns, but to influence the entire political landscape,” Cain said. “We will continue to evaluate that influence, how it can be improved, and what can be done to persuade others to promote and implement our bold solutions.”
J.D. Gordon, Cain’s spokesman, wouldn’t disclose how much money is left in the campaign account. “Mr. Cain intends to be part of the debate and, through Cainsolutions.org, he plans to change Washington from the outside,” he said.
Cain reported raising $4.7 million through Sept. 30 with $1.3 million in the bank. His cash-on-hand swelled as he took in another $9.4 million through Nov. 10, after he surged to first place in most public opinion polls. Cain also lent his campaign $675,000.
The next financial disclosure reports will be released in mid-January.
Cain pulled out of the race Dec. 4 following allegations that he sexually harassed four women and had an affair with a fifth. His exit came before he had time to expand his staffs in Iowa and New Hampshire or began extensive television advertising.
While he initially announced a “suspension” of his candidacy, Cain said on Fox News Dec. 8 that his campaign has ended.
“There are no plans to re-emerge,” he said. “For right now, I am going to still be a voice, a very strong voice on behalf of the people who got me this far.”
Republican consultant Craig Shirley said accusations against Cain shouldn’t keep him from playing an active role going forward.
“The allegations never stopped Bill Clinton; why should they stop Herman Cain?” Shirley said. “They only stop him if he allows them to stop him. This is America. You can reinvent yourself.”
As others have done, Cain could convert his campaign committee into a political action committee. That would allow him to more than double his giving to candidates to $5,000 per election from $2,000. It would also provide a vehicle for his supporters’ continued donations; Palin’s PAC collected $1.7 million through June 30.
“The wisest thing for him to do is create a political action committee,” said Eddie Mahe, a Republican consultant. “Use that money to travel, to support candidates, to promote his 9-9-9 idea,” a reference to Cain’s proposal to change the tax code to include 9 percent individual, business and sales taxes.
Donating to Candidates
Former Representative Jim Walsh, a New York Republican, turned his unspent campaign funds into a PAC after declining to seek re-election in 2010. Walsh, now with the lawyer-lobbying firm K&L Gates LLP, used his PAC to give $8,750 to members of Congress during the first months of the year.
“You can contribute. You can go to fundraisers. You can see your former colleagues. You can see people who are involved in national politics,” Walsh said. “Familiarity doesn’t necessarily bring contempt.”
Mahe said that if Cain withdraws from the political arena altogether, the money he spent on his candidacy will amount to a waste of cash. Instead, spending his leftover campaign funds to help shape the race is an investment in his political future.
“The only way to get a return on the money is invest it,” Mahe said. “Use the money he has left and keep on going. As a businessman, he would understand return on investment.”
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