Herman Cain's upstart presidential campaign might be based out of Atlanta, but the team guiding him has closer geographical ties to Atlanta, Wis., than the capital of Georgia.
The Cain campaign was reluctant to discuss staff and consultant hires last week, on the eve of Iowa's Ames straw poll. But a review of the Georgia businessman's second-quarter Federal Election Commission report — along with some cooperation from his campaign — has revealed a cadre of senior aides heavy on Wisconsin roots and light on presidential experience. Cain, in a nod to his business background, has given all campaign staff corporate job titles.
Mark Block, the chief of staff and chief operating officer, is the former state director of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group. Through Block, the campaign has hired several Wisconsin-based aides and contracted with multiple Badger State businesses. In addition to Block, at least two other senior staff members hail from Milwaukee. According to Cain's last FEC report, the campaign has done substantial business with more than a half-dozen Wisconsin firms.
The Cain campaign confirmed Block's role, as well as that of others it has already publicized, including Deputy Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President Linda Hansen, Director of Communications Ellen Carmichael, Director of New Media Michael Johnson, Vice President of Political and Field Operations Jamie Brazil and in-house legal counsel Scott Bieniek. The campaign declined to discuss other team members or outside consultants — among them individuals and companies listed on public disclosure reports.
But they are largely unknown political professionals with limited national campaign experience.
"What matters most is winning on Election Day. After that, everyone will know your staff," said one Republican operative with recent presidential and Congressional campaign experience. "But it's generally an advantage to have staff members that are a known quantity. It lends credibility to your campaign and your ability to win."
Hansen and Johnson are both from Milwaukee, Carmichael hails from Baton Rouge, La., and Bieniek is from Indiana. Although the Cain campaign helped confirm information for this story, it declined to be quoted.
Among the more interesting revelations about the campaign's operations is the reliance on Wisconsin firms and aides. Eagle Printing & Graphics Inc., of New Berlin, was paid nearly $11,500 in the second quarter, according to FEC reports. Inkit Printing and Consulting LLC, of Madison, was paid a similar amount. Troupis Law Office LLC, of Middleton, was paid almost $8,000; Jones Sign Co., of De Pere, was paid $4,000, and LSAC Inc., of Mequon, was paid $68,000 for "airfare."
Little Bonanza Productions LLC was paid $136,000 from April to June for "media production." Although the company is based in Southern California just north of downtown Los Angeles, owner Chris Burgard is a Wisconsin native, according to conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website, where he is listed as a contributor. According to Burgard's biography as published at Big Hollywood, he was born in Mequon and attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.