A spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign is adamantly denying that members of the GOP presidential candidate's staff leaked a story has swamped Herman Cain's campaign this week. Instead, the Perry camp is pointing a finger at the campaign of another rival Republican, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as a possible source of the report about the sexual-harassment charges levelled a decade ago against Cain by female subordinates at the National Restaurant Association.
In an interview with Forbes, Cain suggested that the source of the story, first reported by Politico, was Curt Anderson, a consultant who now works for Perry.
“That is false, patently untrue; no one at this campaign was involved in this story, and the first we knew about it was when we read Politico,” Perry’s communications director Ray Sullivan told National Journal and CBS News. Sullivan also suggested it may in fact be Romney’s campaign that was behind the story.
“There are blog postings around as well ... discussing that Cain's successor at the restaurant association is a big Romney donor and some of the board members,” Sullivan said. “There are much closer connections between the restaurant association, Cain, and the Romney camp than there are with us.”
He added: “I wouldn’t put it past them.”
Federal Election Commission records show that Steven C. Anderson, who succeeded Cain as CEO of the National Restaurant Association, gave $1,000 to Romney’s campaign on July 14. He also gave the same amount of money to Cain in two $500 installments during his 2003-04 Senate campaign.
What's Team Romney's response to Sullivan's charge? "Not true," said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the former governor.
In the Forbes interview, Cain explained his reasons for suspecting Anderson: He said he briefed the political consultant on the charges that had been levelled against him during an unsuccessful 2004 Senate bid. Anderson was working for Cain at the time. He recently signed on with Perry.
Sullivan denied any connection between Perry staff and the leak, noting that Anderson had denied being the source of the story about Cain's accusers. Responding to a separate report suggesting a possible link between the Perry camp and the Politico story, Sullivan said that Chris Wilson, an Oklahoma-based political consultant who on Wednesday said that he witnessed Cain behaving inappropriately toward women, is not affiliated with the Perry campaign in any formal or informal way.
Wilson works for a pro-Perry political action committee, but federal election law requires such groups to remain independent of the candidates they support.
Sarah B. Boxer contributed