Herman Cain's Kansas ties include Koch's Americans for Prosperity

Herman Cain, businessman, talk show host and now a top-tier GOP presidential candidate, isn’t a Kansas Citian.

But he comes close.

Last June, Cain quietly resigned from the board at Hallmark Cards Inc., one of Kansas City’s best-known companies. Cain, 65, had been a director there for 10 years — leaving to run for the White House.

His long association with Hallmark, however, is just one of his local connections. Over the years, Cain has:

Served as a director at the local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank from 1992 to 1996, eventually becoming chairman.

Served as a director for ill-fated local energy company Aquila, an association that eventually landed him in court as a defendant in a major class-action lawsuit.

Worked as a major recruiter and spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative lobbying group founded and largely funded by billionaires David and Charles Koch, who run Wichita-based Koch Industries.

“He’s a wonderful, genuine, warm, honest, nice guy,” said Alan Cobb, a vice president with Americans for Prosperity. “He was helpful to us as we were trying to expand our chapters of AFP.”

The publicity-shy Kochs have not commented on their association with Cain. But in a statement Tuesday, a company vice president said the firm had “long admired” the businessman-turned-presidential-hopeful.

“Although we have not formally committed to supporting any presidential candidate, we are certainly glad to see Mr. Cain confront the issues of runaway spending and stifling government interference that are holding back the economy and the lives of all Americans,” said Richard Fink.

Support like that has helped the Georgia businessman rise to the top of several opinion polls. The Real Clear Politics poll average for the last two weeks puts Cain’s support at 23.4 percent — just a half point behind front-runner Mitt Romney. And he’s far ahead of the slumping third-place candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

With that surge, of course, has come closer scrutiny. Democrats — and even some Republicans — have criticized Cain’s so-called 9-9-9 tax reform plan, contending that it would drastically shift the tax burden away from the rich and onto the middle class.

Cain also caught flak Tuesday for apparently using campaign funds to buy his own books, which are distributed at campaign events. Cain’s campaign bought the books from a company he owns.

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