Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's new internet ad features a tight head shot of his campaign's "chief of staff," Mark Block, telling viewers how great Cain will be for the country and how much confidence he has in Cain. In the ad, Block looks directly at the camera, says, "We've run a campaign like nobody's ever seen." Then, at the 40-second mark in the 56-second political spot, Block unexplicably takes a long, prominent drag from a lit cigarette and then exhales, blowing the smoke directly at the viewer. The ad highlights Cain's connections to the tobacco industry, and Block's position in the campaign belies Cain's connections to David Koch. Until earlier this year, Block was the long-time leader of the Wisconsin arm of the David Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), following a scandal that barred him from electoral politics for a time. A number of Cain's other aides have also worked for AFP, and Cain's old work and email addresses used to be with the Koch group. But what's the cigarette connection?
The tobacco industry has helped advance some of Americans for Prosperity's agenda in several states. Cain himself has also been a tobacco industry ally. He formerly served as president of the National Restaurant Association -- a long-time ally of the tobacco industry in the past. R.J. Reynolds' Director of Public Policy, Robert Meyne, openly praised him in a speech at a 1994 international restaurant, hotel and gambling convention in Las Vegas. Another RJR memo from 1997 indicates clearly that Cain and RJR agreed hold on pro-smoking policies. Numerous documents are available at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library describing his relationship with the tobacco industry.