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Will pizza donations follow Cain's GOP straw poll win?

Gage Skidmore/FlickrRepublican presidential candidate Herman Cain

The corporate suite of Godfather’s Pizza is a presidential proving ground, argues former CEO Herman Cain.

But it hasn’t been a fount of campaign donations for the Republican presidential candidate, who shocked the GOP field over the weekend by winning the party’s Florida straw poll.

So far, at least, nobody identifying himself as an employee of the Nebraska-based pizza chain has donated to Cain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ database of political money.

It’s apparently nothing personal.

In the past four years, nobody affiliated with the 600-restaurant Godfather’s chain – not even CEO Ronald Gartlan – has donated to any candidate for federal office, records show.

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In 1988, Gartlan and Cain, then fellow Godfather’s executives, took the company private, buying it from Pillsbury. Gartlan later bought out Cain, according to an account in Food & Drink Quarterly magazine. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Unlike Godfather’s, rival chain Pizza Hut makes political donations.

Records show Pizza Hut employees have donated $316,000 to federal campaigns since 2008, $89,325 of it to the International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association, the chain’s political action committee. The PAC has donated mostly to Congressional Republicans. It gave $3,500 to the Congressional campaigns of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, another GOP presidential hopeful.

Perhaps Godfather’s employees and other donors will step up in response to Cain’s surprising success in Florida.

The lone African American in the GOP field has campaigned on his 9-9-9 economic plan – dumping the federal tax code in favor of a flat 9 percent tax on wages, sales and corporate profits. In Orlando, he ignited Republican activists with a fiery speech, then beat the runner-up, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, by a 2-to-1 margin. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who finished third, left town before the vote.

“The voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media,” Cain told NBC's "Today" show.

So far, the media has portrayed Cain as a second-tier candidate, in part because of his modest fundraising.

Through the end of June, the most recent data available from the Federal Election Commission, Cain had raised $2.6 million. That’s sixth in the nine-candidate GOP field. Romney raised $18.3 million, seven times as much.

Cain’s biggest fundraising success has been in Georgia, where he raised a little more than $244,000.

In California, Cain has made barely a ripple, raising $47,500.

Only five Californians have given him the maximum permitted donation of $2,500.

They include Saul Fox, partner in the private equity firm Fox Paine & Co.; Beverly Hills billionaire William Hilton, former CEO of the Hilton Hotels chain; and Cyan Banister, co-founder of Zivity.com, a San Francisco-based adult website that features Playboy-style images of aspiring supermodels.

As California Watch has reported, Banister also has donated to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and political action committee, as has her husband, Scott Banister, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.


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