POLITICS

Cain campaign claims Perry camp spread sexual harassment claim

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Meanwhile, another woman who worked with Cain at the restaurant association said, "I found him to be a good boss." Christina Howard, a former lobbyist for the association, said, "I felt no problem going into his office and asking for his advice."

Cain got agitated when confronted by reporters about allegations of previous sexual harassment. (Photo: Associated Press)

She said she didn't recall allegations about Cain during his tenure and added, "I'd roll my eyes at anyone who would make that allegation."

But Chris Wilson, a pollster who did work for the restaurant association during Cain's tenure, said in an interview that he witnessed the businessman making inappropriate comments and gestures toward a young woman who worked for the group during a dinner at a hotel in Arlington, Va., in the late 1990s. Wilson declined to discuss more specifics without the woman's permission, but said it was not one of the two women who settled complaints against Cain and it was not the third woman interviewed by the AP.

Cain's behavior with women was well known, Wilson said.

"I'm surprised that it hasn't come up before," said Wilson, whose firm, Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, does polling for a political action committee backing a Cain rival, Rick Perry. Wilson said he has not been the source of information on the accusations against Cain.

Cain calls the two sexual harassment complaints that led to settlements "totally false" and baseless. The two women have declined dogged media requests to speak out, including requests from the AP. A lawyer for one of the women has said he will ask the restaurant association to lift a confidentiality agreement prohibiting comment after Cain insisted he did nothing wrong, suggesting that at least one of the women may have been terminated.

But his client is having second thoughts, concerned about how the frenzied attention she'd probably receive will affect her career, her family and her life today, a person close to the situation said Wednesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the accusations and the fact that the incident has become public is very unsettling to the woman.

The AP confirmed the identity of the two women who received settlements but is not revealing their names.

One of the women continued her education after earning her college degree. She has handled political outreach and fundraising in the private sector and for trade organizations.

The other woman earned her master's degree before moving into her current communications career. She started a media career in Washington soon after graduate school, working in the private sector and in the federal government. She and her husband live in suburban Maryland.

In response to the latest allegations against Cain, his campaign also decried a "smear campaign" as he is riding high in opinion polls and accused Perry's operation of being behind the original stories.

Perry's campaign denied any involvement — and suggested the campaign of yet another candidate, Mitt Romney, might be a source. Romney's campaign said that wasn't true.

Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan called the Cain campaign's assertions against Perry "both reckless and false."

Cain himself, in an interview with Forbes, said he believed a Perry consultant gave information about the allegations to Politico, which first disclosed the settlements with the two women. After denying earlier this week that he knew about any settlements, Cain said Wednesday that he outlined the allegations of a woman to the consultant, Curt Anderson, when Anderson was helping him on an earlier campaign.

Anderson said in a statement to AP: "I was one of several consultants on his Senate race in 2004 and was proud to help him. I never heard any of these allegations until I read about them in Politico, nor does anything I read in the press change my opinion that Herman is an upstanding man and a gentleman."

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Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt, Brett J. Blackledge and Mark Sherman in Washington, writer Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., and news researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.

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