TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The first woman known to have filed a sexual harassment claim against GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain while he ran a trade group shows no interest in revealing her identity or publicly discussing her accusations against the Georgia businessman.
The woman, who works for one of New Jersey’s largest lobbying firms, has deliberately made herself scarce. She has taken time off work, avoided staying at her home and dodged reporters’ visits, phone calls and emails for weeks since news surfaced about her sexual harassment claim against Cain. Her family, including a brother who is a lawyer and lists employment cases among his specialties, has declined interview requests.
She’s also steered clear of efforts by other women who have accused Cain of harassment and who hoped to appear together at a news conference to discuss details of their complaints against the businessman while he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Joel Bennett, a Washington lawyer representing another woman who settled a complaint against Cain, said last week that his client hasn’t heard from her former restaurant association colleague from New Jersey and won’t go forward with a news conference unless she does.
None of this comes as a surprise to those who know the New Jersey woman, all of whom agreed to speak to the AP on condition of anonymity to respect her desire for privacy. The AP knows her identity but is not disclosing it to protect her privacy.
She’s the behind-the-scenes researcher in a lobbying firm built by some of the state’s most prominent political figures from both parties. Yet few who walk the halls of the Statehouse know her.
It’s a stark contrast to the very public career of Karen Kraushaar, Bennett’s client, who has served as a public spokeswoman for various federal agencies. Or the dramatic, nationally televised news conference last week by Sharon Bialek, a Chicago woman who stood with high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred to offer cringe-inducing accusations that Cain tried to force himself on her.
Cain has denied the women’s allegations and has promised to fight back against others who make such claims.
Kraushaar confirmed her identity last week. Bialek said she came forward to provide “a face and a voice” for other accusers who wouldn’t speak publicly. A fourth woman told The Associated Press that she had considered filing a sexual harassment complaint against Cain when she worked at the restaurant association, but didn’t and said she doesn’t want to speak publicly.
The New Jersey woman, now 43, was in her early 30s in 1998 when she accused Cain of inappropriate behavior. She worked on the trade group’s political and fundraising efforts. She agreed to leave her job after receiving a $35,000 payment to resolve concerns about Cain and other undisclosed problems, according to The New York Times.
Kraushaar left the association about a year later after receiving a settlement of $45,000 to resolve her complaint against Cain, according to Politico, the political news website that broke the harassment story. Politico also reported that the New Jersey woman complained that Cain invited her to his hotel room after an association event.
A few years after her 1998 payment from the restaurant association, the woman left Washington and returned to New Jersey, where she had grown up. In 2005, she joined the prominent lobbying group and registered as a lobbyist. But she never actively lobbied the Legislature or state government, working instead on legislative research, bill tracking and marketing for the firm, according to former co-workers and others who know her.
Even the firm’s partners and lobbyists, including those regularly quoted in the media on state and national politics, aren’t talking now. It’s partly because her colleagues want to protect her privacy and partly to guard against potential political fallout for the firm, which serves Democratic and Republican clients. The firm’s founder, who didn’t return calls from the AP seeking comment, has close ties to Gov. Chris Christie, who threw his support to Mitt Romney after deciding against entering the GOP presidential campaign himself. Another partner helped Romney in his 2008 campaign.
Cain accused Democrats and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s GOP presidential campaign of leaking the sexual harassment story, while Perry’s campaign pointed the finger at Romney. Both campaigns denied any involvement.
Blackledge reported from Washington.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.