Herman Cain
Herman Cain is fighting back against critics who say he is a "bad apple" and "needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe." Reuters

The name Herman Cain meant a disarmingly easy tax plan, some quick witticisms and a typical American success saga. Now that could be changing even as the Republican nomination race is changing gears. How about a pro-liquor Cain who lobbied hard for the tobacco industry and was so anti-worker that he lobbied against a hike in the minimum wage? Recent events have led to a really troubling twist in the tale, for the surprise package in the Republican bundle of White House seekers.

Cain shot out some highly rated contenders for presidential nomination with his quick wit and easy-to-grasp policies. However, images of his campaign chief smoking cigarette in a Web advertisement have ruffled many feathers and set off media investigations into Cain's past. The revelations are unlikely to help his cause.

A video shot as a Web ad for Cain, shows campaign chief Mark Block saying some words into the camera and then taking a puff from a cigarette.

Mark Block here ... Since January, I've had the privilege of being the chief of staff to Herman Cain, and the chief operating officer of the Friends of Herman Cain, Block says, before he starts taking a drag from a cigarette.

When the ad became controversial, Block tried to douse allegations about the connections to the tobacco industry, saying that the message behind the ad was to tell supporters that the Cain campaign was on a roll.

However, political commentators are already establishing clear connections between the cheeky advertisement and Cain's deep-rooted connections with the tobacco industry. According to them, the Cain campaign could have been trying to use the ad to send a signal to the tobacco industry.

Guys like Block & Cain — people with tobacco industry connections — don’t just make a campaign video that features a guy smoking without considering those connections, wrote Ian Murphy in the Buffalo Beast.

The New York Times wrote that Cain had links to the tobacco industry and that he had tried to boost liquor sales by opposing the lowering of blood alcohol limits.

He allied himself closely with cigarette makers fighting restaurant smoking bans, spoke out against lowering blood-alcohol limits as a way to prevent drunken driving, fought an increase in the minimum wage and opposed a patients’ bill of rights — all in keeping with the interests of the industry he represented, the report states.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO worked as the chief of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) for three years after he left the pizza executive's post. Cain saw to it that the NRA became an influential lobby group in Washington and expanded the association's activities by hiring a large number of lobbyists and linking up with politicians, especially Republicans.

The revelations also point to the fact that contrary to Cain's image as a Washington outsider and his claim that he could bring a fresh perspective to Capitol, he actually had substantial experience as a lobbyist.

According to thinkprogress.org, as head of the NRA, Cain led an aggressive campaign to stop a hike in the minimum wage and was successful in exempting servers from being included in the 1996 Minimum Wage Law.

The report also says he represented a trade association for McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food establishments and that he lobbied on behalf of tobacco industry giants like R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris.