Perry's campaign pointed to former Massachusetts Gov. Romney's operation as a possible source of the Politico story. "There are real ties between Romney campaign backers and Mr. Cain and the National Restaurant Association," Sullivan said.
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."
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."
Though trying to project an image of campaign business as usual, Cain appeared frazzled at times Wednesday and couldn't escape the questions that have dogged him since a published report Sunday night that at least two women had complained about his behavior while at the restaurant association and had been given financial settlements. The controversy has arisen two months before the leadoff Iowa caucuses and as polls show Cain at the head of the GOP field alongside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
As the day began, Cain said, "There are factions that are trying to destroy me personally, as well as this campaign." He didn't say to whom he was referring, but he said "the voice of the people" is stronger.
Cain was supposed to take questions after a speech to health care professionals, but he ultimately refused and left the hotel through a back door.
"I'm here to visit with these doctors, and that's what I'm going to talk about, so don't even bother asking me all of these other questions that you all are curious about, OK? Don't even bother," a testy Cain told a throng of reporters.
When pressed about the week's previous allegations, Cain raised his voice and said "What did I say? Excuse me. Excuse me!" as hotel security led him through a hallway jammed with journalists in a Washington suburb. "What part of 'no' don't people understand?"
Meanwhile, another of Cain's accusers appeared increasingly reluctant to speak publicly, though her lawyer took the first steps for her to do so. Attorney Joel P. Bennett contacted the association on Wednesday and asked it to release his client from the confidentiality arrangement she had agreed to so that she could talk openly about her allegations and respond to Cain's assertion that her complaints were "totally baseless and totally false."
Cain has declined to say whether he will ask his former employer to terminate confidentiality restrictions on the two women who accused him of sexual harassment in the 1990s while he was head of the trade group. Cain campaign manager Block said the campaign would address that question "when it's appropriate."
Sue Hensley, a restaurant association spokeswoman, confirmed that Bennett contacted the trade group and was told to contact its outside counsel. Hensley said Bennett expected to meet with his client and make the request on Thursday.
Confidentiality agreements that commit both sides to silence are common in financial settlements of an employee's sexual harassment claims, lawyers for management and employees said. Violating such an agreement can lead to a complaint in court and an order to pay damages, or at least the other side's attorney's fees, said Sarah Pierce Wimberly, a partner in the Atlanta office of the Ford and Harrison law firm.
But when the silence is broken, it's often hard to find the source of the leak, said Robert Kelner, a partner in the Covington and Burling firm's Washington office. He said, "The truth is, when parties enter into these confidentiality agreements around a settlement, they usually understand that there is less than 100 percent certainty that the information is truly going to remain confidential."
It's not clear if Cain himself was part of the settlement or whether it just involved the association and the woman. But he almost certainly would be bound by it, as the association's former president.
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