Herman Cain is a Koch man (photo: Gage_Skidmore)

There is no better proof that the Republican Party, the “party of Lincoln,” has become the party of chameleons, charlatans and clowns than the succession of goofs who’ve led the GOP polls over the last month. And you don’t even need to count Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum.

First it was the chameleon, Mitt Romney, the man who George Will said on ABC’s This Week “has shown a certain versatility of conviction.”  That’s Will-speak meaning Mitt will say, support or oppose anything, anytime, on any subject and flip back again if the opportunity presents itself, as it has, often.  Mitt now has a solid record — an earned reputation — of having held almost every position possible except for the view he shouldn’t be President.  In his view, that makes him just what the nation needs to restore trust in government.

You can judge the nature of today’s Republican voters by the fact that after running for President almost as long at Newt, Mitt can’t seem to get much above 1/4 of GOP voters to tell polls they prefer him, while 3/4 of them will latch onto any clown just to avoid nominating a chameleon for President.

So next it was Governor Rick Perry, unapologetic Christian, defender of executing possibly innocent men and okay with leaving Texas children without health insurance, who first insisted Social Security was a ponzi scheme that no one should count on before insisting that he would not say exactly that again.

Perry shot to the top of the polls and then crashed as quickly when even the Republicans noticed he couldn’t utter a complete sentence or coherent thought without reading cue cards someone else wrote for him.  His dizzying collapse prompted  his wife to defend him by saying her man was being persecuted for his Christian beliefs, some of which Jesus might not recognize.

And now, for a few days at least, it’s Herman Cain.  Cain also shot to the top of the GOP polls, not only because Mitt is a chameleon and Rick is a charlatan, but because with Congress voting down jobs bills and passing job-killing trade bills, we really needed to have a clown for a week or two.

We know Cain is a clown not simply because he jokes about electrocuting people along the border but because he’s laboring under two rather important misconceptions: First, he seems to believe his 9-9-9 tax plan, put together by an accountant who moonlighted as a Director for the Koch Bros’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — major funders of the Tea Party –  is a good idea.  Economists have already debunked that notion, exposing as Bruce Bartlett did that 9-9-9 is not 6-6-6 upside down but worse, a design to redistribute the tax burden from the rich to those beneath them, as well as a stalking horse for abolishing Social Security.  And once you understand how Cain’s corporate tax functions — it’s born by workers –  the plan looks even more like “a huge tax hike for lower- and middle-income families”– see Krugman’s explanation here.

Cain’s more important delusion is that he’s his own man, a non-politician with no national political organization.  Nope. It turns out Mr. Cain is just a stooge, with an ego large enough not to know he’s a stooge, a candidate bought and paid for by the Koch brothers via AFP. That would be these Koch brothers.

And it’s not some commie pinko blogger saying so.  It’s the Associated Press.

The AP has a story picked up all over the media that compiles what others have known for awhile.  AP traces the raising of Cain as a years-long Koch Bros’ funding and grooming enterprise, pulled off by having Mr. Cain be for the Koch Bros. and AFP’s agenda what Ronald Reagan was for Big Tobacco, G.E. and the anti-socialist crusade.  From the AP:

Cain’s economic ideas, support and organization have close ties to two billionaire brothers who bankroll right-leaning causes through their group Americans for Prosperity.

Cain’s campaign manager and a number of aides have worked for Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, the advocacy group founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which lobbies for lower taxes and less government.

And it turns out the Koch team and AFP have been paying Cain’s way for years, using him as their front man for pushing their anti-tax, anti-government and anti-regulatory agenda, attacking Democrats and anything Obama proposes. He’s basically the Koch brothers’ paid propagandist:

AFP tapped Cain as the public face of its “Prosperity Expansion Project,” and he traveled the country in 2005 and 2006 speaking to activists who were starting state-based AFP chapters from Wisconsin to Virginia. Through his AFP work he met Mark Block, a longtime Wisconsin Republican operative hired to lead that state’s AFP chapter in 2005 as he rebounded from an earlier campaign scandal that derailed his career.

Block and Cain sometimes traveled together as they built up AFP: Cain was the charismatic speaker preaching the ills of big government; Block was the operative helping with nuts and bolts.

. . .

AFP spokesman Levi Russell said Cain has spoken at dozens of AFP rallies and events over the years to support a number of the group’s activities. AFP has often covered his travel expenses or paid a “pretty modest honorarium” but he has not been paid since becoming a presidential candidate, he said.

How nice. And how timely. Now that the media is focused on trying to decipher the meaning of Occupy Wall Street, we have a corporate sponsored propagandist handpicked, groomed and managed by agents for two of American’s richest billionaires, and he’s going around the country offering tax and regulatory proposals written by Koch employees to benefit Koch industries and asking voters to hand him the White House to pull it off.

If only there were a clean government Democrat or third party candidate, free from corporate funding, to run against this corrupt, corporate clown, it would be the race of the century for the heart and soul of America. I wonder what Bill Daley thinks of that.