Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Well Did Herman Cain Know Lawrence King?

Herman Cain isn't the only African-American conservative who spent time in Omaha, Nebraska during the mid-eighties. From

Omaha is tornado country, so when I say it's a great big small town, I'm talking acreage versus gossipy connectivity. It's flat and spread out with few tall buildings, but everyone is a whisper away from everyone else's business. It's not so big as to be home to two up-and-coming black Republicans with strong ties with the bigwigs in the Republican Party who could never cross paths. Restaurant people of all colors make it a point to know each other. To know what secrets wandering waiters and chefs may have taken with them as they move from job to job, etc... Wealthy Republicans are an even tighter clique. Wealthy black Republican restaurateurs in Omaha Nebraska in the late '80s were more likely to have been twins than not to have social if not business ties.

Lawrence E. King was a fixture in the Omaha black community. He had seen his opportunity gathering up black folks' money in a credit union known as the Franklin Credit Union, which he'd taken over in 1970. By 1976 there where whispers about this 300-pound socialite living large. There were minor stabs at investigating him, but the police did not want to be seen as the big bad white guys picking on the little ol' great big black man.

Tales of King entertaining guests with cocaine, hookers and hustlers were pervasive, but Omaha has some strange code of silence. It had been for many years a sort of mob neutral zone. "Tony might whack Vinnie in Chicago," but in Omaha their kids and wives would peacefully shop, play and picnic together. Drawing attention is not acceptable. Bush flew to Omaha on 9/11 in a very standard emergency protocol, and not one in ten Americans ever knew. Lily Tomlin and her partner Jane Wagner were a known couple around "The Big O" long before Lily came out. Omaha had lots of stories and still does, but none of them are news.

King -- who had been recruited by the RNC to get out the black Republican vote -- in his rise through the Republican ranks, was able to be the sum of their black best friends, as it were. He sang the national anthem at the 1984 and 1988 Republican conventions. In 1986, the Franklin Federal Credit Union moved into brand-new digs that also served as headquarters for King's burgeoning catering and food-service empire. King began making donations to the Omaha Press Club, the Republican Party and even gay rights organizations (especially those funding area youth programs). Upon being told he had no style by a ten-year-old boy, he went shopping and became a clothes junkie, big-time-- thus earning the nickname "Reverend Alice." People really began talking. Franklin Federal Credit Union seemed to be all right until an audit of King's taxes revealed what appeared to be some missing funds. A phony "certificates of deposit" scheme. Initially it was thought that $400,000 had disappeared. Then $4 million. Ultimately $40 million was determined to have vanished.

The FBI raid of the credit union sparked rumors that drugs and child pornography were discovered in the lower levels of the facility. It had been whispered that King had used the basement of the credit union as a "waiter academy" to train young men (twinks and blinks) in the fine art of waiting tables for what was hopefully to become his restaurant empire. In an Omaha World Herald interview, he spoke about how he wanted his places to be real elegant; the waiters would wear white dinner jackets. But King's deeper desires were rumored to be something quite different.

There was a lot of recruiting going on for guys to come be part of King's catering business. Many teens and young men talked of being expected to "put out," and rumors of pornographic video shoots circulated in the gay and black communities. After the raid there was an investigation into what had become of the missing funds. Eventually a private investigator was hired by the state legislature to look into stories of an international child prostitution ring. He interviewed dozens of waiters and folks around Omaha who had been curious about King's lavish gifts and extravagant ways. But things seemed tempered by the fact that King hung out with presidents, and area journalists. And owned a bank, and a sushi bar and...

The investigator is said to have flown to Chicago to meet with a person who had damning photographic evidence as to what was going on in the bowels of Franklin. That investigator never made it back to Omaha. His plane mysteriously blew up on the return flight. Primary witnesses suddenly changed their stories, and those who did not were convicted of perjury. One rent boy who testified that he was farmed out to several closeted power brokers in and around Omaha died mysteriously in New Mexico.

King was convicted of bank fraud and served nearly 10 out of the 15 years to which he was sentenced, but the grand jury concluded that all of the salacious allegations were merely "a big hoax" (wtf!) These allegations included supplying children for satanic blood rituals in Spain and supplying teens to a sex party in Washington, D.C., where some of those teens claimed they saw George W. Bush in attendance.

The story is larger and dirtier than what is within the scope of a DWT guest blog, and in fact was the subject of a Discovery Channel investigative report. Alas, that program was "purchased" a week before it was to air by some anonymous party...

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