President Trump is considering whether to appoint former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain for a spot on the Federal Reserve’s board, two people familiar with the process said, a reflection of the less-formalized vetting process at the White House for top posts.
Cain ran for president in 2012 but lost during the Republican primary to Mitt Romney. A former pizza industry executive, he became famous for his simplified tax plan, known as Nine-Nine-Nine, and for complaints that he sexually harassed women.
Trump met with Cain about the position Wednesday, two people familiar with the meeting said.
Asked for comment on whether he is being considered for the post in an interview, Cain made a play on his famous tax proposal and said, “None-None-None.”
He confirmed, though, that he was at the White House.
“It’s hard to miss a six-foot black man in a black hat walking out of the White House,” he said.
Bloomberg News first reported that Cain was under consideration.
It isn’t clear whether Trump is close to picking Cain for the spot. Several outside advisers have floated names for people they want the president to consider, and Trump likes to meet with celebrities and television personalities as part of his daily routine.
Whoever Trump nominates will need the support of at least 50 members of the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
Two of the seats on the Fed’s seven-member board are vacant. Trump already has nominated two people for the slots, but former senior Fed official Nellie Liang recently withdrew from consideration.
Trump spent much of last year lambasting the Fed and its chairman, Jerome H. Powell, for taking steps to raise interest rates. Trump said the Fed was damaging economic growth by making it too expensive for companies to borrow money. The Fed has recently paused this approach in the face of new economic head winds.
It is not uncommon to have someone with private-sector experience on the Fed’s board, but it would be unusual to have a former presidential candidate such as Cain. Fed governors are known mostly for being deferential to the chairman, and Cain is known for being very outspoken on a range of issues.
Steve Moore, who was an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, said the White House's interest in Cain could reflect Trump's push to get more people with a business background instead in top posts at the central bank and break what he believes is the group-think of economists.
“He wants business people who understand business on the Fed,” Moore said.
Trump has long complained that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed hard for Powell to get the top job. Powell had a background in banking and private equity, but was seen as a conventional, non-controversial pick for the top Fed post. He is not an economist but had served at the Fed for a number of years as a governor before becoming chairman. Trump has said he likes low interest rates, not higher interest rates, particularly when inflation is low. Cain has been a long-time supporter of Trump’s policies.
Cain served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, but those posts are often given to business executives and community leaders who serve to inform top Fed officials about what they are seeing in the labor market and economy more broadly.
He attracted a lot of attention during the 2012 but was repeatedly followed by accusations of sexually harassing women during the 1990s. Cain fought back against the allegations, saying they were efforts to derail his campaign.
The Nine-Nine-Nine tax plan would have dramatically reworked the tax system. It would have set tax rates at 9 percent for income tax, sales tax and corporate tax.
Heather Long contributed to this report.