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 Mark 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.
Over the past two days, Cain has acknowledged he knew of one agreement between the restaurant association and a woman who accused him of sexual harassment. He has said the woman initially asked for a large financial settlement but ultimately received two to three months' pay as part of a separation agreement. Cain also acknowledged remembering one of the woman's accusations against him, saying he stepped close to her to make a reference to her height and told her she was the same height as his wife.
He has said he is not aware of agreements or settlements with any other women, though Politico — which first disclosed the allegations — reported that the trade group had given settlements to at least two female employees who accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.
In media interviews since the story broke Sunday, Cain has offered conflicting accounts of what happened during his tenure at the trade group in Washington. He later acknowledged knowing about one settlement but said he did not know how much was paid. The New York Times reported Tuesday that one payout was $35,000, equivalent to one year's salary for one of the women.
The pressure on Cain only increased when a pillar of the GOP establishment suggested that the Georgia businessman should ask the association to waive the confidentiality agreements so that the woman can talk openly about her allegations.
"What are the facts?" asked Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on MSNBC. "If you have a confidentiality agreement that keeps the public from finding out something that the public is interested in knowing the facts, you ought to go on and get the facts out."
"Herman Cain's interest is getting this behind him," added Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman.
A former talk show host, Cain is a self-styled political outsider who has attracted tea party support and, up until now, has weathered a series of stumbles that have many GOP luminaries questioning his ability to run a viable campaign much less win the party's nomination. Conversely, Romney is running his second national campaign and has spent the past few weeks shoring up support among the GOP establishment for a nomination fight many Republican insiders think is his to lose.