GOP presidential contender Herman Cain is basing his campaign hopes on a chain-smoking, rule-breaking political operative once banned from running campaigns and who has a history of stiffing creditors and not paying his taxes.
Mark Block, twice busted for drunk driving, faced a tax warrant from the Internal Revenue Service, narrowly avoided foreclosure on his home and violated election laws by coordinating a Wisconsin judge’s campaign with a special interest group.
Election officials in Wisconsin banned Block from political campaigns for three years and fined him $15,000 after he pulled that stunt.
Block returned to politics and started playing his games of dirty tricks again in 2005 with Americans for Prosperity — a tea party front group funded by right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Political insiders say Block was soon up to his old tricks. A criminal investigation was launched in 2007 over Block-engineered robo calls that spread false information about property taxes. In 2010, a Wisconsin watchdog group released an audio recording from a tea party meeting that showed Block spearheading an effort to block minority voters from voting.
Former campaign staff member Kevin Hall accused Block of telling campaign staffers to lie about the employment of Scott D. Toomey, a staffer involved in a financial scandal with a gay pride group in Madison.
So what does Cain say about his colorful campaign manager?
“Let Mark be Mark,” he says. “He thinks outside the box. That’s why we have a great relationship.”
But others who have dealt with Block say the campaign boss is a con man ignores the law and treats rules with disdain.
“He’s a con artist, that’s for sure,” says Jonathan Roberts of Madison, Wisconsin. “He would con his mother out of her home if it benefited him or his candidate.”
Former Cain supporter Marian Robbins of Atlanta tells Capitol Hill Blue that Mark Block is causing her to think about her previous support of his candidate.
“Mr. Cain’s support of Mr. Block tells me that Mr. Cain is not an honest man,” she says. “We have enough dishonest people in Washington. We don’t need to send any more there.”