Mark Block, who made headlines this week for his appearance in a Herman Cain video ad in which he drags on a cigarette, may seem like an odd choice to run a presidential campaign given his past. According to an Associated Press report, he has left a "questionable trail of campaign work behind him."
Block, who has been widely credited for helping Cain become a top-tier candidate in the GOP race, has been accused of participating in a voter suppression effort in Wisconsin and in 2001 was banned from running political campaigns in the state for three years after facing charges that he illegally coordinated with a state Supreme Court judge’s re-election campaign with a special interest group. The settlement he reached in the case also included a $15,000 fine.
The matter also led to a downward spiral for Block, the first person in Wisconsin to be elected to office at age 18 when he served on the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors. He was forced to work at a local Target, his home was threatened by foreclosure, and he was twice arrested for drinking and driving. Block turned around his life and career when he was hired in 2005 as the Wisconsin director of the conservative Americans for Prosperity group founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. He also helped organize the state’s Tea Party movement, which is how he met Cain.
“In 2010, a liberal group, One Wisconsin Now, said it had obtained an audio recording of a Tea Party meeting that indicated Block was involved in an effort to try to prevent legal voters from casting ballots in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods,” AP reports. “A Tea Party organizer says on the audio that Americans for Prosperity had agreed to pay for sending a mailer to mostly Democratic-leaning minority and student voters and then use any of them returned as undeliverable to support their challenges at the polls on Election Day. One Wisconsin Now called it a notorious voter suppression scheme known as ‘caging,’ but law enforcement officials did not investigate.”
Block has denied any wrongdoing.
Cain said this week that he trusts his top aide and that his campaign just “let Mark be Mark,” a sentiment Block echoed in his interview with the Associated Press. In This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House, the candidate wrote that he likes Block because he thinks outside the box, AP notes.
"In my case, thinking way out of the box. And that's one of the reasons we have a great relationship," he wrote.