Mark Block Won't Talk About the Other Cain Scandal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 1 2011 10:07 AM

Mark Block Won't Talk About the Other Cain Scandal

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 31: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's Chief of Staff Mark Block listens to Cain speak at the National Press Club October 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. During a question and answer portion of the program, Cain called the accusations of sexual harassment against him 'a witch hunt'. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Daniel Bice's scoop had everything going for it except timing. He went to press Sunday with a dynamite and unanswered charge about Mark Block, the Americans for Prosperity strategist who went on to run Herman Cain's presidential bid, and Linda Hansen, Block's #2. Bice discovered that Block and Hansen's pre-Cain group, Prosperity USA, was spending money on Cain's nascent campaign.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

[T]he records indicate Prosperity USA's biggest asset was nearly $40,000 that it was owed by "FOH," a reference to Friends of Herman Cain, the name of Cain's presidential operation.

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A more detailed checking account says the Cain campaign owed nearly $15,000 for an "Atlanta invoice," about $17,000 for chartered flight service and $5,000 for travel and meetings in Iowa, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas and Louisiana. The document says the Cain campaign had been billed $3,700 for iPads purchased on Jan. 4.

A series of small-ticket items for travel and expenses by Block are listed as "not billed to FOH but due from them."

Strictly speaking, non-profits can't pay for things that candidates are using for their campaigns. Block didn't respond to Bice's questions about what exactly had happened. This was where Block's bad luck cancelled out some worse luck -- the Politico story about Cain's NRA days broke right when Bice's did. In scrums yesterday, Block didn't get or answer questions about the Bice story.

He answered them today. Well, sort of. At National Journal's 2012 preview panel, in the caged environment of a hotel ballroom and live video, ABC News's Amy Walter asked Block if he could explain the Bice story.

"We've retained independent counsel to look at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story and report back to us," said Block.

Walter followed up with a different version of the question.

"We've retained independent counsel to look at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story," said Block.

Walter tried again, asking Block if he watched the books when he ran the organization.

"Amy," said Block, coldly and calmly, "why don't we talk about the campaign going forward?"

She did move on, with the allegations unanswered. So: Cain's campaign manager was once suspended from election work in Wisconsin because of election law violations. He can't or won't talk now about more possible violations. It might be better for the Cain campaign if we all focus on Politico's story.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.