Federal authorities are investigating two Wisconsin nonprofits associated with Wisconsin political veteran Mark Block, former campaign manager for presidential candidate Herman Cain and former director of the state chapter of the Koch-founded-and-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a letter with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requesting such an investigation last November.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice reports that in recent weeks, FBI agents have been talking to donors and other individuals connected with the 501(c)(3) organizations Prosperity USA and Wisconsin Prosperity Network, both of which were started by Block, and are also associated with Linda Hansen, Cain's deputy chief of staff.
In November of last year, CMD asked the IRS to investigate Block's Prosperity USA for spending over $40,000 of tax-exempt donations to pay for private jets, travel, and computers for Herman Cain's presidential bid. Tax-exempt charities are prohibited from intervening in the political campaign for any candidate for public office, no matter the post. CMD also asked that the IRS investigate a variety of other nonprofit groups associated with Block, including the Wisconsin Prosperity Network.
Block is perhaps best known for his starring role in the Cain campaign ad where he blows cigarette smoke at the camera, but he was previously fined and barred for three years from political campaigns in Wisconsin as a result of an election board investigation into illegal coordination between a campaign he led and a non-profit group.
Following that bar, Block went on to form the Wisconsin arm of billionaire David Koch's "Americans for Prosperity" (AFP). His time at Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin was marred by other controversies, like allegations of vote caging in the state (Mr. Block took credit for getting Scott Walker and others elected in 2010). During this period, Block founded a number of other organizations with "Prosperity" in the name, some of which CMD has profiled here.
Block reportedly met Cain while working with Americans for Prosperity and encouraged him to run for president. In December 2010, Block invited Governor Scott Walker's one-time Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Russell to meet in Atlanta to discuss Cain's presidential campaign. Russell, who Walker had appointed to be in charge of finances for a fund intended to honor veterans and their families, paid for the trip with funds embezzled from that account. Russell and another Walker aide have been charged with embezzlement as part of the ongoing John Doe investigation into Walker's staffers.