Herman Cain’s smokin’ hot campaign manager

Shannon McCaffrey of the Associated Press today offers up this look at a certain Republican campaign manager:

Atlanta — He is the man with the mustache who takes a rebellious drag on a cigarette in the Herman Cain Internet ad gone viral.

“We’ve run a campaign like nobody’s ever seen,” he says before taking a puff. “But then America’s never seen a candidate like Herman Cain.”

Meet Mark Block, Cain’s unorthodox campaign manager. Perhaps no one is more responsible for the Georgia businessman’s meteoric rise in the presidential polls than Block, a Republican strategist and tea party leader who’s left a trail of questionable campaign work behind him.

Block has been accused of voter suppression and was banned from running Wisconsin political campaigns for three years to settle accusations he coordinated a judge’s re-election campaign with a special interest group.

Records show Block has faced foreclosure on his home, a tax warrant by the Internal Revenue Service and a lawsuit for an unpaid bill. He also acknowledges he was arrested twice for drunken driving.

On the presidential trail, some former Cain staffers say Block broke promises. Traditional GOP strategists have been scratching their heads at his renegade tactics to win the White House, all but ignoring some early states in favor of a book tour and swings through states without early primaries.

Those who know Block say he’s long been a maverick who isn’t afraid to reset boundaries.

“Mark doesn’t go to the how-to-run a campaign guidebook when deciding how to do things,” said Jared Thomas, who was a state director for the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity Georgia when Block led the Wisconsin chapter.

“He’s all about advancing conservative ideals and conservative goals, and he really doesn’t mind stepping on toes in the process.”

In an interview with The Associated Press at Cain’s campaign headquarters south of Atlanta, Block acknowledged ruffling some feathers because he — and the Cain campaign — don’t “fit the mold.”

“Can you imagine Karl Rove doing what I did with that cigarette?” he said with a laugh, referring to George W. Bush’s straight-laced political guru.

“It’s a joke around here, ‘Let Block be Block,” he says. He had been doing just that moments earlier, smoking his now signature cigarette on an office balcony overlooking a golf course.

The Web video has now been spoofed on just about every comedy show imaginable. And he seems both pleased and appalled at the attention it’s received.

“This country is going to hell in a handbasket and that is what we’re talking about?” he says.

Block’s entry into politics came early. In 1974, he became the first 18-year-old elected to office in Wisconsin, capturing a seat on the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors.

But Block’s reputation was marred when he was accused of illegally coordinating state Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox’s 1997 re-election campaign with a special interest group that favored school vouchers. In 2001, he agreed to pay $15,000 and was banned from running Wisconsin political campaigns for three years to settle the case. Block made no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement. Block told the AP that he had not coordinated with the group and called the charges “ridiculous.”

Unable to make a living in politics, Block paid the bills stocking shelves at a Target. He has the “Mark” nametag mounted on his desk at Cain headquarters.

Block said it was during those tough times that his home went into foreclosure and his personal life unraveled, resulting in two arrests for drinking and driving.

“That’s why I don’t drink anymore,” he said.

But Block engineered a comeback when he was hired in 2005 as the Wisconsin director of Americans for Prosperity, the group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. He also helped organize the tea party in Wisconsin and in that role met Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive who’d come aboard as a speaker after a failed U.S. Senate campaign in Georgia.

In Cain’s new memoir, he writes that he and Block bonded when they were paired in a car for a whirlwind eight-stop, day-and-a half tour to launch new Americans for Prosperity chapters.

Still, it wasn’t long before Block’s campaign work again was being questioned.

In 2007, a local prosecutor investigated the group’s robo-calls against a proposed $119 million school building referendum that would have raised property taxes. The prosecutor concluded that although the calls were misleading and distorted the impact of the referendum on taxpayers, the case was not strong enough to bring charges.

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.

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 also denied any wrongdoing in those instances, calling them baseless claims made by liberals who disagreed with his political views.

Working for Cain, Block has been accused by former Iowa staffer Kevin Hall of trying to cover up Cain’s employment of Scott D. Toomey. Toomey was at the center of a financial scandal when he was part of a gay pride group in Madison, Wis., but later became a top adviser to Cain. Hall said Block told him to tell supporters that Toomey was not involved in the campaign and that they simply had Toomey continue working as an outside consultant, not a paid staffer.

Hall also complained that Block told him Cain would not spend as much time and money competing in the Iowa straw poll in August as Hall was promised when he was hired.
“There’s a reason some people are former staffers,” Block observes dryly.

In “This is Herman Cain!” the GOP presidential candidate writes that Block thinks outside the box.

“In my case, thinking way out of the box. And that’s one of the reasons we have a great relationship,” Cain wrote.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

37 comments Add your comment

Say What?

October 28th, 2011
9:12 am

PT Barnum was right, there’s a sucker born every minute…

Hootinanny Yum Yum

October 28th, 2011
9:16 am

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Don Coyote

October 28th, 2011
9:28 am

The news boys laughed their butts off and put Lester on the teevee almost every night thinking they were ridiculing him. It was only after he was elected that they realized they had been played like a fiddle. Jim, Cain hardly needs more name recognition in Atlanta. What happened to the “all politics is local” theme? Sure Cain is, but he has gone national now, sort of. I realize the irony in comparing him to Lester but do you have to be his fiddle?

Bootnewt

October 28th, 2011
9:41 am

An ad with Block doing Meth would play well here in GA.

cartoon

October 28th, 2011
9:46 am

I wouldn’t put it that way.

Centrist

October 28th, 2011
10:04 am

Didn’t bother to read the latest hit piece above. Just more of the same.

Interesting to me that the Tea Party is gearing up to campaign next year in earnest compared to the relatively small “Occupy” events that the media so loves to cover/incite. The Tea Party is demanding they get equal treatment on fees for their events. Seems that the Democratic party controlled cities are waiving/reducing fees for their more politically favored “Occupy” friends than their feared Tea Party members.

DannyX

October 28th, 2011
10:26 am

Centrist, why have the approval ratings for the Tea Party plummeted? Every single major poll has them at 27%-28% approval. Is it that darn liberal media again?

Centrist

October 28th, 2011
10:26 am

Most big city newspapers are essentially arms of the National Democratic Party. The Washington Post has been doing hit pieces on Florida’s popular Senator Marcus Rubio. The fear of the Democratic Party is that he may be selected as a VP candidate on Romney’s ticket, and will be attractive to Independents and Latinos.

I guess we will soon see him attacked here.

Independent voter

October 28th, 2011
10:31 am

Centrist what going on with Marcus Rubio.

Mark

October 28th, 2011
10:32 am

@ Wallis T. Coper…..you’re an idiot!

Independent voter

October 28th, 2011
10:34 am

Wallis T. Coper you are wrong majority Occupy is white. By the way Occupy does not have a race wall street affecting 99% of people.

Poor baby

October 28th, 2011
10:34 am

Really? People are still beating that “everyone fears the Tea Party” drum? I suppose if it makes you happy keep on whacking on it but the reality is that the TP has done as good a job of alienating themselves from meaningful political influence as the Occupy movement. The only real difference is that Occupy is still in its infancy and, whether you want to face it or not, the jury is still out on whether it has legs and will gain influence or if it is a flash in the pan.

Pretend you know all you want but the truth is time will be the ultimate judge of the Occupy Movement, not the Talk Radio Sound Machine.

He’s all about advancing conservative ideals and conservative goals, and he really doesn’t mind stepping on toes in the process.”

October 28th, 2011
10:41 am

And just what is wrong with this?

And, I believe the “Chosen One” smoked before his election, and probably still sneaks one now and then…

td

October 28th, 2011
10:46 am

DannyX

October 28th, 2011
10:26 am

Why is the approval rates of Obama at 37% in Georgia?

TheNetGenius

October 28th, 2011
10:46 am

I accept that this is the first candidate Ive seen in a while with real personality seeping through the his ad..Unfortunately those brainwashed by the “microwave” media won’t get it, ironic that it’s being placed on TV in the first place. Didn’t someone get the memo that they need to spoon fed?!?!

Eli

October 28th, 2011
10:48 am

Wow, Jim.

Nice oxymoron: “meteoric rise.”

After all, meteors are falling-stars,,,and that is exactly what is going to happen to Cain when Republicans find the next new thing to get excited about.

Bye Bye Barry

October 28th, 2011
10:50 am

A headline followed by a scant seventeen (17) original words do not a Political Insider offering make, my dear Mr. Galloway. Perhaps you are on vacation today.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

October 28th, 2011
10:51 am

Over 1,200 arrests at “occupy” events vs 0 arrests at Tea Party events. So which one is radical?

Edjumacated American

October 28th, 2011
10:52 am

Where in the world were you all taught how to speak English…..My God, get a GED, learn how to spell and then post comments….but please, stop embarrassing yourselves!

GA_Observer

October 28th, 2011
10:54 am

Jim, what’s your point? Did you do the hit pieces on Obama’s campaign? You seem to be throwing anything out there you can dig up (Cain’s Tiger Woods facetious endorsement before we knew the real Tiger) but ignored Alinsky, Ayers, JJ Jr. selling the vacant seat, Van Jones, Obama lying about everything including his continued smoking, his real estate deal with Rezko. I bet you truly believe someone spit at John Lewis too. By the way are you on the commode in your photo?

Midge

October 28th, 2011
11:10 am

His breath smells like a dirty diaper washed up on the shores of Lake Lanier.

Filter

October 28th, 2011
11:15 am

Chin Ho,

Those numbers could tell you a lot of things. Are they the judge of radicalism. Perhaps. But the numbers are misleading as the point of the Occupy Movement is in the name: Occupy. The intent there was to occupy public space as a way to bring attention. Occupation of public space = arrest. The trigonometry there is not that hard to do if you let your mind swing open a little bit and distance yourself from Talk Radio.

As for Radical, I think the most radical element of Occupy v. the Tea Party is that Occupy wants less corporate influence over our Government.

The Tea Party wants less Governmental influence over corporations.

I tend to think they both have a point in there somewhere.

Poor baby

October 28th, 2011
11:16 am

You guys calling this a “hit piece” need to seriously grow up. God, victimhood is an ugly game.

Stop whining.

cartoon

October 28th, 2011
11:21 am

I wouldn’t put it that way either.

RGB

October 28th, 2011
11:36 am

Earlier in the week Jim “reported” that no one was allowed to talk with Herman while riding in a car.

Today, Jim “reports” that Herman and Block bonded in a 1 1/2 day car trip. Did they use sign language?

Bullwinkle

October 28th, 2011
11:39 am

With Mr. Block blowing smoke from his cigarette and Mr. Cain smiling broadly, it’s seems to me as if they’ve just finished a love making session (to each other).

Alabama Communist

October 28th, 2011
12:04 pm

More Breaking News On Herman’s Campaign Manager Thinking Outside The Box..A unknown political source deep within a Washington DC Mental Therapy Center said today” We were wondering what happen to him after he escape from our Center 4 years ago.as a crossdressing secret service agent.”

Conservatives are such easy marks

October 28th, 2011
12:15 pm

Cain & Block will laugh all the way to the bank with conservative dollars in their pocket, and Cain’s book sales going through the roof. They both know Cain will never be the republican nominee, and even if he wins the nomination by some stretch of the imagination he won’t be President Obama. Bleed em dry Mr. Cain.

honested

October 28th, 2011
12:20 pm

Amoral, criminal, unapologetic for either…

Of course he’s a hit with the GA GOTP(OP&PW)

pb

October 28th, 2011
12:25 pm

Damn ! When I read the headline, I thought it meant Cain had a “smokin hot” female manager, not this dude. Oh well… Foolish me.

Big Daddy

October 28th, 2011
12:27 pm

Exposed as a phony and a liar, Rubio will be a good match with Cain (tax cheat dunderhead).

JT

October 28th, 2011
12:36 pm

Gotta love politics. Rebranding at its best. What would you rather be known as? A rebellious smoking campaign manager or a campaign manager who has a history of voter suppression and that had been banned from some political campaigns based on your past, possibly illegal behavior? The smoking sure is a nice distraction from the past.

No Teabagging

October 28th, 2011
1:35 pm

Cain has no money and every media outlet is running this stupid thing or giving it a sound bite. Their campaign is p-e-e-ing themselves because they think “its’ gone viral it must be good”. I am not impressed with showing a homemade video of a chain smoking campaign manager.

ronPaulResource.com

October 28th, 2011
2:22 pm

Ron Paul looks better every day!!!

Wallis T. Coper

October 28th, 2011
3:00 pm

cane is black, like oboma, an so why wood, we vote for him, wake up gergia it is time too take are county back

common sense

November 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

This “liberal media” thing kills me. I cannot believe that after 20+ years and the consolidation of most media giants under conservative owners they’re still using that old saw. Can you all at least be creative in your victimization rhetoric? LOL. That does seem to be the new victimhood – “oh please protect us good average folks from the vast liberal conspiracy.” Give me a break. I have an idea: learn the issues, and approach politicians’ and talking heads’ rhetoric skeptically. ALL of it, either side.

That being said – who cares if the guy smokes!! Geesh…

Wallis T. Coper

November 1st, 2011
3:36 pm

wi do evreewun want a fedurl recerv insidr for preiadent?