Watchdog complaint: Cain campaign manager illegally paid for iPads, campaign travel using nonprofit money

David Martosko | Executive Editor

Liberal attack-dog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Friday over allegations that Prosperity USA, a nonprofit advocacy corporation run by Herman Cain campaign manager Mark Block, paid for iPads and travel related to Cain’s presidential campaign. If true, says CREW, the Cain campaign — and Block personally — would be guilty of violating at least two federal election laws.

The allegations were first reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 30, based on internal financial records the newspaper said it obtained. The Journal Sentinel reported the following day that the Cain campaign had launched its own internal investigation.

The CREW complaint alleges that the Wisconsin-based Prosperity USA made illegal corporate in-kind contributions to Cain’s campaign “by using $40,000 to buy iPads and pay for campaign trips to Iowa, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Dallas in February and March of 2011,” according to a press release from the group. (SEE ALSO: News organizations refuse to identify Herman Cain’s accusers)

“The complaint also alleges Mr. Block personally violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by authorizing the illegal corporate contributions as president of Prosperity USA, and then by accepting the illegal contributions as treasurer of Friends of Herman Cain. This makes Mr. Block the first person in the history of the Act to have both given and received the same illegal contributions.”

The Center for Public Integrity reported Thursday that Americans for Prosperity, a right-leaning political advocacy group, also was investigating at least one contribution it made to Prosperity USA. That transaction was also disclosed in the internal financial records obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

Before taking the helm of Cain’s presidential campaign, Mark Block was Americans for Prosperity’s Wisconsin state director.

Nonprofit organizations are generally prohibited from using funds for  “electioneering” purposes, and also prohibited from supporting or opposing candidates for office at any level. Prosperity USA is registered as a not-for-profit corporation in Wisconsin, but neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the Guidestar nonprofit directory lists the group as having federal tax-exempt status.

“As hard as Mr. Cain is trying to prove himself a different kind of candidate, he still has to play by the same rules as everyone else,” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said in the group’s press release. “It is not sufficient for the Cain campaign to investigate itself.”

Block did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller.

A political action committee run by Christine O’Donnell, the former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, launched a campaign targeting CREW in late October, linking the group to the well-known liberal financier George Soros and challenging its tax-exempt status. “CREW is nothing more than a front group for an ultra-liberal socialist, political agenda, and is not a so-called charitable organization.”

David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor. Follow him on Twitter

Tags : elections herman cain mark block
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