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Watchdog group files complaint against Cain campaign, senior aide

November 04, 2011|By Kim Geiger | Washington Bureau
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster,…)

Herman Cain will address a gathering of conservative activists Friday afternoon when he appears at a summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group known for its ties to the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

Cain’s appearance will be something of a homecoming for the embattled presidential hopeful, whose connections to Americans for Prosperity have come under new scrutiny this week after it was revealed that an affiliated group may have illegally helped jump-start Cain’s presidential campaign.

The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Mark Block, who is now Cain’s chief of staff, used funds raised by a nonprofit group that he founded to buy iPads and plane tickets to help Cain’s campaign get off the ground. 

The group, Wisconsin-based Prosperity USA, was owned and operated by Block and Linda Hansen, who also now works for Cain’s campaign, according to this report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If the allegation is true, the transactions could be considered illegal campaign contributions.

“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,” CREW wrote in a press release. “This makes Mr. Block the first person in the history of the Act to have both given and received the same illegal contributions.”

Financial documents obtained also suggest that Americans for Prosperity was involved in helping pay for Cain’s travel as recently as last fall. A Prosperity USA balance sheet lists receivables due from Americans for Prosperity for travel taken by Cain. And it lists $5,000 paid in September 2010 for Cain to attend a rally “at the request of AFP.”

Americans for Prosperity is a nonprofit social welfare organization that claims to have spent $40 million during the 2010 midterm elections. Block ran the group’s Wisconsin chapter, which is how he and Cain met. It was Block who urged Cain to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, told iWatch News that AFP was "trying to find out the timing and the nature of the transactions."

Russell also said the group has “total confidence that all interactions AFP had with Prosperity USA or Wisconsin Prosperity Network were in full compliance with applicable laws.”

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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