Block, Nixon are not convicted crooks

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There, that headline should satisfy the lawyers representing Mark Block, state director of Americans for Prosperity, a Republican front group that does issue advocacy.

The Democratic Party has been calling him a criminal fundraiser, and Block's friends have filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board, as Dan Bice reported.

So Mark Block and Richard Nixon are not crooks. But there doesn't seem to be any question that both were guilty of serious election law violations.

The campaign Block managed for former State Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox still holds the record for paying the most severe election law penalties in Wisconsin history.

Block himself settled a case brought against him by the former State Elections Board for illegal activity in the Wilcox campaign, agreeing to pay a $15,000 fine and stay out of Wisconsin political campaigns for three years.

That's serious stuff -- but not a crime.

What he did do was illegally coordinate $200,000 worth of campaign activity with a group pretending to be operating indepently, which is forbidden for a lot of reasons, including campaign contribution limits. The guy running that group paid a $35,000 fine and was banned from state politics for five years. Justice Wilcox (any irony in that title?) himself paid a $10,000 fine.

Block's lawyers may say those were civil forfeitures, not fines. It is a distinction without a difference, however, and I'm trying to use words people understand.

Bice points out that Block "signed a statement acknowledging the board "may be able to prove" election violations at a trial. The board accused Wilcox's campaign of coordinating an undisclosed campaign effort worth some $200,000 with an outside group." 

If there were any doubt that the board could have proved Block guilty, there would have been no deal.  But there was a deal, and Block wasn't convicted, so Mark Block is not a crook. I repeat, he is not a crook. Just an unsavory character who purposely broke campaign and election laws and got caught at it.

If you really want to know more,there's always The Xoff Files. [The requisite disclaimer: I was a consultant for Wilcox's opponent way back when. I still have a pretty long memory.]