The state attorney general’s office stepped up to the plate when Jerome Block Jr. admitted to the Optic last fall that he had lied on his campaign finance report. The AG immediately launched an investigation of Block, who won a seat on the state Public Regulation Commission in November.
In September, the Optic repeatedly asked Block’s campaign about $2,500 it paid Wyld Country, a band to which then-County Clerk Paul Maez belonged, which allegedly performed at a rally in early May. We had heard that the band didn’t play. Indeed, the event never happened. But in e-mail after e-mail, Block insisted it had. In a face-to-face meeting with an Optic reporter, he stuck with that story. But a day later, Maez told this newspaper what was pretty obvious: Wyld Country never played at the fictitious rally. Shortly after, Block wrote an e-mail to the Optic admitting the lie.
A couple of weeks later, investigators at the AG’s office showed up at the Optic and the newspaper voluntarily handed over all of the e-mails showing the Block campaign’s deception. Last week, the office secured indictments against not only Block but his father Jerome Block Sr. The state is accusing the two of lying on campaign finance reports. It’s pretty serious because PRC campaigns are publicly funded. And one wonders why Block gave Maez’s band $2,500 for a performance that never happened.
Before the November election, Block had to pay some $21,000 in fines to the secretary of state’s office for the deception with the $2,500 as well as other problems on his finance report. He got nothing but bad publicity for weeks.
Amazingly, Block won. But that’s because he was a Democrat in an area of the state where many vote straight-party Democrat. Also, races for president and Senate gained much more attention than down-ballot positions such as PRC commissioner.
Block’s lies to the Optic weren’t his only deceptions during the campaign. He also apparently fibbed about his criminal record and education credentials to Santa Fe newspapers.
Perhaps Block should do himself and his constituents a favor and resign. But we suspect that he’ll fight to the end, dragging down the PRC with him. And then he’ll likely be forced out — either through impeachment or his conviction.
Sure, Block won the election last year. But what does that really mean when he sacrificed his integrity?