Kent Sorenson will serve time over illegal campaign payments

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson will spend time in prison for taking money in exchange for endorsing Ron Paul shortly before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Sorenson pled guilty to the federal offenses more than two years ago, but his sentencing was delayed repeatedly as he cooperated with investigators looking into conduct by others. Sorenson’s testimony helped to convict three former senior Paul campaign officials of crimes including conspiracy, causing false campaign expenditure reporting and making false statements.

Prosecutors recommended probation and community service for Sorenson, but U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt sentenced him to 15 months in prison today, Grant Rodgers reported for the Des Moines Register. Pratt described Sorenson’s actions as “the definition of political corruption.”

In contrast, prosecutors had sought sentences of two years in prison for Paul’s former campaign chairman Jesse Benton and campaign manager John Tate. But last September, District Court Judge John Jarvey sentenced them to two years probation and $10,000 fines instead. The same judge sentenced former deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari to three months in prison for orchestrating the illegal payments scheme.

One thing I’ve never understood: why did federal prosecutors focus only on crimes involving Paul’s operatives, when Sorenson also conspired to accept $7,500 per month from entities linked to Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign? A special investigator’s report on payments from pro-Bachmann committees prompted Sorenson to resign from the Iowa Senate in 2013.

Sorenson avoided trial on domestic abuse charges last year by pleading guilty to disorderly conduct.

  • ethics

    It may be that the payments by the Bachman campaign were just violations of Senate rules rather than violations of Iowa law. If Sorenson had not been a Senator, he could have been paid for his caucus work (and many Iowans do get paid for such work). Sorenson went to great length to not get personally paid, which was the essence of his defense, but Senate rules are pretty broad. I think he thought he evaded the rules, but indirect payments were the same violation. Ultimately, the federal charges were regarding the Ron Paul campaign were for lying about the payments I believe. The special investigator suggested, as I recall, that Sorenson might have been guilty of a state charge of perjury, but I would have to go back and re-read the report to be sure. Anyway, I think that is the essence. The state chose not to prosecute (the resignation was enough). The Bachman payments were a low point ethically, but perhaps not illegal

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