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2012 elections

Kent Sorenson pleads guilty over hidden payments scheme (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 13:39:46 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that former State Senator Kent Sorenson has pleaded guilty to two charges related to hidden payments in exchange for supporting Ron Paul for president. When he abandoned his position as Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chair to endorse Paul less than a week before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, rumors immediately circulated about alleged payments for his support. Sorenson repeatedly denied those rumors. However, he has now admitted that he received $73,000 in concealed payments after endorsing Paul. As part of his plea agreement, he also admitted lying to journalists and giving false testimony to an independent counsel appointed to investigate various charges. Sorenson resigned his Iowa Senate seat last October, the same day that independent counsel filed a devastating report. Federal authorities have been investigating the case since last year.

After the jump I've enclosed the full Department of Justice press release, with more details about the plea deal. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. As far as I can tell, these charges are unrelated to any payments Sorenson allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign earlier in 2011. A former Bachmann campaign staffer made those claims in complaints he filed with the Federal Election Commission and with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Another former Bachmann staffer signed an affidavit containing details on Sorenson's compensation for work supporting that campaign.

One mystery I hope someone will solve someday is whether Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer, lied on behalf of his client, or whether Sorenson lied to Sporer along with everyone else. Even on the day he resigned from the state legislature, Sorenson maintained he was an innocent victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." A separate lawsuit that had alleged Sorenson stole a valuable e-mail list from a Bachmann staffer's computer was eventually settled without any admission of wrongdoing by Sorenson.

UPDATE: Russ Choma has more details at Open Secrets, including the full plea agreement. Highly recommend clicking through to read that whole post. I've enclosed excerpts below.

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Jonathan Narcisse to challenge exclusion from IA-Gov primary ballot

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 18:24:03 PM CDT

Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Narcisse plans to fight for inclusion on the Democratic primary ballot. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office rejected some of his petitions because the line listing the office he was seeking was left blank. After the jump I've posted a statement from Narcisse blasting what he called a "gross act of political disenfranchisement" to use a "technicality" to keep him off the ballot. I also enclosed the letter Director of Elections Sarah Reisetter sent to Narcisse and an example of one of the invalid signature pages, provided by the Iowa Secretary of State's communications director.

No doubt, some of the people circulating Narcisse's petitions did not fill all of them out correctly. Iowa law on ballot access is clear, and our rules are less restrictive than those in many other states.

One recent event bolster's Narcisse's case, however: two years ago, State Senator Joe Seng was able to get on the Democratic primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district despite the exact same problem with his petitions in two counties. Three senior state officials (Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins) reviewed the matter after a voter in IA-02 challenged Seng's petitions. That panel unanimously decided "to count a few pages of petition signatures that had previously been tossed out because the top portion - listing Seng's name, where he was from and what office he was seeking - hadn't been completely filled out." Schultz told the media that while "Senator Seng probably should have been more organized," it was a "close call." Miller cited an Iowa tradition of "being somewhat favorable, deferential to someone having access to the ballot."

If Narcisse manages to get on the ballot, he will face State Senator Jack Hatch in the Democratic primary on June 3. Otherwise Hatch will be unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

UPDATE: To clarify, I understand and support the reasoning behind Iowa's ballot access rules. Senior officials never should have bent the rules to accommodate Seng. Now that they have, Narcisse can claim he deserves the same indulgence. John Deeth notes in the comments that it's not clear exactly what information was missing from some of the Seng petitions. Perhaps scanned copies still exist somewhere, which would show whether the problem was a blank space where he should have indicated the office he was seeking.  

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Iowa Senate district 45: Joe Seng has a primary challenger, Mark Riley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 15:22:00 PM CDT

If any Iowa Democrat deserves a primary challenge, it's three-term State Senator Joe Seng. Although the Davenport-based veterinarian represents one of the Democrats' safest urban districts, Seng is anti-choice and supported Republican calls for a vote against marriage equality in 2010. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he has helped pass several bills that are good for industrial agriculture but bad for the environment, especially clean water. In addition, Seng himself challenged three-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack in the IA-02 Democratic primary two years ago, so he couldn't claim the moral high ground against a primary challenger for his state Senate seat.

I was excited to see yesterday that another Democratic candidate, Mark Riley, had filed papers to run in Senate district 45. When I realized Riley was Seng's Republican opponent in 2010 and ran an independent campaign against Iowa House Democrat Cindy Winckler in 2012, I became disappointed. Was he just a fake like the "Democrat" who ran against State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in 2010?

I sought comment from Riley about why he was running as a Democrat in Iowa Senate district 45, having campaigned as a Republican in the same district a few years ago. I've posted his response after the jump. You be the judge. Riley would have my serious consideration if I lived on the west side of Davenport.  

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Will Nick Ryan and the American Future Fund own up to campaign finance violations?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 25, 2013 at 08:45:00 AM CDT

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced yesterday that her office and "the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) have jointly secured a $1 million civil settlement against two out-of-state organizations for violations of the California Political Reform Act." In addition, a political group registered in Iowa called the "California Future Fund for Free Markets" is supposed to to pay a $4.08-million penalty to the state of California. The 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, run by longtime Iowa Republican operative Nick Ryan, was the sole source of funding for the now-defunct California Future Fund for Free Markets.

Follow me after the jump for details on the scheme to evade California's campaign finance disclosure rules last year.

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Report details spending on 2012 Iowa judicial retention election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 25, 2013 at 06:55:00 AM CDT

Via Radio Iowa I saw that a report just came out about spending in judicial elections across the country in 2011 and 2012. Researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the nonpartisan group Justice at Stake collaborated on the report, which you can download here (pdf). Excerpt:

Spending in the Iowa Supreme Court retention election totaled more than $833,000 in 2012, down from the $1.4 million spent in 2010 but still substantial in a state with no recorded spending on high court races during the previous decade. Anti-retention groups spent $466,000 on the 2012 election, including $318,000 by Iowans For Freedom and $148,000 by the National Organization for Marriage. Both groups ran television ads. Pro-retention groups spent $367,000, including $320,000 by Justice Not Politics, $37,000 by the Iowa State Bar and roughly $5,000 each by Progress Iowa and the Human Rights Campaign.

Major donors to Iowans for Freedom (a campaign group fronted by Bob Vander Plaats) included "CitizenLink, Patriot Voices, The Family Leader, the National Organization for Marriage, and CatholicVote." Of the $466,000 spent on the "No Wiggins" campaign, an estimated $163,600 went toward broadcasting two television commercials. Bleeding Heartland posted videos and transcripts of those ads here and here.

Justice David Wiggins didn't create a campaign fund or raise money directly. The largest donor to Justice Not Politics Action was the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, which gave $135,000. That's more than a third of the total funds spent campaigning for retention.

Iowa voters retained Wiggins by a margin of 680,284 votes to 567,024 (about 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent). Whereas just ten counties had voted to retain the three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention in 2010, 36 counties voted yes on Wiggins in 2012.

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Ethics board to investigate National Organization for Marriage spending on retention votes

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted unanimously on August 8 to investigate the National Organization for Marriage's spending in Iowa during the 2010 and 2012 judicial retention elections. Details are after the jump.

UPDATE: Added details below on the National Organization for Marriage demanding that the ethics board's executive director recuse herself from any investigation.

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How long can Iowa Republicans stand by Kent Sorenson? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 08:53:00 AM CDT

Following up on yesterday's bombshell news, The Iowa Republican publisher Craig Robinson has now published an audio recording with transcript of State Senator Kent Sorenson describing how he took money in exchange for endorsing Ron Paul for president.

There is no excuse for Sorenson's behavior or the continued silence of state Republican Party leaders. I don't care if Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker and several state central committee members are old "Paulinista" buddies with Sorenson. You have to be blind not to see the damage Sorenson has already done to the Iowa caucuses. Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix may be afraid to take a public stand because Sorenson has a cheering squad among social conservatives, but this man does not belong in the Iowa Senate.

I will update this post as needed, and I hope it will be needed.

UPDATE: Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that no money changed hands, either directly or indirectly, between Sorenson and the Paul campaign. Is he lying, or did his client lie to him?

So far I've seen no comment about this scandal from conservative talk radio host Steve Deace, a longtime Sorenson ally. Deace's motto is "Fear God, Tell the Truth, and Make Money." I guess two out of three ain't bad.

Conservative radio host Simon Conway commented on the Sorenson allegations, "Does not look good." An understatement, but at least it's something. Conway added, "We did a full hour on this yesterday and will be doing more today."

SECOND UPDATE: As of the late afternoon on August 7, Iowa Senate Republicans had "no comment at this time" regarding Sorenson. Unreal.

THIRD UPDATE: The source for this story, former Ron Paul aide Dennis Fusaro, spoke to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, The Iowa Republican posted audio and transcript of a different conversation between Sorenson and Fusaro about the check Sorenson received.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz became the first GOP elected official to say Sorenson should resign if the allegations are true.

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Republican blog drops Kent Sorenson bombshell

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 15:11:00 PM CDT

Since the day State Senator Kent Sorenson dumped Michele Bachmann for Ron Paul, Iowa politics watchers have speculated that he was paid well to do so. Earlier this year, news emerged of indirect payments totaling $7,500 per month from entities supporting Bachmann to Sorenson while he chaired her presidential campaign in Iowa. Today The Iowa Republican blog's publisher Craig Robinson posted e-mails and memos detailing a large "payoff" for Sorenson in exchange for publicly endorsing Paul.

I hope these allegations will generate momentum in the Iowa legislature to prohibit lawmakers from being paid by political campaigns. An ethics investigation of Sorenson is pending, but these rules should be written into state law in my opinion. The integrity of the Iowa caucuses is undermined by the perception that presidential candidates can buy state legislators.

I assume that whoever leaked this information to The Iowa Republican is hoping that Sorenson will either resign or lose in a GOP primary to represent Senate district 13 next year. It's a district Republicans "should" hold, but Sorenson is surely not the best candidate to accomplish that goal. To my knowledge, no Republican has announced plans to challenge Sorenson in a primary. He has passionate defenders in the social conservative wing, thanks to his uncompromising stance on Medicaid abortion funding, his hostility toward an LGBT youth conference, his support for impeaching Iowa Supreme Court justices and bringing back the death penalty, among other issues.

It's worth noting that Robinson has never been sympathetic to the Ron Paul faction within the Iowa GOP. His website displayed a strong "Rick Santorum" slant in late 2011 and early 2012. Critics have even accused Robinson of taking money in exchange for promoting a certain angle at The Iowa Republican. Still, today's post on Sorenson's "payoff" is a must-read.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Quentin Stanerson/Kristin Keast rematch coming in Iowa House district 95

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:39:00 AM CDT

A rematch looms in Iowa House district 95 between Republican Quentin Stanerson and Democrat Kristin Keast. After the previous incumbent, Democratic State Representative Nate Willems, opted to run for Iowa Senate district 48, Stanerson defeated Keast in district 95 by just 200 votes (barely more than 1 percent of votes cast). That was the sixth-closest result in the 100 Iowa House races. Republicans Chris Hagenow, Tedd Gassman, Larry Sheets, and Sandy Salmon and Democrat Daniel Lundby won each of their races by fewer than 200 votes.

The Iowa House Democrats announced on Tuesday that Keast will run again in House district 95. After the jump I've posted a district map, the latest voter registration numbers, and background on Keast and Stanerson. To my knowledge, this was the only 2012 Iowa election in which both major-party nominees were teachers.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I consider House district 95 one of about a dozen races that will determine control of the Iowa House in 2015 and 2016.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa House districts

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 08:26:39 AM CDT

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district, state by state. Last week the Iowa numbers were added to the database. I took a first stab at previewing the battle for control of the Iowa Senate next year, using data including the raw vote totals and percentages for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in each district.

The Daily Kos database includes Obama and Romney vote totals and percentages for each Iowa House district here. After the jump I've incorporated that information and other factors to predict which Iowa House districts will be competitive in 2014. Writing this post has been challenging, because every election cycle brings surprises, and many more seats in the lower chamber will be in play. Unlike the Iowa Senate, where only half of the 50 members are on the ballot in each general election, all 100 Iowa House members are on ballot in every even-numbered year. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa Senate districts

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 10:57:01 AM CDT

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district. Yesterday the Iowa numbers were added to the database. You can view Google documents with raw vote totals and percentages for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Iowa Congressional district here, by Iowa Senate district here, and by Iowa House district here.

Looking closely at the presidential vote in the legislative districts provides some insight about where the competitive Iowa statehouse races might be next year. After the jump I've highlighted some key data points related to the Iowa Senate races. Later I will post a separate diary with first thoughts about the Iowa House districts.

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Affidavit details indirect salary payments for Kent Sorenson

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

Following up on last Friday's post, Michele Bachmann's former chief of staff Andy Parrish signed an affidavit yesterday containing details on State Senator Kent Sorenson's compensation for work on the Bachmann presidential campaign.  
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IA-01: How much will the Liberty movement help Rod Blum?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Yesterday Dubuque-based business owner Rod Blum formally announced his candidacy in the Republican primary to represent Iowa's first Congressional district. The same day, he received the endorsement of the Liberty Iowa PAC, formed two years ago by supporters of Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Both announcements are after the jump, along with my first thoughts on how much the Liberty movement could help Blum in the GOP primary.
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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2013

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 13:18:54 PM CST

The Iowa legislature's 2013 session opened today. After the jump I've posted details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Where relevant, I've noted changes since last year. Click here for a similar post on the new Iowa House.

Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber. The huge experience gap between the Iowa Senate caucuses is striking. Only seven of the 24 Republicans have served as lawmakers in either the House or Senate for more than four years, whereas 19 of the 26 Democrats have more than four years of legislative service. Click here for details on the tenure of all 50 Iowa senators.

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Four surprises from the final statistics on Iowa's 2012 election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:31:23 AM CST

The Iowa Secretary of State's Office posted the statewide statistical report on the 2012 general election this week (pdf). For those wondering what took so long: Iowa county auditors had 60 days after the general election to submit their final reports.  

A few things surprised me when I looked over the numbers for the first time and compared them to the 2008 statewide statistical report (pdf).

UPDATE: I asked the Secretary of State's Office for a comment on the discrepancy between the certified election results, which showed that 1,589,899 Iowans cast ballots in the general election, and the statewide statistical report's "total voted" number of 1,572,198. The explanation is at the end of this post.

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Democrats have failed to convey the importance of the Iowa Senate

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:41:11 AM CST

On one level, yesterday's special election in Iowa Senate district 22 was no surprise. One would expect a Republican victory in a district with a large GOP voter registration advantage, where Republicans spent far more money and only the Republican candidate ran television commercials.

On the other hand, the special election loss is a big red flag that Iowa Democrats have failed to communicate how crucial it is to hold their narrow Senate majority.

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Iowa Senate district 22 election day news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 17:13:57 PM CST

Voters in Clive, Windsor Heights, Waukee, and about half of West Des Moines will elect a successor to State Senator Pat Ward today in Iowa Senate district 22. Ward's untimely death in October forced this special election between Republican Charles Schneider and Democrat Desmund Adams. Follow me after the jump for early vote numbers and news from the campaign trail.

UPDATE: Unofficial results from Polk County show Schneider won 2865 votes and Adams 2712 votes. The Dallas County precincts have not reported yet, but they are more Republican-leaning, so it's safe to say Schneider won this special election.

SECOND UPDATE: Schneider won by 5,371 votes to 4,117 (56.56 percent to 43.36 percent). Huge opportunity for Iowa Democrats lost here.  

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Comparing voter registration numbers and election results by county

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:48:29 AM CST

The latest voter registration numbers in all 99 Iowa counties are out, and I wanted to do one final update on the registration totals in each county, grouped by Congressional district. Statewide, Republicans had led Democrats in voter registrations since April, but that lead was almost gone by the beginning of November. Late GOTV and election-day registrants helped put Democrats a little ahead again. As of December 3, Iowa had 640,776 active registered Democrats, 636,315 Republicans, and 722,348 no-party voters.

In the tables below, I also added vote totals for President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and the major-party Congressional candidates in each county, to show which candidates outpolled or underperformed their party's presidential nominee. I'm not convinced that Christie Vilsack could have beaten Tom Latham in IA-03, but Leonard Boswell finished noticeably behind the president in this district, especially in Polk County.  

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Iowa results certified: Obama won early vote, Romney carried election day

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 20:40:00 PM CST

Iowa officials certified the 2012 general election results today. Key numbers: 1,589,899 ballots cast, a record turnout in absolute numbers and 73.28 percent of the eligible voters.

President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa by 822,544 votes (51.99 percent) to 730,617 (46.18 percent). Early GOTV carried the election for the president. Among Iowans who cast early ballots in person or by mail, 405,913 voted for Obama and 268,558 for Romney. Among election-day voters, 462,059 voted for Romney and 416,631 for Obama.

The Obama campaign and Iowa Democratic Party did a better job identifying and mobilizing independent supporters to vote early. As of November 5, registered Democrats who had returned early ballots outnumbered registered Republicans who had done so by about 65,000. But Obama received 137,355 more early votes in Iowa than Romney. He must have done well among roughly 200,000 no-party voters who cast early ballots.

The full statewide statistical report will come out sometime in January, after county auditors have submitted their final reports to the Secretary of State's office.

Iowa Democrats registered more new voters during the closing weeks of the campaign, including those who registered on election day. As of September 1, there were 602,636 active registered Democrats, 620,868 Republicans, and 666,279 no-party voters statewide. But as of December 3, there were 640,776 active registered Democrats, 636,315 Republicans, and 722,348 no-party voters. After the jump I've posted an Iowa Democratic Party press release on this subject.

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Five takes on Asian Americans trending Democratic

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:35:00 AM CST

President Barack Obama's 50-point edge over Mitt Romney among Asian American voters was one of the most surprising election results for me. Growing up during the 1980s, it seemed like all of my Asian American friends' parents were Republicans. Bill Clinton received an estimated 31 percent of the Asian American vote in 1992, compared to 62 percent for Obama in 2008 and 73 percent for Obama this year.

Since the election, I've read several attempts to explain this trend. The most interesting links are after the jump.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 1458 words in story)
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