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Kent Sorenson

Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 16, 2015 at 15:37:38 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors' latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives "were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn't obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul." An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client "threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign." But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as "a knee-jerk, emotional reaction." Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

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Former State Senator Kent Sorenson facing new criminal charges

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 21, 2015 at 22:50:00 PM CDT

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson faces new criminal charges of domestic abuse assault and interference with official acts, KCCI-TV's Cynthia Fodor reported today. Sorenson resigned his Iowa Senate seat in 2013 and pled guilty to federal crimes last year in connection with illegal payments he received during the 2012 presidential campaign. Prosecutors have agreed to delay sentencing in that case because Sorenson has been cooperating with the federal government on a "larger investigation."

Fodor reported that Sorenson was arrested on July 17 after a fight with his wife, Shawnee Sorenson. She did not call the police; rather, someone called 911 after seeing her walking down the road near their home. Warren County Sheriff Brian Vos said Shawnee Sorenson "had redness around her eye and did admit she had been struck by Mr. Sorenson." Two sheriff's deputies then suffered unspecified injuries while arresting the former senator.

Sorenson's attorney said his client will plead not guilty to the new charges, and that the whole family has been under stress while Sorenson awaits sentencing in the federal case. In a statement to KCCI, published in full on the television station's website, Shawnee Sorenson said today that she started the fight on Friday after drinking some alcohol, "which I now realize was not the right thing to do." By her account, her husband grabbed her because she was "throwing things" and "clawed him." Shawnee Sorenson added that she did not want the police involved and "would not press charges," because "Kent looked worse than I did." Nor did she ask for the no-contact order that was filed after the arrest. She is "tired of the media portraying Kent in a negative light. He has done his best to be a good father, husband and provider for our family despite all the pressures he is facing."

Linh Ta reported for the Des Moines Register that Sorenson "had $2,000 bond posted to avoid jail" and will have a preliminary hearing on the new criminal charges on July 28. He was acquitted on a domestic abuse assault charge in 1994 "when the witness testified that the allegations were false," Jennifer Jacobs reported for the Des Moines Register in 2010.  

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Kent Sorenson sentencing delayed as he cooperates with federal investigators

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 20, 2015 at 06:45:00 AM CST

Nearly six months after he pled guilty to receiving hidden payments for endorsing Ron Paul, former State Senator Kent Sorenson still hasn't been sentenced and won't be for some time. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register,

In a [February 19] hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt, attorneys for the government and for Sorenson agreed to delay sentencing in the case until April. The reason, Justice Department lead attorney Robert Higdon Jr. said, was that the government was "engaged" and "making progress" on a "larger investigation" into the 2012 presidential race. [...]

It is unclear exactly who may be the target of the ongoing investigation, but questions have been raised about top aides in Paul's 2012 campaign.

Sorenson received shady indirect payments from Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign for months, but his guilty plea was related to a payment scheme he negotiated with Ron Paul supporters. Russ Choma reported last year for the Open Secrets blog,

Sources say two grand juries are looking into the 2012 campaigns of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), whom Sorenson originally endorsed, and Paul, to whom Sorenson switched his support just days before the Iowa caucuses. A number of individuals confirmed to OpenSecrets Blog that they had been interviewed by FBI agents, the grand juries, or both.

Click through for more speculation on angles federal investigators may be pursuing.

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Kent Sorenson has more positive drug tests

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 09:15:00 AM CST

Awaiting sentencing for concealing payments received for helping Ron Paul's presidential campaign, former State Senator Kent Sorenson has now tested positive three times for marijuana use, the Associated Press reported last week. Sorenson's attorney had said the first positive test was caused by drug use prior to the plea agreement. In a more recent court document,

A lab toxicologist gave an opinion on Oct. 28 that Sorenson "reused marijuana prior to the collections on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21," which would amount to a second violation of his release conditions, she wrote.

I'd like to hear from members of the Bleeding Heartland community who are familiar with the criminal justice system: would evidence of more recent marijuana use likely affect the sentence Sorenson will receive, even though the crimes to which he pled guilty are unrelated to illegal drug use?

Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu reflected on Sorenson's "perfect hypocrisy," since as a state senator he "voted to subject welfare recipients to random drug tests, at their own expense, even if they had no history of drug abuse." I've enclosed excerpts from her latest piece after the jump.

Various states that have introduced drug testing for welfare recipients have found the tests "ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved and failed to curb the number of prospective applicants," and that welfare recipients use illegal drugs at rates significantly lower than the general population.  

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Kent Sorenson tested positive for marijuana

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 21:22:05 PM CDT

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson tested positive for marijuana two weeks ago, according to court documents released today. Sorenson is on probation pre-trial release under supervision while he awaits sentencing for concealing illegal payments he received from Ron Paul's presidential campaign and giving false testimony about the scheme. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register,

His attorney, F. Montgomery Brown, said Sorenson disclosed using marijuana prior to making his plea and denies using since he's been under court supervision. Testing shows declining levels of the drug, Brown added, which is "consistent with abstinence."

In the court documents, the probation officer assigned to Sorenson asked that no action be taken in response to the drug test, noting that he has maintained full-time employment. The U.S. Department of Justice attorney assigned to the case did not object.

"I would not expect it to have any impact upon his pretrial release at this time," Brown said. "They're not asking for any revocation of that release.

Brown added, "He's not the first tea partier to have a substance abuse issue."

I hope Sorenson gets the help he needs to abstain from habit-forming drugs. Questions for those in the Bleeding Heartland community who are familiar with the criminal justice system: is it typical for a probation officer and a DOJ attorney not to recommend immediate consequences for a defendant who violated probation by failing a drug test? And would a positive drug test likely affect the sentence Sorenson will receive, even though the crimes to which he pled guilty are unrelated to illegal drug use?

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Weekend open thread: Political corruption edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 13:10:56 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

I've been reading about the recent convictions of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell on federal corruption charges. Both are likely to do prison time for accepting money and favors for personal benefit. Incidentally, McDonnell refused a deal that would have required him to plead guilty to just one charge, sparing his wife from prosecution. Iowa's own former State Senator Kent Sorenson showed more chivalry--or was it wisdom, for once?--when he agreed to plead guilty on corruption charges, protecting his own wife from prosecution in connection with illegal payments.

While I have no problem with prosecuting greedy politicians, it occurs to me that the McDonnells' outrageous actions (such as letting a wealthy businessman cater their daughter's wedding) were less damaging to the public welfare than many more prevalent forms of "legal corruption." No governor will be prosecuted for appointing wealthy donors to powerful state positions, where they may promote their own businesses or interfere with those they see threatening their industry. No governor will ever be prosecuted for giving interest groups undue influence on public policy, either covertly or openly. In the August 31 Sunday Des Moines Register, Richard Doak wrote an excellent piece on how Governor Terry Branstad has "put state government at the service of one segment of the people: the business community." I've posted excerpts after the jump. Doak's not talking about criminal activity, but he cites policies that have harmed Iowa more than any luxury vacation for the McDonnells could ever harm Virginia.

On a related note, the Brennan Center for Justice recently published a disturbing report on trends in federal campaign spending:

In recent cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has been narrowing what counts as corruption in campaign finance cases to mere quid pro quo corruption. Quid pro quo is Latin meaning "this for that." In other words only explicit exchanges of gifts for votes or campaign cash for official acts will count as corruption for the Roberts Supreme Court. But a new study entitled, "The New Soft Money" from Professor Daniel Tokaji and Renata Strause calls this narrow read of corruption into question.  

Speaking of "dark money," Iowa's third Congressional district was among thirteen tossup U.S. House races examined in a separate Brennan Center report on outside political spending. A growing trend (not yet seen in IA-03) is for a super-PAC to be formed supporting a single Congressional candidate, giving "big donors a way of evading federal contribution limits."

UPDATE: Over at the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's blog, Adam Rappaport illustrates another example of legalized corruption: "issue ads" funded by dark money, which are clearly intended to influence elections. Although the "tax code plainly says section 501(c)(4) organizations must be 'exclusively' engaged in non-political activity," the IRS interpretation allows dark money groups to fund blatant electioneering communications.  

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Weekend open thread: Labor Day edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Labor Day has been a federal holiday for 120 years, and it's just one of many reasons Americans can be grateful to the organized labor movement.

Labor Day also marks the unofficial end of summer for many people. It's a wet and muddy holiday weekend in central Iowa, as Des Moines just closed out the rainiest August on record. Hummingbirds will start flying south soon, and early September is a good time to see monarch butterflies on their migration through Iowa. The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City has a volunteer monarch tagging event scheduled for this Saturday, September 6. The Des Moines Register's Mike Kilen reported late last week that several conservation groups are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the monarch "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act. Conventional farming practices, notably the widespread use of Roundup herbicide, have decimated milkweeds, which monarchs need to breed. Planting milkweeds along roadsides and in private yards can give butterflies good habitat.

In even-numbered years, politicos long considered Labor Day the unofficial beginning of the general election campaign, or at least the time more voters start paying attention. Campaigns are so expensive now, with so much more outside money flowing in, that Iowans have been bombarded with as many political ads during the "slow" summer months as we would have seen ten or twenty years ago in September and October. I wonder whether television commercials are becoming less effective for political campaigns these days. So many people change the channel or avoid commercials altogether by using DVR or Netflix.

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson's guilty plea last week may or may not lead to other prosecutions in connection with Ron Paul's 2012 campaign, but it has already cost one former Paul staffer his job. Jesse Benton had been managing the re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. He resigned on Friday evening, citing "inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue."  

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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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Sources say FBI raided Kent Sorenson's house (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:35:00 PM CST

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson's political career is over, but his legal problems may be deepening. Robert Wenzel reported today at the Economic Policy Journal blog that two sources have confirmed "the FBI was at Sorenson's house for 7 hours" one day last week. "They took Sorenson's computers and the school-related computers of Sorenson's children. Notebooks and diaries were also taken."

In order to evade Iowa Senate ethics rules, Sorenson is alleged to have received payments from third parties for work promoting presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul. (See volume one and volume two of the lengthy report by special investigator Mark Weinhardt.) Some of those payments may have violated federal campaign finance laws. Wenzel discussed some possible national political reverberations from the FBI investigation. Assuming his sources are correct, I suspect this case will be a powerful deterrent to any Iowa lawmaker tempted to seek money for a future political endorsement.

Hat tip to Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders.

UPDATE: Sorenson's attorney said the search happened on November 20 and added,

"We were not notified that he was the target of any investigation," attorney Theodore Sporer told the [Des Moines] Register. "They took computers and things that would be used to verify or validate communications with presidential entities."

"It wasn't a 'raid,'" Sporer told the Register. "They executed a search warrant that, frankly, we anticipated was coming."

SECOND UPDATE: Enjoyed the Iowa .Gif-t Shop's take on this story.

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Julian Garrett will represent Iowa Senate district 13 next year

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:40:00 AM CST

State Representative Julian Garrett won yesterday's special election in Iowa Senate district 13 by 3,908 votes to 2,627 for Democrat Mark Davitt, according to unofficial results (59.8 percent to 40.2 percent). He carried both the election-day vote and and the early vote.

During the 2014 legislative session, Democrats will retain a 26 to 24 Iowa Senate majority. Garrett will face re-election next year but will be heavily favored unless one of the far-right Republicans who sought the nomination for the special manages to defeat him in the primary. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 51.4 percent of the vote to 47.2 percent in Senate district 13.

Iowa will be better off without Kent Sorenson's toxic presence in the state Senate, even though Garrett's victory makes this Senate district a safer Republican hold next November.

Garrett will soon resign as state representative, forcing a special election in Iowa House district 25 in early January. After the jump I've posted a map of that district, covering Madison County and parts of Warren County. In 2012, Garrett defeated Democratic challenger Katie Routh by 9,082 votes to 7,487 (54.8 percent to 45.1 percent), while the presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Romney, 44.3 percent for Obama.

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Iowa Senate district 13 special election set; Democrat Mark Davitt is running

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 14:14:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation today setting the special election to fill Iowa Senate district 13 for Tuesday, November 19. Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned last week after special investigator Mark Weinhardt delivered an exhaustive report about Sorenson's alleged malfeasance to the Iowa Senate.

I highly recommend looking through Weinhardt's report (here are links to volume 1 and part 2). It astounds me that Sorenson is posturing as the victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." Exhibit 12 in this part of Weinhardt's report summarizes an interview with Susan Geddes, who managed Sorenson's Iowa House campaign in 2008 and Iowa Senate campaign in 2010. She repeatedly warned Sorenson that he could not be paid by the Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign under Iowa Senate rules, and that the truth would catch up with him.

Republican blogger Craig Robinson discussed "winners and losers" in the Sorenson ordeal here. I largely agree with his list, but I would put Senate Minority leader Bill Dix in the loser category, as well as Senate Ethics Committee Republicans Jack Whitver and Jerry Behn. If they'd had their way, Weinhardt would never have been appointed to look into Sorenson's wrongdoing. Speaking of ethics, it is customary to link to a blog post when you mention it. Robinson referred to, but failed to link to, this Bleeding Heartland post about the legal problems of Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer.

Former Iowa House Democrat Mark Davitt announced today that he will run in the Senate district 13 special election. I've posted his press release after the jump. Davitt was born in Madison County and represented most of Warren County in the Iowa House for three terms before losing his seat to Sorenson in 2008. Republican State Representative Julian Garrett is running, but I expect at least one other person to seek the Republican nomination for the special election.

I enclosed a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

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More fallout from Kent Sorenson resignation (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 12:27:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad praised Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix today for asking Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson to resign yesterday.

"I've tried to be very careful and that's why I was pleased that Bill Dix was the one that asked for his resignation and that he made the decision to resign," Branstad said. "I think it was handled in the appropriate way and I want to give the Republican leader in the senate credit for making the ask for the resignation in light of the report that was done."

According to O.Kay Henderson's report for Radio Iowa, Branstad never mentioned Sorenson by name today, referring to him as "he" or "the member." In early 2010, Sorenson vowed never to vote for Branstad. Sorenson's home base in Warren County was one of the strongest performers for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Within five days, Branstad must set a date for the special election in Iowa Senate district 13. Whether Republicans retain the seat will not affect control of the Iowa Senate, where Democrats now have a 26 to 24 majority. Whoever wins the special will be up for re-election in 2014. I consider the GOP favored to hold Senate district 13. Theoretically, a Democratic candidate would have been better positioned to defeat Sorenson than someone else, but Sorenson's presence on the Iowa political scene was so toxic that we're all better off with him gone.

Sorenson's resignation does not preclude possible criminal prosecution. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone's office will review the report special investigator Mark Weinhardt filed yesterday with the Iowa Senate. Sorenson still claims he's done nothing wrong.

Talk radio host Steve Deace, who did more than anyone else to promote Sorenson's political career, finally commented on this mess. I've enclosed excerpts from his post after the jump.

UPDATE: Added a few comments from Sorenson's Senate Republican colleagues after the jump.

Weinhardt's report implicates David Polyansky, then a consultant for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign, in arranging the payments for Sorenson. Polyansky is now a consultant for State Senator Joni Ernst's campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, Wes Enos has resigned from the Iowa Senate GOP caucus staff. Enos was a senior official in Bachmann's campaign and publicly defended Sorenson against allegations that he had been paid to switch his support to Ron Paul. UPDATE: On October 4, Enos resigned as a member of the Iowa GOP's State Central Committee.

Enos said Friday he had defended Sorenson previously because he believed the Milo Republican hadn't done anything wrong. "The report was pretty damning and that is why I felt this was necessary....Realistically, now that we have seen the report it is best if I just kind step aside."
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Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth rules out bid in Senate district 13

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 09:40:31 AM CDT

State Senator Kent Sorenson's resignation will force a special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The two sides of this Senate seat are House district 25, represented by two-term Republican Julian Garrett, and House district 26, represented by first-term Democrat Scott Ourth. I asked Ourth whether he would consider running in the special election. He responded,

"I am flattered and honored that so many of my neighbors and friends have asked me to consider a bid for the Iowa Senate seat vacated today by Senator Kent Sorenson.  I did not run for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives to use it as a launch pad for higher office.  The people of House District 26 placed their trust in me in the 2012 election, and I intend to represent them to the best of my ability. The voters of this district elected me to be their voice, and to advocate for them in the Iowa House.  Hence, I will continue my work as an Iowa State Representative, working to create jobs, improve education, support agriculture, and give voice to our seniors, veterans, and children."

John Deeth speculated about some possible candidates from both parties yesterday. Perhaps Mark Davitt, who lost his Iowa House seat to Sorenson in 2008, will take a shot at the special election. As for the Republicans, the Warren County GOP has plenty of ambitious tea party types, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Garrett stay in his Madison County-based House district. I doubt Jodi Tymeson would leave her new position as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in the hope of joining the minority caucus in the Iowa Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I've posted a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Speaking by telephone on October 3, Garrett told me he is thinking about running in the special election but hasn't made a decision yet.

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Curtain falls on Kent Sorenson's political career

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 17:47:00 PM CDT

State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned this afternoon after special investigator Mark Weinhardt filed a damning report with the Iowa Senate on Sorenson's conduct. Iowa Senate ethics rules don't allow senators to receive payment from political action committees, but Weinhardt found probable cause that money from political action committees supporting presidential candidate Michele Bachmann flowed to Sorenson indirectly by way of consulting firms. The Des Moines Register uploaded the more than 500-page report in two pdf files: volume one and volume two. Weinhardt also discussed "deeply suspicious" wire transfers and a check Sorenson received from a Ron Paul presidential campaign official.

Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, both Sorenson and his attorney Ted Sporer insisted that the senator never lied, because he was a subcontractor, not an employee of Bachmann's campaign.

Senate Ethics Committee Chair Wally Horn announced plans to convene a meeting of that committee next week. Later this afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix said in a statement, "Today, I called for Senator Sorenson's resignation, and he agreed to do so effective immediately."

While looking for Dix's full statement on the Iowa Senate Republicans website, I was amused to see photos of Sorenson scrolling across the front page, featuring "latest news" from May 28. Apparently no one involved with the Senate GOP caucus has figured out how to keep the website up to date since Dix fired their key communications staffer in May. For fun and for posterity, I took a screen shot that I've posted after the jump.

Sorenson's resignation opens up Republican-leaning Senate district 13. I haven't heard yet about any candidates from either party planning to run for that seat in 2014. UPDATE: John Deeth speculates on possible candidates for the special election in that district. I think Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth will stay in House district 26 rather than run for the Senate seat.

UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson posted the e-mail Sorenson sent to his constituents today. I've enclosed the relevant portion below. He accuses his opponents of conducting a "straight-up political witch hunt" against him because he tried to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices from the bench. What ever happened to personal responsibility?

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More bad news piling up for Kent Sorenson (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:20:00 AM CDT

Allegations that State Senator Kent Sorenson sought and received payment for endorsing presidential candidate Ron Paul are now the subject of a complaint with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. You can read the full text of Peter Waldron's latest complaint at The Iowa Republican blog. Earlier this year, the former consultant for Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign filed complaints with the Federal Elections Commission and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, focused on alleged payments Sorenson received for his work on Bachmann's campaign. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady appointed a special investigator in May to look into those claims.

Since Sorenson appears determined to fight these charges rather than leave the political stage quietly, this saga could drag on for some time. Senate Ethics Committee Chair Wally Horn told Rod Boshart yesterday that committee members would meet soon "to discuss how to proceed."

Meanwhile, the U.S. House Ethics Committee voted last week to continue its investigation of the Bachmann presidential campaign, Kevin Diaz reported for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on September 11. Alleged payments to Sorenson feature prominently in that investigation. According to Diaz, the Office of Congressional Ethics board has recommended that Sorenson be subpoenaed, because he did not cooperate with investigators.

Sorenson may need to find a new attorney at some point. Former Polk County Republican Party chair Ted Sporer has been representing him so far. Multiple Bleeding Heartland readers have brought to my attention an August 16 decision by Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal. In that ruling, Judge Staskal found that "beyond a reasonable doubt," Sporer "fabricated evidence" and "lied under oath" to help a client who was violating the terms of a divorce decree. I've posted six pages from the 25-page decision after the jump. If Judge Staskal's findings become the subject of a formal complaint with the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission, Sporer might eventually be disbarred.

UPDATE: On September 18, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its latest report on most corrupt members of Congress. Bachmann made the list, in part because of activities allegedly linked to Sorenson's work for her campaign.

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Kent Sorenson poised to fight, not quit

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:40:00 AM CDT

Despite growing calls for him to resign, Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson signaled yesterday that he will fight a new ethics complaint based on alleged payments from Ron Paul's presidential campaign. The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs reported that Peter Waldron plans to file a second complaint with the Iowa Senate, claiming that Sorenson worked with Paul campaign officials "to solicit and conceal compensation" for himself and others. Waldron is a political consultant who worked for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. Earlier this year, he filed complaints against Sorenson with the Federal Election Commission as well as with the Iowa Senate.

Documents and audio recordings published by The Iowa Republican blog indicate that intermediaries negotiated with Paul campaign officials on Sorenson's behalf, and that Sorenson later received a big check from a Paul campaign manager. But Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Des Moines Register that the charges are "gibberish."

Sporer confirmed [Dimitri] Kesari, against Sorenson's wishes, surreptitiously handed Sorenson's wife a check drawn on a retail business's bank account. But the check is still in Sorenson's possession, he said.

"It has never been cashed," Sporer said. "Obviously we can show it's never been cashed. And an uncashed check is simply an autograph."

Three weeks ago, Sporer told a Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter, "There was no money that changed hands. There was no direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign."

The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee won't be able to punt this time, but it may take months to investigate the new charges. Meanwhile, I haven't heard of anyone planning to challenge Sorenson in the GOP primary to represent Iowa Senate district 13. If I were a Republican in Warren or Madison County, I'd have started looking for a more viable candidate months ago.

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More Republican lawmakers call on Kent Sorenson to resign

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 11:15:00 AM CDT

A growing number of rank and file Iowa Republican lawmakers are ready to see State Senator Kent Sorenson exit the political stage as soon as possible. While legislative leaders have remained silent on the issue, yesterday State Senator Brad Zaun and State Representative Clel Baudler both called on Sorenson to resign over allegations that he solicited and received payments in exchange for ditching Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign for Ron Paul.  
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Sorenson scandal reflects poorly on Iowa Gun Owners group

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 12:20:00 PM CDT

The scandal of State Senator Kent Sorenson demanding and apparently receiving money in exchange for endorsing Ron Paul for president has the potential to do a lot of collateral damage in Iowa Republican circles. Note the conspicuous silence of state party leaders this week--shocking on one level but less surprising when you consider that several Iowa GOP State Central Committee members worked closely with Paul's campaign.

The Sorenson story is also a huge black eye for the Iowa Gun Owners group, which claims to be "Iowa's only No Compromise gun rights organization."

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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.

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