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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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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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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 file: 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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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.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

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)

Kent Sorenson is big winner in Bachmann lawsuit settlement

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 08:00:00 AM CDT

Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson no longer has to worry about open court testimony regarding his alleged theft of a homeschooling organization's e-mail list on behalf of Representative Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign in late 2011. Bachmann has settled the lawsuit her former presidential campaign staffer Barb Heki announced last year. On Friday, Heki's attorney filed legal papers to dismiss the case. In a statement provided to The Iowa Republican blog, Bachmann said,

"Barb Heki is a trustworthy person and a woman of integrity. She was a loyal member of the Bachmann for President team and capably performed her duties. I am not aware of any evidence whatsoever that Barb had any part in misusing or misappropriating NICHE's email list of homeschoolers and I consider her an exemplary homeschooling leader."

It's not clear whether Bachmann agreed to pay any compensation to Heki or her husband for damage done to their reputations. They had to resign from a national homeschooling organization's board after the Bachmann campaign hung Heki out to dry. Heki won't be able to re-file the lawsuit, because it was dismissed "with prejudice."

Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Des Moines Register that "the settlement included a release of all claims with no admission of wrongdoing by his client." Previously, a trial date for Heki's lawsuit had been set for May 2014, meaning the case would have been big local news shortly before the June primary election. To my knowledge, no Republican has declared plans to challenge Sorenson in Iowa Senate district 13, but I'd be looking for new representation if I were a Republican in that district. A former aide to Sorenson acknowledged downloading the list from Heki's computer, but other sources have said Sorenson was involved.

Technically, the Urbandale Police Department has a criminal case open regarding the theft, but I doubt charges will ever be filed. Sorenson still faces an ethics investigation into indirect salary payments he allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign, but I don't expect the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee to impose any serious consequences.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

FBI involved in Bachmann campaign investigation

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 20, 2013 at 11:18:00 AM CDT

The FBI is interviewing witnesses to alleged illegal payments involving staffers for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign, Kevin Diaz reported for the Star Tribune over the weekend. One of the key witnesses, Bachmann's former chief of staff Andy Parrish, recently submitted a sworn statement to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, leading to the appointment of a special investigator for an ethics complaint against Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson.

Follow me after the jump for more details.

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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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Real trouble brewing for Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 12:20:00 PM CDT

Two months ago, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted to table allegations that Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson received improper payments as Iowa chair of Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. This week a former Bachmann campaign staffer confirmed that he will soon submit testimony to the committee about the arrangement.
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How long will Iowa Republicans stand by Kent Sorenson?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:46:14 PM CST

State Senator Kent Sorenson has made news lately leading the charge to restore the death penalty for some crimes in Iowa. I wonder whether that popular cause will be enough to save his political career, in light of recent claims by Republicans who have worked closely with him.  
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Kent Sorenson: Sleazier than you thought?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:55:28 AM CST

One of the most unpleasant members of the Iowa legislature may have committed an ethics violation, according to a former consultant for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign.
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Ted Sporer will defend Kent Sorenson in lawsuit over misused e-mails

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 16:20:00 PM CDT

Pass the popcorn: former Polk County Republican Chairman Ted Sporer will defend State Senator Kent Sorenson against a lawsuit alleging that he stole the e-mail list of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators to assist Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign.
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Lawsuit accuses Sorenson, Bachmann campaign staffers over stolen e-mails

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:35:00 AM CDT

A former staffer on Representative Michelle Bachmann's presidential campaign in Iowa has sued the candidate and several other former staffers over the alleged theft of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators statewide e-mail list last November.
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No Romney endorsers on new Iowa GOP State Central Committee

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 22, 2012 at 06:40:00 AM CDT

Is Mitt Romney destined to become the presidential nominee least liked by his own party's activists? Yesterday's elections to the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee provided another clue that the answer is yes.
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Vote-counting fiasco hurts Iowa GOP and Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 11:30:41 AM CST

The Republican Party of Iowa will not declare Rick Santorum the winner of the Iowa caucuses, even though he leads Mitt Romney by a few dozen votes according to the certified results, and led Romney unofficially in the eight precincts where results could not be certified. A narrow margin of victory with a clear winner would have been great for the Iowa GOP, as it would show multiple paths to winning the caucuses. A disputed result that produces no official winner is a public relations nightmare.

UPDATE: Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn now admits Santorum won the caucuses. The episode still makes the party look bad, for reasons I discuss below.

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Bachmann's experience won't encourage future women candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 10:28:22 AM CST

Representative Michele Bachmann is suspending her presidential campaign this morning after finishing sixth in the Iowa caucuses. In the summer, she briefly became the first female GOP presidential candidate to be a major contender in key early states. What happened to her afterwards won't encourage other women to seek higher office.
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2012 Iowa caucus results thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 17:44:50 PM CST

This thread is for sharing stories from your precinct caucus meetings as well as for discussing the results once they have been reported.

Iowa Republicans and Democrats, I'm particularly interested to know how many candidates for Congress or the state legislature addressed your caucus, or had a campaign representative greet caucus-goers and speak on their behalf. GOP Congressional challenger Rod Blum is planning to meet Republicans in two IA-01 counties instead of caucusing in his home town of Dubuque. GOP Representative Tom Latham, who is running against Leonard Boswell next year in IA-03, claims to have lined up leaders in all 384 precincts across the district. Steve King's challenger, Christie Vilsack, is speaking to all Democratic caucus-goers in Story County's sole caucus location, Ames High School.

UPDATE: Adding results after the jump.

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Final Iowa caucus polling and campaign news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 11:34:54 AM CST

I didn't expect this year's Republican caucuses to be as much of a nail-biter as the 2008 Democratic competition in Iowa, but here we are on game day, and the top three GOP candidates could plausibly finish in any order.
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Iowa caucus news roundup, with final Des Moines Register poll

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 10:35:19 AM CST

Is Rick Santorum rising fast enough to finish in the top two on Tuesday? The Des Moines Register's final Iowa poll before the caucuses is one of many to show Santorum gaining strength. Representative Steve King and Senator Chuck Grassley made positive comments about Santorum's campaign over the weekend. Although Rick Perry is criticizing Santorum's record in Congress, there's not enough time left to make an effective case against the latest "not Romney" through paid media.

The new Iowa polling numbers are after the jump, along with news from the stump and some candidates' closing Iowa television and radio ads.

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