Kent Sorenson sentencing delayed as he cooperates with federal investigators

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 pleads guilty over hidden payments scheme (updated)

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

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)

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)

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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