Real trouble brewing for Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson?

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.

Andy Parrish is a former chief of staff to Representative Bachmann and well-known Republican operative in Minnesota. His attorney, John Gil­more, confirmed on April 17 that Parrish is “Witness A” in an ethics complaint Peter Waldron filed against Sorenson in February. You can read the full text of Waldron’s ethics complaint with the Iowa Senate here. In January, Waldron filed a similar complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, which you can read at the end of this post.

Kevin Diaz reported for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on April 18,

Waldron, a Florida pastor, claims that the campaign hid payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules that bar members from receiving pay from presidential campaigns.

Until now, Parrish has been identified by the committee only as “Witness A,” Gilmore said.

“The time has come to confirm that ‘Witness A’ is Andy Parrish, and he’ll be providing an affidavit with supporting material that completely supports the representations previously made by Peter Waldron,” Gilmore said. […]

Gilmore said Parrish can provide the ethics panel documentary evidence that Sorenson was paid $7,500 a month to work on Bachmann’s campaign, money that was funneled to him indirectly through C&M Strategies, a Colorado-based company controlled by Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short.

Among the sources of the funding, Waldron contends, was Bachmann’s independent political organization, Michele­PAC, also headed by Short. Attorneys for Short have denied the allegations, which also are part of the FEC inquiry.

Sorenson has said he “vehemently” denies the “false” and “absurd” allegations. However, Waldron’s complaints include circumstantial evidence pointing to payments Sorenson received indirectly for campaign work. Parrish’s attorney Gilmore spoke to the Des Moines Register yesterday.

Parrish has emails that spell out an arrangement for Sorenson to get $7,500 a month via C&M Strategies, a fundraising consulting firm with ties to Bachmann, said Parrish’s lawyer, John H. Gilmore of St. Paul, Minn. Sorenson was the chairman of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign.

“Andy is prepared to say that Michele Bachmann understood that Sorenson was being paid, the nature of the payment and the source of those funds,” the lawyer told The Des Moines Register today.

Parrish doesn’t have any evidence that Bachmann knew at the time that the payments could run afoul of Iowa Senate ethics rules, his lawyer said. […]

On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee requested that Witness A submit any evidence within 10 days, or by Saturday, April 27. Gilmore said today that Parrish will provide an affidavit that includes the handful of emails, likely early next week.

The ethics committee will then schedule the meeting.

Gilmore said committee members, after reading the handful of emails Parrish submits with his affidavit, “may conclude this was a subterfuge designed to circumvent (the rule).”

I wouldn’t expect Bachmann to know that the Iowa Senate prohibits payments to senators from a presidential campaign, but Sorenson surely understood that rule.

The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee includes three senators from each party. Perhaps one of the committee Democrats (Wally Horn, Joe Seng, or Dick Dearden) will join Republicans in letting Sorenson off the hook. But if they are not inclined to do so, Parrish’s testimony could create a dilemma for committee Republicans Sandy Greiner, Jack Whitver, and Jerry Behn. I’d advise the GOP to dump Sorenson before the 2014 elections, but Sorenson is popular among social conservatives and tea party Republicans, who are very active in Warren County. He’s been sticking his neck out for that part of the base this session. Greiner and Whitver are up for re-election in 2014 and could face a primary challenge from the right if either is perceived to betray Sorenson. Behn was just re-elected in 2012, so he doesn’t face the voters again until 2016.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I haven’t heard anything lately about Barb Heki’s civil lawsuit against Sorenson and other Bachmann campaign staffers, or about the Urbandale Police Department’s criminal investigation into Sorenson’s alleged theft of material from Heki’s computer.

  • Greiner's got enough problems

    being in a new district that’s half in Johnson County; old district she won in `10 was maybe 15% Johnson. Rumors of either retirement (but she’s been showing up at events in Johnson) or a top-level Dem challenger…

    • I would not be surprised

      to see Greiner retire. She supported Bill Dix’s first attempt to become Iowa Senate minority leader, but once he finally got that job, she didn’t take an assistant leader position despite being one of the more experienced GOP senators.

      If she runs for re-election, I think she will be tough to beat due to her ability to raise almost unlimited money (American Future Fund connection). I would hope Democrats would target the seat, though.

      • Sorenson

        Greiner strikes me as someone who is more interested in national issues, frankly kind of like Sorenson.  I wonder if Sorenson asked people about the rules before he even took the gig with Bachmann, This is just bad all around for Sorenson, not only do the ethics questions come up, but his commitment to socially conservative positions is also in doubt (in the eyes of some) when you support a Paul)

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