Affidavit details indirect salary payments for Kent Sorenson

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.  

You can read Parrish’s affidavit here. The first three pages describe the salient facts surrounding Sorenson’s payments for Bachmann campaign work during 2011. The next four pages contain copies of e-mail correspondence showing that Sorenson was receiving payments from Guy Short’s firm C&M Strategies. Peter Waldron had described that indirect payment scheme in separate complaints to the Federal Election Commission and to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee.

Sorenson is sticking to his story, the Des Moines Register’s William Petroski reported yesterday:

Sorenson has long contended he wasn’t paid, but has also said receiving payments from a fundraising firm would not violate Senate Rules. On Monday, he said he stood by previous statements in which he strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Parrish writes in his affidavit,

2. I personally recruited Kent Sorenson to support Michele Bachmann for president and to work on her campaign. […]

3. Sorenson indicated to me that he would like to be paid for his efforts supporting the Congresswoman. We both knew that Iowa Senate ethics prevented any presidential campaign from paying a senator for his or her efforts on a candidate’s behalf. […]

5. Guy Short eventually worked out an arrangement where Senator Sorenson was paid $7,500 per month with no cell phone payment. This is the arrangement that was in place until his defection a short time before the Iowa caucuses to the Ron Paul presidential campaign. […]

6. Congresswoman Bachmann knew of and approved this arrangement. She, like the rest of us, understood from Senator Sorenson that it did not run afoul of any Iowa Senate ethics rules. […]

8. I have no knowledge or opinion if, in fact, those payments violate rule six. I do know for a fact that the Senator was paid and representations to the contrary are simply not true.

Here’s the full text of rule six in the Senate Code of Ethics.

6. EMPLOYMENT. A senator shall not accept employment, either directly or indirectly, from a political action committee or from an organization exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6), or 527 of the Internal Revenue Code that engages in activities related to the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate for public office. A senator may accept employment from a political party, but shall disclose the employment relationship in writing to the secretary of the senate within ten days after the beginning of each legislative session. If a senator accepts employment from a political party during a legislative session, the senator shall disclose the employment relationship within ten days after acceptance of the employment.

For the purpose of this rule, a political action committee means a committee, but not a candidate’s committee, which accepts contributions, makes expenditures, or incurs indebtedness in the aggregate of more than seven hundred fifty dollars in any one calendar year to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate for public office or to expressly advocate the passage or defeat of a ballot issue or influencing legislative action, or an association, lodge, society, cooperative, union, fraternity, sorority, educational institution, civic organization, labor organization, religious organization, or professional organization which makes contributions in the aggregate of more than seven hundred fifty dollars in any one calendar year to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate for public office or ballot issue or influencing legislative action.

The three Democrats on the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee are Wally Horn, Joe Seng, and Dick Dearden. The three Republicans are Jerry Behn, Jack Whitver, and Sandy Greiner. In light of the evidence, I can’t see how Sorenson’s actions could be construed as consistent with rule six. If the Ethics Committee members engage in some kind of pretzel logic to excuse his behavior, they might as well disband. In February, Greiner explained the committee’s inaction by saying, “What we had in the packet was a bunch of fuzzy stuff and very few facts.” No one can make that claim with a straight face now.

Incidentally, Whitver endorsed Bachmann for president during the summer of 2011. I do not recall Greiner or Behn (at that time Iowa Senate minority leader) endorsing a presidential candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Sorenson is up for re-election in 2014 in Iowa Senate district 13, covering Madison County and almost all of Warren County. If I were a Republican in that district, I’d be looking for a new candidate. No Democrat has formally announced in this district, but former State Representative Mark Davitt is rumored to be considering it. Sorenson defeated Davitt in an Iowa House race that was one of the surprise election results of 2008.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.

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  • Maybe...

    No question, Rule 6 bans employment by a 501(c)4, (c)6, or 527, and it bans employment by PACs.  But it appears to specifically exempt direct by a candidate’s committee.  So if the money paid to Sorenson came from Bachmann for President, it looks to me like he’s on solid legal ground.  If it came from her PAC, he’s in trouble.

    • e-mail correspondence indicates that he thought

      he needed to avoid being paid by her campaign, hence the scheme to have that Colorado firm pay him. Clearly he conspired to conceal his salary for work on the Bachmann campaign, and he repeatedly lied about whether he was being compensated for that work. If that’s not an ethical violation, the Senate ethics code has no meaning.