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 first volume of the report is available here. 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?
Excerpts from Kent Sorenson’s e-mail to constituents on October 2:
Many of you might be aware that there have been allegations made against me in regards to my involvement during the 2012 presidential election cycle. Throughout this process, I have maintained my innocence in relation to the specific allegations against me.
I’ve made mistakes and missteps along the way. I said things that should have been worded differently, I said things out of fear and at times I stumbled.
But I did not do anything illegal. I never did anything that was against the Iowa Senate Ethics Rules as they are written.
More importantly to me and my family, however, I did not do anything I believe was immoral.
The “investigation” from the outset has been a sham. My attackers were never required to substantiate the claims they made against me or exactly how I “broke the Iowa senate rule.”
But when the committee charged with doing their due diligence in weighing the truthfulness of the allegations against me shirked their duty and referred the baseless complaint to the Iowa Supreme Court for investigation, it became clear where the train was heading.
It became an honest, straight-up political witch hunt.
I have never made a secret of my feelings toward the Iowa Supreme Court. They believe and have for several years that they have the power to legislate from the bench. I happily and publicly helped in the effort to remove them from the bench in 2010, and was even happier to run against the spouse of one of these supreme jurists.
So what did the court do?
They took their revenge out on me by appointing a fox to investigate the hen-house.
The investigator’s family, according to a quick search of the Iowa Campaign Ethics and Disclosure Board, appears to only have a history of donating money to Democrat candidates. The game was rigged from the beginning.
After sitting down with the investigator, it was clear his mind was already made up, and anything I had to say was irrelevant to the foregone conclusion.
More than that, the investigator was given broad and liberal interpretive powers of the senate rules, in the same fashion that some folks interpret the US Constitution to have different “interpretations” when it comes to our rights.
And the report of his “investigation” makes that clear and evident. I followed the letter of the law in regards to the Senate rule, but it did not matter.