More fallout from Kent Sorenson resignation (updated)

Governor Terry Branstad praised Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix today for asking Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson to resign yesterday.

“I’ve tried to be very careful and that’s why I was pleased that Bill Dix was the one that asked for his resignation and that he made the decision to resign,” Branstad said. “I think it was handled in the appropriate way and I want to give the Republican leader in the senate credit for making the ask for the resignation in light of the report that was done.”

According to O.Kay Henderson’s report for Radio Iowa, Branstad never mentioned Sorenson by name today, referring to him as “he” or “the member.” In early 2010, Sorenson vowed never to vote for Branstad. Sorenson’s home base in Warren County was one of the strongest performers for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Within five days, Branstad must set a date for the special election in Iowa Senate district 13. Whether Republicans retain the seat will not affect control of the Iowa Senate, where Democrats now have a 26 to 24 majority. Whoever wins the special will be up for re-election in 2014. I consider the GOP favored to hold Senate district 13. Theoretically, a Democratic candidate would have been better positioned to defeat Sorenson than someone else, but Sorenson’s presence on the Iowa political scene was so toxic that we’re all better off with him gone.

Sorenson’s resignation does not preclude possible criminal prosecution. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone’s office will review the report special investigator Mark Weinhardt filed yesterday with the Iowa Senate. Sorenson still claims he’s done nothing wrong.

Talk radio host Steve Deace, who did more than anyone else to promote Sorenson’s political career, finally commented on this mess. I’ve enclosed excerpts from his post after the jump.

UPDATE: Added a few comments from Sorenson’s Senate Republican colleagues after the jump.

Weinhardt’s report implicates David Polyansky, then a consultant for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign, in arranging the payments for Sorenson. Polyansky is now a consultant for State Senator Joni Ernst’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, Wes Enos has resigned from the Iowa Senate GOP caucus staff. Enos was a senior official in Bachmann’s campaign and publicly defended Sorenson against allegations that he had been paid to switch his support to Ron Paul. UPDATE: On October 4, Enos resigned as a member of the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee.

Enos said Friday he had defended Sorenson previously because he believed the Milo Republican hadn’t done anything wrong. “The report was pretty damning and that is why I felt this was necessary….Realistically, now that we have seen the report it is best if I just kind step aside.”

Excerpt from Steve Deace commentary of October 3, “Be Prepared.”

Some may argue that at times Sorenson went too far in confronting the system, but I’m not sure what that even means when you’re in a war with your very way of life at stake. He controversially bolted the Bachmann campaign in the final days before the caucus to join up with Ron Paul, and that certainly rubbed some people that felt betrayed the wrong way. I’m sure if Sorenson could go back and do things all over again, he might have done a few things differently. But who wouldn’t say that? […]

Some will wonder why it is wrong to get paid for working for an Iowa Caucus campaign, especially since I know plenty of people (including elected officials) who have been compensated – and compensated handsomely mind you – for doing the same thing (for the record, my only compensation was a new suit the Mike Huckabee campaign bought me in 2007 so I could emcee one of his events) for years. For example, the Pawlenty campaign paid one Iowa legislator almost $28,000 to work on his campaign that didn’t make it past the Iowa Straw Poll held four months before the caucuses.

Except there is an interpretation of a particular state senate ethics rule that says that’s no longer allowed, and Sorenson may have violated it. After fighting the matter for almost two years, exhausting his resources (he’s not a rich man), and seeing it disrupt his family life, Sorenson decided to resign rather than continue the fight.

[…] The reason I haven’t commented on it is because I tend to shy away from commenting on a matter when I can’t be objective. When it comes to Kent Sorenson I have a blind spot that is the result of all the times I’ve seen him voluntarily stand in the arena on our collective behalf.

[…] As the current controversy was coming to a head I urged him for months to get out ahead of it and tell his side of the story before the system has its say, but legal advice and public relations don’t always have the luxury of agreeing. […]

Maybe Sorenson really is the shady operator the system is claiming he is. If he is he did a bang up job of hiding it from me and my family. I even invited Sorenson to attend our church and hooked him up with my pastor, a former military MP who is also a counselor. If he can fool a guy like that, then Sorenson isn’t just a sellout he’s a sociopath.

I’m sure he’s not completely innocent, because nobody is. If he did violate ethics rules he should be held accountable for his actions, as should anybody else. He also has the right to defend himself, as does everybody else.

But let’s be honest here, and tell it like it is. If it turns out Sorenson is guilty of everything alleged (and again he should face consequences if that’s the case), he’s still a choir boy by comparison to most of those throwing stones while living in glass houses.

UPDATE: Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson spoke to several of Sorenson’s former colleagues in the Iowa Senate.

The special investigator, who was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, concluded “the evidence is clear” that Sorenson knew he was breaking senate ethics rules. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, was among the first of Sorenson’s colleagues to suggest weeks ago that Sorenson should resign if the charges could be proven.

“I do not believe that the investigator’s integrity is at question here. Only Senator Sorenson’s integrity is at question,” Chelgren told Radio Iowa this evening.”…I believe there is enough evidence that says that Senator Sorenson’s integrity has been compromised, that the decision to resign seems to be the correct one.”

Senator Jack Whitver of Ankeny is one of the Republicans on the Senate Ethics Committee.

“I think the whole situation is unfortunate, but I do think that Kent is making the right decision for his family, himself and the institution of the senate to resign,” Whitver said during an interview this evening with Radio Iowa.

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