Republicans are really good at skulduggery and cloak and dagger politics.
The Des Moines Register reports that Kent Sorenson, a former Iowa state senator, has pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of accepting payment from a presidential campaign and is now awaiting sentencing.
Sorenson accepted the payments during Iowa’s 2012 presidential caucus campaign, when he switched his support from one candidate to another: in this case, he received payments from then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul‘s presidential campaign and then obstructed the subsequent investigation. The announcement was made on Wednesday by the United States Department of Justice.
For the first offense, Sorenson, 42, could face up to five years in prison, and a $250,00 fine. For the second, he could face 20 years in prison, and another $250,000 fine.
Congressman Paul has denied making the payments.
As a result of the bribe, Sorenson made a jump from the campaign of Michelle Bachmann to Paul’s campaign in late December of 2011. The leap happened just days before the caucuses. Sorenson carried out secret negotiations with the Paul campaign over a period of months before he joined the campaign, and received a $73,000 payment for his shift in loyalties.
According to the Register, the primary problem was the way in which the payments were made. A single check worth $25,000 was paid to Sorenson’s wife by a company that was owned by a Paul campaign staffer’s wife, and then several monthly payments of $8,000 were routed through a film production company and a second company before they were received by Sorenson. The reason for all this third party interaction was to circumvent the reporting requirements of the Federal Election Commission.
Soreson also made public statements at the the time of his switch that he wasn’t being paid, and provided false testimony to an independent investigator about the payments. According to the DOJ, it was “in part to obstruct investigation that he anticipated by the FBI and FEC.”
Sorenson also pleaded guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the FEC, and one count of obstruction of justice, in addition to the two other counts he was charged with, for a total of four counts. As part of a plea agreement, Sorenson’s wife, Shawnee, won’t be charged in the case. According to the Register:
The guilty plea is the latest turn in a lengthy drama over Sorenson’s role in the Bachmann and Paul campaigns.
Sorenson, a Republican elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010, resigned last October following the release of a damning report by and independent investigator working on behalf of the Senate Ethics Committee.
That report found “probable cause” that Sorenson broke ethics rules by accepting payments from a political action committee associated with Bachmann. The report also said his denials of taking such payment may represent a felony under Iowa law.
The 566-page report focused primarily on Sorenson’s dealings with the Bachmann campaign, but is the most authoritative accounting so far of his presidential campaign activities.
In it, Mark E. Weinhardt, the specially appointed independent counsel to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, reported that Sorenson was paid by the Bachmann campaign and by a Bachmann-controlled political action committee, but filtered the funds through two separate consulting firms.
The report also found that Sorenson received a $25,000 check from a senior official in Paul’s presidential campaign, which he did not cash, and $73,000 in wire transfers that Weinhardt called “deeply suspicious.”
Jesse Benton, a former Paul staffer who currently works as the campaign manager for Galapagos Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign, denied that there was any sort of payoff that involved getting Sorenson to jump ship to Paul’s side. At this point, it’s unclear whether or not Paul will end up facing charges. We can only hope; this sort of behind-the-scenes skulduggery needs to stop.
It’s making us look like the failed democracy we are.