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February 11th, 2013
 

Former Bachmann Staffer Files Senate Ethics Complaint Against Sorenson

State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo) is the target of a complaint filed with the Iowa Senate ethics committee. Former Michele Bachmann presidential campaign staffer Peter Waldron filed the complaint against Sorenson, who was the state chairman for Bachmann’s campaign. Waldron’s complaint is 41 pages long. In it, he alleges Sorenson was involved in a violation of criminal law, as well as Iowa Senate ethics rules.

“I did it because it’s the right thing to do,” Waldron said, when TheIowaRepublican.com asked why he filed the complaint. “I witnessed a crime. My faith requires that I report that crime. I reported the crime first to Michele Bachmann. I reported the crime to the chairman of the campaign and no one did anything. On the contrary, they covered up the crime. And they sent me a non-disclosure form asking me not to report it. After one year of waiting on Michele and Guy Short to do the right thing, it became clear they would not.”

Waldron cites Iowa Senate Code of Ethics, Rule 16A, which states a complaint can be filed by someone who believes a senator is in violation of criminal law. Barb Heki, another former Bachmann campaign staffer, accuses Senator Sorenson of stealing the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) database off her computer. She filed a criminal complaint against Sorenson in September 2012. The Urbandale Police Department is still investigating the alleged theft.

After accessing the NICHE list, the Bachmann campaign sent two emails to the home schooling organization’s members. This was a clear violation of NICHE’s rules that prevents its database from being used by political campaigns. Along with filing the criminal complaint, Barb Heki is suing Sorenson, Bachmann and other Bachmann presidential campaign leaders for the alleged theft, cover-up and for letting her take the fall for the entire episode.

Heki had been a NICHE board member for 10 years. She and her husband Rich were dismissed from the board shortly after the incident became public. Heki’s 12-page lawsuit is included in the documentation Peter Waldron provided to the Iowa Senate ethics committee.

Also included in Waldron’s complaint is the affidavit signed by Eric Woolson, Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager. Woolson lends credence to Heki’s claims, stating that Sorenson admitted he was involved in the theft of the database.

Woolson also states in his affidavit that he informed Bachmann’s national campaign manager Keith Nahigian and national political director Guy Short of Sorenson’s alleged involvement in the theft. The Bachmann campaign publicly admitted they wrongly used the NICHE list, calling it a “mistake”. According to NICHE President Justin LaVan, the campaign assured him their use of the list as “inadvertent”. Eventually, the Bachmann campaign paid NICHE $2,000 in exchange for using the list.

Elsewhere in his complaint to the Iowa Senate ethics committee, Peter Waldron alleges that Kent Sorenson violated Senate Code of Ethics Rule 6, “by conspiring” with the Bachmann campaign and MichelePAC “to conceal personal compensation for serving as the Committee’s IA State Chairman”.

Waldron states the amount of the compensation was “estimated to be $7,500 per month”. Rule 6 sets limits on the employment of senators by political action committees and tax-exempt organizations.

Waldron’s complaint also states the “money laundering process engaged by Senator Sorenson, BFP and MichelePAC officials was to overpay a third-party, C&M Strategies, a Colorado firm”. BFP is short for Bachmann for President. Waldron made these same allegations in a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission last month. In both complaints, Waldron provides a string of FEC reports from Bachmann for President and MichelePAC to support his claims.

Peter Waldron, who is from Florida but worked in Iowa for the Bachmann campaign, states in his complaint to the Iowa Senate ethics committee that he “will testify under oath that it was common knowledge in the office” that Sorenson was paid to be Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman and that he was being paid by C&M Strategies.

Waldron also says Kent Sorenson is in violation of Iowa Senate Code of Ethics, Rule 11, which requires state senators to disclose the nature of each business they are involved in. Sorenson did provide the Iowa Senate with a “statement of economic interests” on January 9, 2012, in which he lists “consulting” and “sales person” as his other business interests.

Other evidence provided in the complaint filed by Waldron is an email chain between himself, Eric Woolson and Bachmann campaign advisor Bob Heckman. In it, they discuss the “conflicting moral, legal and professional obligations” they faced in the aftermath of the NICHE scandal.

Woolson and Waldron both express concerns about Barb Heki after she was publicly tied to the illegal use of the NICHE list and removed from the group’s board of directors. Waldron wrote that Kent Sorenson should “go to Barbara Heki, apologize, ask for forgiveness,” and Bob Heckman stated Sorenson should “make it right with Barb”.

Heckman also refers to Congresswoman Bachmann as “an innocent party” in the situation. However, Barb Heki says Bachmann told her on January 4, 2012, that she knew about the alleged theft of the NICHE list and that Kent Sorenson had done it.

Waldron also provides some news articles, his complaint to the FEC and a copy of a “release agreement” the Bachmann campaign asked him to sign in order to receive his final payment from the campaign. The agreement requests that signees keep campaign information confidential.

Waldron lists five witnesses in the complaint that he says will support his claims. They are himself, Eric Woolson, Barb Heki and two “confidential” witnesses. Waldron says they will remain confidential until the time comes for them to testify under oath. He adds that the witnesses can support the claims he is making in regard to how Kent Sorenson was compensated for his role as state chairman of the Bachmann campaign.

According to the Iowa Senate ethics code, Sorenson had 10 days from the time he was notified about the complaint to provide a written response. Waldron’s complaint is dated January 28, 2013, and he says the secretary of the senate received it on January 30. Waldron believes today, Monday, February 11, is the deadline for Senator Sorenson to respond. However, Sorenson is allowed to ask for an extension up to a maximum of 10 more days.

State Senator Kent Sorenson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the alleged theft of the NICHE list and Waldron’s allegations regarding compensation for this role as Bachmann campaign chairman. Sorenson resigned from the Bachmann campaign the week before the 2012 Iowa Caucus and publicly endorsed Ron Paul. Eric Woolson, Congresswoman Bachmann and others allege Sorenson told them he received a large sum of money to jump to the Paul campaign.

Click here to read the entire Iowa Senate ethics committee complaint against Kent Sorenson


Photo by Dave Davidson


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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