A week has passed since TheIowaRepublican.com released new details that implicate State Senator Kent Sorenson in a pay-to-pay scandal with Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. The series of articles, which included documents, emails, and audio of Sorenson providing an incredible amount of detail about his financial dealings with Paul’s National Deputy Campaign Manager, Dimitri Kesari, continues to make national news.
For the most part, Sorenson, has avoided press inquires. Sorenson did however tell the Des Moines Register last Tuesday that he had no knowledge that Aaron Dorr had been negotiating financial terms with the Paul campaign’s National Campaign Manager, John Tate, and National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton, despite TheIowaRepublican.com releasing an email that clearly shows Dorr asking Sorenson for approval of changes that were made to the October 29th memo.
Sorenson’s attorney, Ted Sporer, told the Minnesota Star Tribune on the same day that his client did nothing improper. “There was no money that changed hands,” Sporer said. “There was no direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign.”
An audio recording of a phone conversation between Sorenson and Dennis Fusaro that was released by TheIowaRepublican.com on Wednesday punched holes in Sporer’s defense of Sorenson.
In fact, even Sorenson himself is at odds with his attorney. In defending himself in a Facebook exchange last Saturday, Sorenson wrote, “I did not once cash a check or receive payment for my endorsement and I believe that when everything is looked at the evidence will be on my side. And if you truly listen to the phone call and not commentary provided in the article it backs up my side of the story.”
Sorenson basically confirms the authenticity of the phone conversation with Fusaro. He confirms that he and his wife had dinner with Dimitri Kesari, Paul’s National Deputy Campaign Manager before endorsing Paul. The recording also included Sorenson saying that he refused to take a check from Kesari, but later admits that his wife took the check.
Sorenson may believe that being in possession of a check doesn’t mean that he received payment, but every employee in America thinks they get paid when they are handed their paycheck, not when they deposit it into their bank account. Even if the check was accepted by or written out to his wife, Sorenson has spent not just the last week not being truthful about his financial dealings with the Paul campaign, but he’s been dishonest since late December 2011.
During an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on December 29, 2011, Sorenson was asked, “Was money offered to you by anyone in the Ron Paul camp to jump ship?” Sorenson responded “Absolutely not.” We now know that Sorenson was lying when he made that statement. We know that Paul’s National Deputy Campaign Manager offered him money. We know that Sorenson says he didn’t personally accept it, but his wife did. Sorenson even said in that interview that he would be vindicated when Paul’s financial disclosures came out in a few days because it will show that no payments were made.
Of course no payment to Sorenson ever appeared in any of Paul’s disclosures with the Federal Election Commission because the check that was presented to Sorenson and accepted by his wife wasn’t from the Paul campaign. The audio recording indicated that the check was from Kesari’s wife’s jewelry store in Leesburg, Virginia, not the Paul campaign.
Sorenson has also frequently said that he is willing to turn over his tax records to the special investigator who is investigating the matter for the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. That defense only prompts more questions. First and foremost, Sorenson needs to agree release all of his records, not just tax records, from not only himself, but also his wife and any business entity he also may have.
It’s also entirely possible that a check from a jewelry story wouldn’t be considered to be income. Maybe the store treated it as a return of a purchase. Maybe Sorenson never cashed the check, but instead took payment in another form, perhaps in silver or gold. It may seem funny to speculate like that, but since Sorenson has spent the past 19 months not telling the truth, we can no longer trust what he and his lawyer say when they are responding to questions from the media.
Throughout the entire Bachmann and Paul scandals, Sorenson has consistently attempted to discredit his accusers instead of providing solid proof of his own innocence. When Michele Bachmann told reporters that Sorenson had told her the reason he was leaving her campaign was because of he was offered a large sum of money from the Paul campaign, he said that conversation with her never took place, despite the fact that she showed her personal cell phone to reporters that indicated otherwise.
When TheIowaRepublican.com reported that Peter Waldron had filed an Iowa Senate Ethics complaint against Sorenson for his shady dealings with the Bachmann campaign, Sorenson tried to discredit Waldron because Sorenson was told by the Secretary of the Senate that Waldron wasn’t going to leak news of proceedings to the media. In a statement Sorenson wrote, “If it’s true that Mr. Waldron is the source of the disclosure, that already casts doubt on his credibility and thus the credibility of his complaints.”
When Andy Parrish, Bachmann’s initial national campaign manager, and her former Chief-of-Staff, came forward to substantiate Waldron’s complaint, Sorenson once again attacked the credibility of the witness. “Andy Parish, a gentleman who was removed from the employ of the Bachmann offices due to my sharing of information with the congresswoman, is the only person to provide contrary information.” In essence, Sorenson argues that Parrish is just a scorned former employee who is out to seek revenge on Sorenson.
Even when TheIowaRepublican.com contacted Sorenson the night before we published the initial article about his financial dealings with the Paul campaign, Sorenson disparaged Dennis Fusaro, saying that Fusaro was scorned former employee of the National Right to Work Committee who just has an axe to grind.
Besides attempting to shoot holes in his accusers’ arguments, Sorenson has offered few answers to the complaints filed against him. He has provided affidavits from Chris Dorr and Wes Enos, both of whom were somewhat involved in his scheme to jump ship from Bachmann to Paul.
Sorenson also provided an affidavit from a longtime friend and Bachmann staffer Tony Eastman, and Cherie Johnson, who audited Sorenson’s back account and attested that he had not deposited any money from Guy Short or C&M Strategies from December 2010 to December 2011. The audio recording of Sorenson includes a mention of Short. Sorenson told Fusaro that he had called Short to apologize to say that he was, “sorry” for hurting him. It is also unclear if Ms. Johnson audited all of Sorenson’s back accounts and financial holdings, or just one bank account.
Sorenson has spent the past 19 months deflecting criticism by attacking his accusers, but its now time for him to provide some honest answers to the serious questions that have arisen in light of the new information that was made public last week.
Some Republicans, like Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, have avoided weighing in on the Sorenson situation by saying the Senate Ethics Committee investigation should be completed before making any sort of statement one way or another. While that investigation should continue, there is a lot more at stake here then just a violation of a rule of the Iowa Senate.
Ron Paul’s presidential campaign offered Sorenson money in return for his endorsement. Sorenson himself doesn’t even dispute that now. Sorenson is also emphatic in one of the audio recordings that Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s National Campaign Chairman, knew that Sorenson was offered money and that his wife accepted a check from the campaign’s National Deputy Campaign Manager.
Not only does that get Sorenson crossed up with an Iowa Senate ethics rule, but the Paul campaign is guilty of bribing Sorenson and circumventing the disclosure requirements of the Federal Election Commission by coordinating an expenditure to Sorenson through an employee’s business and instead of the campaign.
Quite frankly, Sorenson needs to come clean. The Senate Ethics Committee is small potatoes compared to everything else that is involved in this pay-to-play scheme. Furthermore, Iowans deserve the truth, not more lies, and not more finger pointing. It’s time for Sorenson to step up, be a man, and take responsibility for his own actions.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
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