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October 7th, 2013

Winners and Losers: Sorenson Ordeal

As is the case with everything in politics, there are winner and losers.  There really are not any winners in the Sorenson saga, but there are people who did the right thing.  Below is a list of winners and losers.  Obviously Sorenson and his attorney find themselves in the later category, but there are a number of people who did the right things who deserve to be acknowledged.  Likewise, there are some positive things that will come from all of this.


Senate Ethics Committee:  The investigation into Kent Sorenson’s improper financial dealings with two presidential campaigns showed that the Senate Ethics Committee can be very serious should the members choose to investigate the wrongdoing of a fellow member.  This is a very good thing.

While there are plenty of people who disagree with the particular rule that Sorenson knowingly violated, it’s still as rule that is supposed to be followed and taken seriously.  Sorenson blatantly tried to circumvent the rule, and when he got caught, he challenged the committee to prove up the allegations against him.  Well, with the help of Sorenson’s tax and bank records, the committee easily did just that.  Members of the Iowa Senate will likely think twice before thumbing their nose at the rules of the chamber in the future.

Sen. Sandy Greiner:  Greiner was the lone Republican on the Senate Ethics Committee to vote in favor of launching an investigation into Sorenson’s activities.  There were plenty of forces inside the Republican Senate caucus who just wanted the whole ordeal to go away, and the easiest way to do that is to have all three Republicans on the committee to vote against moving forward with a formal investigation.

Greiner’s Republican colleagues on the committee, Sen. Jerry Behn and Sen. Jack Whitver, were both critical of the committee’s decision to have the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court appoint a special investigator to look into the ordeal.  Whitver said that the committee had set an “impossible standard” and opened the door for future “frivolous” charges.  Behn called the original complaint against Sorenson “hearsay,” saying that there was no real evidence that Sorenson had done anything wrong.

We now know that there was a mountain of evidence that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sorenson had broken Senate ethics rules, but Sorenson was not about own up to any wrongdoing.  Sorenson went out of his way to deceive the committee, and it almost worked.  Had it not been for Greiner’s vote, we would have never gotten to the bottom of this mess.

Mark Weinhardt: There is only one word to describe the work that Weinhardt did looking into Sorenson’s alleged rule violations – thorough.  Before Weinhardt was involved, the Ethics Committee only had Sorenson’s accuser’s allegations and Sorenson’s denials to go off of.  Weinhardt’s ability to get Sorenson’s bank and tax records helped validate the claims against Sorenson.

Chelgren/Whitver/Zaun: When published a number of articles that provided details about Sorenson’s dealings with Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, this trio of Republican senators didn’t mince words when publically asked about the developing scandal.  While Republican leadership in the Senate was quiet, these three each said that Sorenson should resign if the information was true.  Again, it’s never easy to critique a colleague in public, but these three were willing to do so.

The Iowa Caucuses:  Sorenson’s behavior during and after the 2012 caucuses did not paint the caucuses in a favorable light.  While some would have preferred to simply sweep everything under the rug, it is important for Iowans to police themselves.  The charges against Sorenson were serious, and so was the investigation looking into his activity.  We got to the bottom of the mess, which should help prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.


Kent Sorenson:  There is no doubt that Sorenson himself if the biggest loser in all of this.  Not only did it cause him to resign his office, but it could also potentially cost him his real estate license.  Worse yet, Sorenson could also face additional criminal charges.

Violating the Senate’s ethics rules got Sorenson in trouble, but his lying and attempts to mislead his Senate colleagues is what is really troubling.  Sorenson was aggressively courted at the outset of the 2012 presidential contest in Iowa.  Now he’s going to be avoided like a plague, and he only has himself to blame.

Bachmann and Paul:  They say it takes two to tango, and had these two campaigns not conspired with Sorenson, none of this would have happened.  Presidential campaigns are heavily scrutinized, and rightfully so.  Not only is it important for them to hire competent individuals, but they also need to be ethical.  Bachmann’s and Paul’s campaign failed to do that.

Des Moines Register:  For the most part, the Des Moines Register was asleep at the switch on a major scandal that took down a State Senator and could still have national implications.  Their coverage following the special investigators report has been much better, but they were on the sidelines when the scandal was developing.

Ted Sporer:  I don’t know if Sorenson could have had a worse attorney than Sporer.  It always seemed as though both Sporer and Sorenson were shooting from the hip and never had a legal strategy.  One day, Sorenson denied having been given a check from Ron Paul’s national deputy campaign manager, and the next day Sporer is in the paper contradicting his client and saying that Sorenson did have a check, but never he cashed it.  Worse yet, Sporer has legal troubles of his own.  Bleeding Heartland posted a recent Polk County case in which a judge found that Sporer had “fabricated evidence” and “lied under oath” to help a client.

Neither a Winner or Loser:

Sen. Bill Dix:  Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix was silent for weeks during the Sorenson scandal.  Yes, Dix was in a difficult spot, but that’s one of prices of being in leadership.  Dix’s silence looked bad, but once the special investigator’s report came out, Dix called for Sorenson’s immediate resignation.  Finally, a good move on his part.


Photo by Gage Skidmore

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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