Documents obtained by TheIowaRepublican.com suggest that State Senator Kent Sorenson sought and likely received financial compensation from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign before he ditched Michele Bachmann just days before the Iowa caucuses.
Sorenson is currently under investigation for violating an Iowa Senate ethics rule that forbids Iowa state senators from being compensated by a presidential campaign. The dealings between Sorenson and the Bachmann campaign also have prompted a series of federal investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Election Commission, and the Office of Congressional Ethics.
To date, only Sorenson’s dealings with the Bachmann campaign have been made public. New information has been provided to TheIowaRepublican.com that details the courting of Sorenson by the Paul campaign, which began in October 2011, long before his public endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul on December 28, 2011. The documents also show that Sorenson was negotiating with Ron Paul’s national campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, who is now running Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign in Kentucky, and John Tate, Paul’s 2012 campaign manager.
Also involved in the elaborate scheme to persuade Sorenson to defect from Bachmann to Paul is Aaron Dorr, the Executive Director of Iowa Gun Owners Association. Dorr served as an early negotiator between Sorenson and the Paul campaign. It was Dorr who drafted a three-page memo outlining Sorenson’s financial demands to get him to jump ship from the Bachmann campaign. This memo not only discloses the financial compensation Sorenson sought to obtain, but also details his financial agreement with Bachmann.
Dorr’s October 29, 2011, memo also outlined other benefits the Paul campaign would receive by meeting Sorenson’s financial demands. One of those benefits was the acquisition of a list of identified voters to Michele Bachmann. Dorr also admits that he and Sorenson are in possession of the list of the “main Iowa home-school group” in the state.
The theft of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) list spawned a controversy of its own in December of 2011 when the Bachmann campaign sent multiple emails to the list without the group’s knowledge. The Bachmann campaign assured the group that the emails were inadvertent, but we now see that the NICHE list wasn’t just used to promote Bachmann’s candidacy, but was acquired by Sorenson through Chris Dorr for his own personal use and profit.
What follows is a timeline of events, excerpts from Dorr’s October 2011 memo, copies of emails between top Paul campaign aides and Dorr, which also included Sorenson, and a full copy of the memo itself. TheIowaRepublican.com has also put together a profile of all the individuals involved, documenting each person’s role, position, and where they are today if known.
The Sorenson Circle
Kent Sorenson – Iowa State Senator, Campaign Chairman for Bachmann for President, eventual Ron Paul endorser Role: A central figure in FEC and Iowa Senate ethics investigation, he was included in email conversation regarding his proposed compensation package to be presented to the Paul campaign representatives.
Chris Dorr – Bachmann for President Field Staff, legislative clerk for State Senator Kent Sorenson, brother of Aaron Dorr, and son of Paul Dorr. Role: Chris Dorr was a key Sorenson accomplice and was included in email conversations regarding the Sorenson compensation package to be presented to the Paul campaign representatives. Dorr also provided an affidavit to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee supporting Sorenson’s denial of any wrongdoing, and admitting that he made a copy of the homeschoolers’ list from a Bachmann staffer’s computer.
Aaron Dorr – Executive Director of Iowa Gun Owners Association, founder of Iowa Pro-Life Action Role: Chief negotiator between Sorenson and Paul campaign.
Paul Dorr – Iowa advisor, Ron Paul for President 2008, longtime political consultant. Role: Paul Dorr was included in email conversation regarding the Sorenson compensation package to be presented to the Paul campaign representatives.
Dennis Fusaro – Former Executive Director, Iowans for Right to Work Committee; Former Executive Director, National Right to Work Committee; National Field Director, Ron Paul for President 2008. Through his involvement with Right to Work, Fusaro had a close relationship with Sorenson, radio host Steve Deace, and the Dorrs. Role: Fusaro is the sole source of the information that was provided to TheIowaRepublican.com for this article.
Wes Enos – Current Deputy Chief of Staff, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix; Current State Central Committee Member, Republican Party of Iowa; Political Director, Michele Bachmann for President 2012. Role: Enos is the Treasurer for the Iowa Conservatives Fund PAC, a state PAC that was created to receive a $100,000 payment from the Paul campaign in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement. The PAC was created in the fall of 2011, which coincides with the timing of the Dorr memo. However, it never received any financial contributions. Enos also provided an affidavit to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee supporting Sorenson’s denial of any wrongdoing.
Kevin Wolfswinkel – Farmers for Ron Paul National Advisory Board Member, Ron Paul for President 2012; longtime Ron Paul donor; Coordinator for Iowa’s 5th Congressional District, Ron Paul for President 2008. Role: Wolfswinkel is the Chairperson for the Iowa Conservatives Fund PAC, a state PAC that was created to receive a $100,000 payment from the Paul campaign in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement.
Paul Campaign Officials
Jesse Benton – Campaign Manager, Mitch McConnell for U.S. Senate 2014; Campaign Chairman, Ron Paul for President 2012; Campaign Manager, Rand Paul for U.S. Senate 2010; Senior Vice President, Campaign for Liberty; Campaign Manager, Ron Paul for President 2008; Advisor, Liberty PAC (Paul’s leadership PAC). Benton is also married to Congressman Paul’s granddaughter Valori Pyeatt. Opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections, has reported that Benton has been “paid about $1.1 million by the various Paul entities — although more than $450,000 of it was described as reimbursement for expenses he incurred, most of them unidentified.” Role: Benton was the chief negotiator for the Paul campaign in dealings with Aaron Dorr, who was Sorenson’s conduit to the Paul campaign. Benton initiated contact with Sorenson through Aaron Dorr in November of 2011.
John Tate – Campaign Manager, Ron Paul for President 2012; President, Campaign for Liberty; National Political Director, Ron Paul for President 2008; Vice President of Membership, Leadership Institute; Vice President, National Right to Work Committee; Candidate for Congress in 1996. Role: Tate was included in email conversations regarding the Sorenson compensation package presented by Dorr to the Paul campaign. Tate’s email address begins with “tfc02.” The Dorr memo was addressed to Tate.
Dimitri Kesari – Deputy Campaign Manager, Ron Paul for President 2012; Director of Government Affairs, National Right to Work Committee. Role: Kesari had dinner with Sorenson and his wife at their home in mid to late November of 2011. He allegedly presented Sorenson or his wife a check for $30,000, which one of them accepted.
Jedd Coburn – National Communications Director, Ron Paul for President 2012; consultant, Campaign for Liberty; consultant, Young Americans for Liberty; consultant, National Association for Gun Rights. Coburn is currently an instructor for Applied Conservative Leadership, or FACL. Role: Coburn received the memo from Aaron Dorr that included the financial demands Sorenson required to leave the Bachmann campaign and join the Paul campaign.
Drew Ivers – Iowa Campaign chairman, Ron Paul for President 2012; Current Finance Chairman, Republican Party of Iowa; Former State Central Committee Member, Republican Party of Iowa; Campaign Advisor, Ron Paul for President 2008. Role: The Dorr memo included an entire section of things that Ivers would have to agree to in order for Sorenson to make the switch from Bachmann to Paul.
Key components of the Dorr memo.
1. Sorenson’s Asking Price – Financial Requirements:
- Sorenson wanted $8,000 a month through the fall of 2012.
- Chris Dorr, Sorenson’s clerk and right-hand man, wanted $5,000 a month through April of 2012.
- Sorenson demanded that $100,000 be placed in an Iowa PAC that would be controlled by Sorenson and staffed by the Dorrs. Kevin Wolfswinkel, a Paul supporter, was the PAC’s chairman, and Wes Enos was the PAC’s treasurer.
In total, the asking price for Sorenson’s defection was $208,000. That’s $88,000 for Sorenson, $20,000 for Chris Dorr, and $100,000 for the newly created state PAC.
John [John Tate, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign manager],
KS [Kent Sorenson] is considering the offer that was first brought to his attention by a national campaign staffer. As KS considers this[,] he needs to look at what he needs to replace should he leave the MB [Michele Bachmann] campaign. The following financial requirements are things he’d be giving up and would need to have matched if he leaves MB.
Salary Requirements and other financial requirements:
KS needs to match his current salary of $8,000 a month. This has been promised to him, even after MB drops out of the race, for the majority of 2012. As a result, KS would need to be on payroll into the Fall of 2012.
CD [Chris Dorr] works for and with KS and would leave the MB with him. He would have to have his salary matched ($5,000 monthly) through April of 2012, when he was currently scheduled to quit the MB campaign.
We have established the Iowa Conservatives Fund PAC as an entity that KS will be using to recruit and elected [sic] good candidates to the Iowa General Assembly. (C4 will follow after next legislative session.) It’s KS’s leadership PAC. He would need a donation of $100,000 into this PAC prior to this action.
2. Original Timetable for Sorenson Defection to Paul Campaign – Mid November
There is a Senate leadership vote scheduled for November 10. KS is weighing a run for leader and as such can’t drop out of the MB campaign or endorse RP prior to November 11 as there are votes that he would lose as a result.
Jedd [Jedd Coburn – National Communications Director, Ron Paul for President 2012] and I were hashing out the time angle and we (the Iowa group) like the idea that Jedd was kicking around of having a week or ten day period between KS leaving MB and endorsing RP. (On a personal note, I think that this needs to happen as KS doesn’t want to publicly embarrass MB and this would help mitigate that.)
Sorenson did not seek a leadership position in the Republican Senate caucus, but he was active in the leadership election. On November 14th, just three days after the Republican leadership election in the Iowa Senate, Jesse Benton, the Paul campaign’s highest ranking staff member, emailed Aaron Dorr to inquire about Sorenson’s defection.
Hope you are well.
And, I hope the senate leadership meetings went well for Sen. Sorrenson [sic]. With those meeting[s] in the rear-view mirror, I though [sic] now might be a good time to revisit Kent and your brother joining our team. The window is sill open, but it will close in the next few days. We are building for a top finish in the caucus and we'[d] love to get them on board to help push us over the top.
Please let me know.
Benton’s email to Dorr occurred two weeks after Dorr sent Paul’s campaign manager, John Tate, and Paul’s National Communications Director, Jedd Coburn, the memo stating Sorenson’s demands.
Aaron Dorr didn’t respond to Benton for seven days. When Dorr did respond, he acknowledged that Dimitri Kesari, the Deputy Campaign Manager of the Paul campaign, had had dinner with Sorenson and his wife on the weekend on November 19th. Dorr states, “I’ll assume that you guys are taking a more direct role in this process. As I’m no longer needed to facilitate a conversation at this point, I’ll bow out and let you [Benton], John [Tate], Dimitri [Kesari] and Kent work this out.”
3. Sorenson’s Access to Bachmann and Homeschool Information Lists
The Dorr memo to the Paul campaign suggests that one of the ways Sorenson could benefit the Paul campaign is by bringing or providing access to a list of Iowa Bachmann supporters.
Certain NDA’s [Nondisclosure agreements] have been entered into with certain parties. That said, a list of MB identified voters is easily and legally accessible. This list is part of the compensation that KS and CD are receiving for their work for MB. This list will not be available to RP2012.
However, if the campaign wants to send mail to these people to announce KS’s RP endorsement we will be willing to have a 3rd party mail shop in Des Moines handle that. This shop, by the way, handled all of the RP2008 mail and is very professional.
Final approval on this letter will rest with KS.
Later in the memo, in the section that stipulates what else the Paul campaign will receive if they agree to Sorenson’s compensation package, Dorr mentions to the Paul campaign that they have in their possession and are willing to let the campaign use the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE), albeit not by name.
3. Home-school connections. Of course you’ve got your own “Homeschoolers for RP” program, but we are in possession o[f] the list of the main Iowa home-school group’s list [sic] here in Iowa allowing for targeted home-school mail.
4. Sorenson’s Demands of Drew Ivers
Another interesting portion of the Dorr memo involves Paul’s Iowa Campaign Chairman, Drew Ivers, who apparently had said something that angered the Dorrs. An entire section of the memo enumerated a list of things that Ivers must say and do for the deal with Sorenson to be consummated.
1. Drew will have to give a glowing acceptance of KS’s RP endorsement. While we realize that he can’t directly apologize for maligning Kent and the Dorrs for the last 6 months in this statement, he can certainly go out of his way to make it clear how much he values KS etc etc etc.
2. Drew will also have to come through on the promised apology letter to the board of Iowa Gun Owners for his public statements attacking IGO and its staff. This should be simple since it’s basically been promised to IGO via Benton and was already drafted by Coburn. This will be filed away and not used publicly. However the members of IGO who are dual members of CFL [Campaign for Liberty] or supporters of RP2012 who’ve contacted us after becoming angry over Drew’s unfortunate comments will be made aware of the resolution of this issue.
Ivers seems to have capitulated to the demands made of him in the Dorr memo. He introduced Sorenson at the Ron Paul event in which Sorenson announced that he was leaving the Bachmann campaign and joining the Paul campaign. [VIDEO]
5. Sorenson’s Other Demands, Social Issue Concerns, and Santorum Momentum
There were a number of other conditions that Sorenson wanted the Paul campaign to agree to before supporting the Paul campaign. For example, the people who would be receiving money under the Sorenson agreement wanted the money to be paid in advance. Sorenson also wanted to be able to publically differ with Paul on key social issues like gay marriage and abortion. It is clear from the memo that Dorr and the others involved in Sorenson’s political activities viewed Rick Santorum as a problem for the Paul campaign as Santorum began to build momentum, despite the fact that the Des Moines Register poll that was released at the same time showed Santorum with just five percent of the caucus vote.
1. The money for salary and the PAC needs to be paid in advance. To be blunt, there is an issue of trust involved, likely on both sides, and as a result KS etc needs to have the financial side met in advance.
2. KS agrees to not endorse or support o[r] help any other candidate in the 2012 cycle. Honestly, there is no one else he’d even consider given the field.
3. At the same time, KS has to have the ability to mildly disagree in his emphasis with RP’s social positions on life and marriage. While aggressively praising RP for his willingness to defund Planned Parenthood and the homosexual machines, KS will be able to differ, in emphasis, from RP on the social issues mentioned. This is the tough part. Most all of Western IA region is disgusted with RP’s perceived stances on these issues. Little towns like Orange City, Le Mars, and Sioux Center, IA, where the paper just endorsed Santorum, believe the hype regarding RP’s stance on drugs and homosexuality. They actually said in the paper this week that RP will be worse than Obama on these issues. A blanket endorsement by KS would be a negative, this gives him the room he needs to both praise RP and protect himself.
This also is the kind of voting block that would most be moved by a KS endorsement. Reasonable minds can differ, but Santorum is gaining rapid steam in Western Iowa in a perceived vacuum of candidates who support social conservatism. KS’s involvement would enable RP to have a real shot in that part of the state.
6. The Sorenson Sales Pitch
The last section of the Dorr memo is the sales pitch to the Paul campaign. Besides talking about how Sorenson’s defection from the Bachmann campaign could help Paul in northwest Iowa with pro-life and pro-Second Amendment caucus voters, it also spells out how Sorenson, the Dorrs, and the political entities under their control would help elect more “like-minded individuals” to the Iowa legislature, as well as build a “major state based movement that will involve far more people into a future Rand Paul presidential run.”
What RP2012 would receive: (in no particular order)
1. KS endorsement of RP. The voice he commands in Iowa is no secret to any of you, so I’ll not belabor that point. But I will mention that as he’s been the letter signer for Iowa Gun Owners for three years and the letter signer for Iowa Pro-Life Action since it was formed this year, hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail have gone out with his name on it building his political impact up. Through the work of these organizations and all of the votes he’s forced on these issues[,] he has become thee [sic] voice for Iowans who are passionate on guns and life.
2. KS would naturally speak at RP events in Iowa and be visible with him. His exact role beyond that is something that we’d need to work out. Please let us know what you are envisioning.
3. Home-school connections. Of course you’ve [got] your own “Homeschoolers for RP” program[,] but we are in possession [of] the list of the main Iowa home-school group’s list [sic] here in Iowa allowing for targeted home-school mail.
4. Long term benefit. The Iowa Conservatives Fund PAC is brand new. It is chaired by a long time Ron Paul donor and 5th Congressional coordinator, Kevin Wolfswinkel. (Kevin is not the current coordinator, mostly due to the way he’s been treated by Drew Ivers.) The PAC’s day to day operations are going to be administered by the Dorr brothers, [who are] both “graduates” of numerous Rothfeld schools, have worked for the National RTW [Right to Work] and have a proven track record at [sic] developing and running state wide grassroots political organizations. KS is going to be the chief fundraiser, letter signer, bill sponsor and figurehead.
ICFPAC was created for the purpose of electing like-minded individuals into the Iowa legislature. Its short-term focus is to find, train and elect primary candidates against RINO’s who have broken their written word on pro-life and pro-gun surveys and who live in the most vulnerable districts. We already have some excellent candidates who have agreed to primary incumbents.
ICFPAC is committed to a long-term agenda. The money that RP2012 provides to this PAC will be used as seed money for building a long-term, self-sustainable political organization that will fight for our mutual goals and which will dramatically change the political climate in Iowa to a more favorable one a couple of years from now. In case you don’t know, Glen Massie and Kim Pearson are not seeking re-election and so we’ll need to elect more Paul supporting legislators that would be useful assuming (which could certainly be a mistake) a Rand Paul run in the future.
In a nutshell, this PAC will boost the KS name about 5x as big as it is today. Between this PAC, Iowa Gun Owners, and Iowa Pro-Life Action we will continue to build a major state based movement that will involve far more people into a future Rand Paul presidential run. Or, in other words, we will continue to do what the state CFL chapter refused to do for the last four years.
That’s not said to make a statement or further a personality based tit-for-tat, it’s a simple fact. We are confident that as we continue to do what we are doing on the grassroots level that KS will benefit, RP will benefit, and RP2016 (if such a thing occurs) will greatly benefit.
For months, TheIowaRepublican.com has had on and off conversations with the source of this material, but only recently has this source provided actual emails between all the parties involved. Not only has Dennis Fusaro provided TheIowaRepublican.com with the Dorr memo and emails that he was included in, but he has also provides us with email conversations between himself and Jesse Benton, using the same email address that Benton used to reestablish communications with Aaron Dorr in mid-November of 2011.
July 21, 2013 Email from Fusaro to Benton
Fusaro sent Benton an email with the subject line, “You were involved…” at 9:44 p.m. The body of the email simply stated, “In the Sorenson deal.” Benton responded within 20 minutes writing, “You are an insane and delusional person, Dennis. I hope you get help. I’ll pray for you.”
Twelve days later, Fusaro responded to Benton with a snarky email that also included a plea for Benton to come clean and own responsibility for his actions. Fusaro also indicated that he had shared the information evidencing the Paul campaign paying for Sorenson’s endorsement to a member of the media.
The subject line of my original email to you in this exchange was “You were involved…
As a second response to your insult of me, let me quote you with your typos, you lying fraud:
“…, I though now might be a good time to revisit Kent and your brother joining our team.” Communication of Nov. 14, 2011 to one if the negotiators. (Check your records, or ask the NSA.)
I have strong evidence of the illegal $30k payment provided to benefit Kent Sorenson by your deputy campaign manager as an inducement for him to switch from MB to RP. Or it was simply the final act to seal the deal right before the Iowa caucuses? If you can show me how the offer of money to benefit Kent was not done illegally, I would like to know. (Does Mitch McConnell know about any of this this? Or Ron Paul?)
As you told me in our phone conversation earlier this year, you bear responsibility for the campaigns [sic] actions in this matter.
You need to come clean, fix it and own the consequences, whatever they may be.
It’s jerks like you who make the system corrupt, demoralize the grassroots and enable the very enemies of your grandfather-in-law. If you claim you didn’t know what your deputy campaign manager was doing to seduce Kent Sorenson, you should have known.
Feel free to forward this to John Tate and Dimitri Kesari. I’m sure you’ll be burning up the text, email or cell phones tonight. It’s not embargoed
P.S. Stiff letter to follow.
TheIowaRepublican.com reached out to Sen. Sorenson for comment on this story. Sorenson stated that entire story was fabricated by Fusaro. He also flat out denied that he or his wife received a $30,000 check from Dimitri Kesari in advance of joining the Paul campaign in December of 2011. TheIowaRepublican.com also sought comment from Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimitri Kesari. At the time of publication, none of them have responded to our request.
TheIowaRepublican.com is not the only entity that was provided the information released in this article. Fusaro also released the same information to a nationally syndicated radio host who is close to Sorenson, but that individual chose not to break the story.
**Must Credit the TheIowaRepublican.com**
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com