TheIowaRepublican.com has obtained a recording of a phone conversation between State Senator Kent Sorenson and Dennis Fusaro. The call was recorded just days after Sorenson abruptly abandoned Michele Bachmann’s campaign and publicly endorsed Ron Paul. Along with confirming the payment a representative of the Paul campaign made to Sorenson, the recorded conversation also appears to indicate that Sorenson was considering withdrawing from the Paul campaign almost immediately after announcing his support for Paul.
The recording features Sorenson explaining how the Ron Paul campaign’s Deputy National Campaign Manager, Demitri Kesari, met with Sorenson and his wife at a restaurant where, Sorenson says, his wife was presented and accepted a check while he was in the bathroom.
Fusaro asks Sorenson for the name of the jewelry store that Kesari owns with his wife, Jolanda Pali Kesari. Sorenson says, “I honest to God don’t know. I’ll have to look at the check and tell you. I haven’t even seen it.” That confession indicates that the check given to the Sorensons was from the jewelry store account. The Kesari’s store is called Designer Goldsmiths and is located in Leesburg, Virginia. This account of events in which Sorenson appears to be denying initial knowledge of the payment is at odds with emails previously published by TheIowaRepublican.com, which showed that Sorenson was aware of the payments requested on his behalf from the Paul campaign. However, Sorenson does unambiguously confirm that he had possession of a check from a Ron Paul operative.
Sorenson also confirms that Paul’s National Campaign Chairman, Jesse Benton, was aware of Kesari’s actions. After asking Fusaro if he thought the key players inside the upper echelons of the Ron Paul campaign knew of Kesari’s actions, Fusaro stated that he was confident that Benton knew. Sorenson quickly responds by saying, “Oh, I know Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows.”
Benton, who is currently serving as the campaign manager for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign, has denied that there was any sort of payoff involved in getting Sorenson to endorse Paul. In a December 28, 2011, interview with Radio Iowa, Benton said, “We’ve always known Michele Bachmann to be an honorable person, and we think it’s a shame now that she’s trying to slander an honorable Iowan and an honorable member of the Iowa state senate. Senator Sorenson is not being paid.”
A few days later, Congressman Paul himself told Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday, that Sorenson was not paid by anyone affiliated in any way with the campaign. Paul’s remarks were broadcast on the January 1, 2012, show.
Wallace: Congressman, we have about less than 30 seconds left. I want to ask you one final question. You and congresswoman Bachmann is about to be — got into quite a flap this week when her state chair, State Senator Kent Sorenson, jumped ship from her campaign to your campaign. She alleges he said that your campaign was paying him to jump ship.
Simple question: did your campaign or anyone connected with your campaign or anyone speaking on behalf of it or any third party vendor, did any of them offer money to Kent Sorenson to come on board your campaign?
Paul: No. And if she has the evidence, she should bring it forth. Because if she makes charges like that, she should be able defend it. But no, that did not happen.
Sorenson himself was adamant that he wasn’t paid to make the switch from Bachmann to Paul. “I was never offered a nickel from the Ron Paul campaign,” Sorenson told The Des Moines Register. Sorenson was emphatic during a Fox News interview with Megyn Kelly that he never received or was offered any money from anyone connected with the Paul campaign.
We now know that Bachmann and the others who said that Sorenson was offered money to join the Paul campaign were not lying.
Sorenson’s phone call with Fasaro also seems to suggest that Bachmann’s National Political Director, Guy Short, did in fact inappropriately pay Sorenson. In the recording, Fusaro asks if Sorenson had been talking to “Guy.” Sorenson responds by saying, “No. No, I spoke to him once since this happened, and I told him, I just told him that I was sorry I hurt him, and someday I hope we can have a friendship again. That was it.”
Below is the transcript of the call, as well as the audio file provided to TheIowaRepublican.com by Fusaro.
Fusaro: Hey, what’s going on man?
Sorenson: Nothing, just living life.
Sorenson: How about you?
Fusaro: Well, I’m trying to figure out how to keep living life, too, but I’m hearing that you’re about to fall on a grenade here any second.
Sorenson: I’ve been thinking about it, but, uh, you know. You know, I’m out here, and Aaron [Dorr] is trying to talk me out of it, and I think he’s probably right. I don’t want to hurt my friends, you know what I mean?
Fusaro: Yeah. Well, I think you just need to stop talking and get yourself an attorney and figure out what your position is.
Fusaro: I don’t know how all this, I’m not advising you to do one thing or another other than just do what’s right, but I don’t know exactly what that is.
Fusaro: Are you talking to Guy [Short] again?
[Guy Short is the Bachmann consultant who allegedly improperly paid Sorenson through his political consulting firm, C&M Strategies. Former Bachmann chief-of-staff Andy Parrish swore in an affidavit that Sorenson was being paid by C&M Strategies for his work on the Bachmann presidential campaign.]
Sorenson: No. No, I spoke to him once since this happened, and I told him, I just told him that I was sorry I hurt him, and someday I hope we can have a friendship again. That was it.
Fusaro: Yeah, so…
Sorenson: I don’t trust him.
Fusaro: You don’t trust him? Well, why should you?
Sorenson: Yeah, I know.
Fusaro: I’m just trying to figure out why Demitri Kesari gets off scotfree and gets to do all this crap, and nobody lays a glove on him.
Fusaro: So, I guess you can give him, well I hope, well I don’t know.
Sorenson: I’m going to give him his check back.
Fusaro: Oh, you are?
Sorenson: Do you think I should, or should I hold on to it? I’m not cashing it.
Fusaro: I understand.
Sorenson: Do you think I should hold on to it or do a deal? Should I hold on to it so I have something over him?
Fusaro: I don’t think I’d give it to him, no.
Fusaro: Have you, I don’t presume you have been paid by them [the Paul campaign – other than the initial check from Kesari]. Sounds to me like you are not going to be working with them after this. I’m confused. I mean, if you are not doing his bidding, he’s not going to pay you.
Sorenson: No, I agree with you.
Fusaro: I understand that Ron Paul came out and said that nobody gave you… The lying that’s going on is just incredible. It’s one thing to be smart politically and tough, but now you have Ron Paul out there lying.
Sorenson: You think he knows?
Fusaro: No, actually, I think he doesn’t.
Sorenson: You think they purposefully kept it from him?
Fusaro: Oh sure, it’s like Rothfeld said, they have to run their campaign. He has to run his.
[Michael Rothfield is on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gun Rights and also the sole director of Saber Communications. Opensecrets.org reported that both Rand Paul and Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign are clients. The firm received $7.7 million for Paul’s 2012 campaign.]
Sorenson: Who do you think knows?
Fusaro: All these guys are corrupt. Who do I think knows? Everyone you told. Everyone Dimitri told. And Dimitri.
Sorenson: Do you think the whole Ron Paul, like all of them know? I mean the inside group?
Fusaro: Sure, I’m sure Jesse Benton knows, he’s a scum…
Sorenson: Oh, I know that Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows.
Fusaro: He’s a scumbag.
Fusaro: By the way, just for my edification, is the name of Dimitri’s store, is it Market Station Jewelers?
Sorenson: I honest to God don’t know. I’ll have to look at the check and tell you. I haven’t even seen it.
[The store is actually called Designer Goldsmiths, it is located in the Market Station in Leesburg, VA.]
Fusaro: I don’t know.
Sorenson: My wife, he gave it to my wife. Did I tell you what happened?
Sorenson: I kept saying no, and my wife said we can do this. I went to the bathroom, we were in a restaurant, and he made it out to my wife.
Fusaro: Oh great. So he worked his [sic] wife against you. He went around your authority and worked your wife. And this is the great Christian conservative political activist we are all supposed to kiss his http://goes%20blank.
[Pause in audio]
Sorenson: I don’t want anyone to know that, okay, because I don’t get in it with my wife, okay?
Fusaro: My point would be, you better, I don’t know. I think you need to sit down with an attorney and say here is what I’ve done, where am I, what do I do? He’ll probably tell you to SHUT UP.
Sorenson: I have. I’ve learned my lesson.
Fusaro: I mean, that piece by Kevin Hill [Hall] on The Iowa Republican was pretty damaging.
Fusaro: It has nothing to do with the Iowa state ethics laws.
Sorenson: Let me call you right back, I just had someone walk up to me, okay?
Fusaro: Alright, bye.
[Pause in audio]
Sorenson: I just had a guy yell at me.
Fusaro: He doesn’t like Ron Paul?
Sorenson: This guy was douchebag, said, “Boy, you caused quite a controversy.” I said, “Yeah, it’s quite a shit storm, isn’t it?”
Fusaro: Yep. So, I mean, I guess you’re just not going to work for anybody?
Sorenson: You know, Dennis, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. And I have got to quit talking to people because every time I talk to somebody, they talk to somebody, and it comes back to bite me in the butt.
Fusaro: Yeah, you’ve got that right.
Sorenson: Aaron’s freaking out because I quit, and I could hurt him and his groups. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Fusaro: Alright, I’ll leave it alone. Do what you got to do.
On Tuesday night, Sorenson defended himself on a Facebook discussion about TheIowaRepublican.com article that was published earlier in the day. Sorenson wrote:
“I am looking forward to turning my tax statements over to the senate investigator if and when he ask for them. I cannot control what others say about me, but I know the truth and I was not part of this discussion if it even actually took place nor did I authorize someone to have this conversation on my behalf.”
Jesse Benton was asked for comment twice on Tuesday, and continues to be non-responsive.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com