Sorenson Saga: Senate Colleagues Argue Scandal is Hurting Entire Republican Senate Caucus

Two of State Senator Kent Sorenson’s Republican colleagues in the Iowa Senate told WHO Radio host Simon Conway last week that the ongoing scandal surrounding Sorenson is hurting their Republican caucus.  Sen. Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa and Sen. Jack Whitver of Ankeny also both told Conway on his afternoon drive time radio show that if the allegations are true, Sorenson should resign from the Senate.

Sen. Whitver’s comments are the most interesting.  In May, as a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, Whitver voted against sending an ethics complaint dealing with Sorenson and Michele Bachmann to a special investigator appointed by the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court.  At that time, Whitver said, “It’s hard to dismiss these charges because they’re serious charges, but there’s also very, very little evidence to send it forward. So, what do we do? I don’t know. The concern is, we’re setting a very, very low bar to send these cases forward.”

Apparently Whitver believes that the new revelations detailing the dealings between Sorenson and the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign are more substantial.  Two weeks ago, released documents, emails, and audio recordings of Sorenson himself talking about how Paul’s Deputy National Campaign manager gave a check to his wife in return for his support of the campaign in the final days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix has yet to make a statement about the new allegations surrounding Sorenson, but it’s apparent that the scandal is taking a toll on his Republican colleagues.  Whitver also told Conway, “If it was me, and I was in that situation, I would see the damage it is doing to our caucus and resign.”

Below is the transcript of the interview and the entire segment with Chelgren and Whitver.  The discussion about Sorenson begins at the 7:30 mark.


Simon Conway: I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you if you have been shocked, horrified, or not surprised at all by the controversy surrounding State Senator Kent Sorenson.

Sen. Jack Whitver: I think the best word to describe it is disappointed.  It’s one of those things that we all know the ethics rules, and if he did do what they are saying, it’s just disappointing to me that that would happen.

Simon Conway: Here’s what we do know for sure.  A check was written to his wife.  It was accepted.  We believe it wasn’t cashed, but it was held onto for an awful long time without any report whatsoever.  We know that for certain.  What about you Mark?  How do you feel about this?

Senator Mark Chelgren: You know, I’ve been following this pretty much from the beginning. I’m disappointed because we want to be held to a higher standard.  It’s kind of like what we talked about before – whether or not the end justifies the means or is your day-to-day activities something you are proud of doing?  Because at the end of the day, I don’t really think it’s going to be at my pay grade to make the decision of, yeah I did everything right so I deserve a certain outcome.  I never know what the outcome is going to be. All I can do as I make my decisions day in and day out.   I want to make sure I make decisions I’m proud of, and I think if you are not making decisions you are proud of, bad things happen.

In this case, I can’t speak for Senator Sorenson, but it’s one of those issues where it doesn’t look good, and I think that the damage that is being done is not just for him directly, but its also effecting his colleagues.  Its effecting some of the organizations that he’s been supportive of in the past, because it’s just difficult, it’s a distraction.

Simon Conway: So I’m not asking you to pontificate on his guilt or otherwise.  That’s what the Ethics Committee is there for, and I’m not going to ask you to do that, but for the sake for the rest of the Republican caucus in the Iowa Senate, should he not just go, and quick?

Sen. Mark Chelgren: I’m not willing to answer that at this point.  That’s something for him to know.  I can tell you that if the situation is accurate, where he did accept this money, if he did break the rules, and he has tried to minimize that in any way, shape, or form, then the answer is yes, he should go.  But not knowing that for sure, I can’t say.

Simon Conway: Let me ask this to Senator Whitver in a slightly different way then.  I don’t want to ask you the same question because that would be a pointless exercise.  Bearing in mind what Mark just said.  Jack, is it not better for the Iowa Republican caucus in the senate for him to go at this point?

Sen. Jack Whitver: Well it does hurt all of us. If it was me, and I was in that situation, I would see the damage it is doing to our caucus and resign.  But we are all duly elected people, and he has a right to do what he wants to do. If I were in that spot, I would.

Simon Conway:  OK, well, you have both been very direct, which is good.  That’s kind of what we are looking for, but not many people are being direct on answering questions on this circumstance.  It’s gone away.  I kind of don’t want to let it drop to be perfectly honest with you, because I think it is very serious.  I think the Ethics Committee needs to get their act together really quickly and come to a resolution.  But we are not going to see that until when?

Sen. Jack Whitver: That’s hard to say.  I’m on the Ethics Committee.  And so I might have to be a little careful on what I say.

Simon Conway: I’m talking about timing.  That’s all.

Sen. Jack Whitver: Yeah, I haven’t heard.  What needs to happen last session is that there was a complaint about something that happened with the Bachmann campaign, which is different than what’s going on now.  I think until someone files a formal complaint, I mean we are hearing all sorts of stories, but someone needs to file a formal complaint before we take it up as an Ethics Committee.  I think that could be another Senator, or that could be any citizen.  I think someone from Florida filed the last one.  So anyone can do it, but until that happens, I don’t think we will start to address it.

Simon Conway:  All right, OK, so there is your answer on Senator Sorenson.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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