The special investigator looking into the allegations that Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson improperly took money from two different presidential campaigns in 2012 submitted his findings to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee this week. Just hours after Mark Weinhard’s 556-page report was made public, Sorenson resigned his State Senate seat.
Despite Sorenson’s repeated denials of any wrongdoing, Weinhardt’s report systematically proves that the allegations that Sorenson had been compensated by both the Bachmann and Paul campaigns had merit. The report also shows that Sorenson knowingly lied or mislead the press, the public and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee throughout the entire ordeal.
Allegation: Sorenson was paid $7,500 per month from Michele Bachmann to be her Iowa campaign manager.
Sorenson’s formal response to original Senate ethics complaint: Once again these allegations are not based on facts. I did not receive compensation from MichelePAC, Bachmann for President, or C&M Strategies
Weinhardt’s report shows that both Andy Parrish, Bachmann’s first campaign manager, and David Polyansky, a Bachmann consultant, not only knew of Sorenson’s arrangement with C&M Industries, but also sought approval from the campaign’s attorneys. Parrish allowed Guy Short, of C&M Strategies to negotiate Sorenson’s monthly compensation. The two settled on $7,500 a month.
When Polyansky formalized the campaign’s contract with Short, Polyansky was made aware of Sorenson’s relationship with C&M Strategies. “Under the preexisting contract, the Bachmann campaign needed to pay Mr. Short’s firm additional money to supply compensation that was being paid to Sorenson from the Bachmann campaign.”
In an email between Short and Polyansky, Short writes, “Bill needs to get you a contract for C&M Strategies for $22,500 per month to cover me and my employee.” Short’s firm was to be paid $15,000 per month, and the additional $7,500 was for Sorenson. After consulting with the campaign’s attorney, Polyansky had the larger sum inserted into the campaign’s contract with Short’s firm.
Weinhardt’s report then uses a graphic to show how the money flowed from MichelePAC or Bachmann for President to C&M Strategies, then to Sorenson’s Grass Roots Strategy, Inc, then finally to Sorenson and his wife personally. The report also includes all of the deposits made to from the Bachmann entities to C&M Strategies, and all of the corresponding deposits from C&M to Sorenson’s Grass Roots Strategies firm.
The report also includes an email from Sorenson to Polyansky on July 5, 2011, that clearly shows Sorenson was aware that his compensation from the Bachmann campaign was in violation of the Senate Ethics Rule 6.
Allegation: Sorenson accepted payment from Ron Paul’s national Deputy Campaign Manager Dimitri Kesari in advance of his switch from Bachmann to Paul.
Sorenson’s denial to Fox News Megyn Kelly: “I was never offered a nickel from the Ron Paul campaign.”
Sorenson received a check payable to “Grass Roots Strategies” in the amount of $25,000. The check was dated December 26, 2011, and drawn on the account of Designer Goldsmiths Inc, which is a jewelry store located in Leesburg, Virginia operated by Jolanda Kesari, Demitri Kesari’s wife.
Sorenson never cashed the check and showed it to the special investigator. Demitri Kesari invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in the interview with Weinhardt. Mrs. Kesari did not cooperate.
Weinhardt also discovered that Sorenson received $73,000 in wire transfers following the caucuses. The payments were from ICT Inc. in Maryland. Weinhardt stated in his report that, “The deposits could be construed to reflect payments of $8,000 per month from February through July 2012, with the first payment $33,000 being an $8,000 monthly payment and $25,000 to reflect the uncashed check.”
ICT is a business associated with a documentary filmmaker named Noel “Sonny” Izon. When asked in his deposition what he did for ICT, Sorenson said, “general consulting both on political and business issues.” Sorenson also said that he helped ICT with “locations for video shoots in Iowa.” He said ICT had, “a lot of clients,” but he could identify none.” He also could not remember the correct name of the “Sonny” associated with ICT.
The case against Sorenson appears to be substantial. Sorenson’s quick decision to resign his seat following the release of the report also signifies the creditability and thoroughness of Weinhardt’s report. While Sorenson has resigned, he’s still claiming his innocence.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register before he resigned, Sorenson tried to compare the money that he took from the Bachmann campaign with Rick Perry renting office space from a State Senator because Perry wanted his endorsement. Perry rented space from R&R Realty, a commercial property firm that State Senator Brad Zaun used to work for. Unlike Sorenson, Zaun was a loyal Bachmann endorsee and never was compensated for his support.
Sorenson also mentioned that another Senator, most likely Senator Rick Bertrand, who owns an Irish Brew Pub in Sioux City, catered food for campaign workers. “So cooking a hamburger for a campaign isn’t working but giving advice is?” Sorenson asked the Des Moines Register.
Sorenson also sent an email out to his constituents following his resignation. Even with a mountain of evidence that states otherwise, Sorenson claims that the investigation was a “straight-up political witch hunt.” Sorenson went on to say that the investigation was retaliation for his criticism of the Iowa Supreme Court. And that Weinhardt himself was compromised because, “The investigator’s family, according to a quick search of the Iowa Campaign Ethics and Disclosure Board, appears to only have a history of donating money to Democrat candidates. The game was rigged from the beginning.”
Sorenson’s colleague, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren disagrees. “I do not believe that the investigator’s integrity is at question here. Only Senator Sorenson’s integrity is at question,” Chelgren told Radio Iowa this evening. “…I believe there is enough evidence that says that Senator Sorenson’s integrity has been compromised, that the decision to resign seems to be the correct one.”
Sorenson responded to Weinhardt’s report just like he responded to all the other accusations made against him throughout this entire saga. He played the role of the victim. The only problem is that Weinhardt has a mountain of evidence that proves otherwise. The rules that Sorenson violated are not all that serious, but the habitual lying and misleading that he has done for the past year is incredibly disturbing. Not only did he lie to the media and the people of Iowa, Sorenson also lied and misled his colleagues in the Senate.
All of that lying could, Weinhardt suggests, make him guilty of committing felonious misconduct in office, which is a class D felony. That charge may also potentially jeopardize Sorenson’s real estate license.