Top Ron Paul Campaign Aides Found Guilty On All Counts

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Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

As Donald Trump was putting an end to the primary phase of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign this week, a federal court concluded its criminal trial against three Republican campaign operatives for their underhanded and shady dealings in the previous presidential contest.

Jurors found Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign chairman, John Tate, Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign manager, and Dimitri Kesari, Paul’s deputy campaign manager in 2012, guilty of charges ranging for conspiracy to causing false records and campaign expenditures. The trio of national political operatives who once made up Paul’s inner political circle was tried in federal court in Iowa and is now awaiting sentencing.

The scheme involved paying Kent Sorenson, a former Iowa legislator and chairman of Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign, more than $73,000 to switch his allegiance to Ron Paul just days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.   As a State Senator, Sorenson would be in violation of Iowa Senate rules if he accepted financial compensation from the Paul campaign, so the high-ranking Paul operatives concocted a scheme that paid Sorenson through vendors who did no work for the Paul campaign.

Sorenson resigned from the Iowa Senate in the fall of 2013. The following August, he pled guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report expenditures and one count of obstruction of justice for concealing. Sorenson is still awaiting sentencing for his part of the scheme, but his cooperation with federal prosecutors will now likely get him a more lenient sentence. Sorenson faces up to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the cover up.

The entire ordeal spans parts of two presidential campaigns and lasted almost six years. TheIowaRepublican.com was the first to break the details of Sorenson’s involvement with the three senior members of Ron Paul’s campaign. While Sorenson was already dealing with an Iowa Senate Ethics complaint stemming from his financial compensation from the Bachmann campaign and the theft of a database belonging to an Iowa Homeschool organization, it was his involvement with the Paul campaign that ultimately brought him down.

The scandal has been national news and has even caused problems in the 2016 Republican race for president. Benton and Tate led a Super PAC that was supportive of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s bid before he dropped out of the race. Benton is also currently involved in a pro-Trump Super PAC. Needless to say, being convicted of multiple crimes will make it impossible to maintain his involvement in any political committee.

While TheIowaRepublican.com was responsible for shedding light on this scandal, justice would have never been served, and thus the credibility of our political process would not have been preserved, had it not been for Dennis Fusaro, the primary source of all the evidence the entire case was built upon.

Fusaro was Ron Paul’s national field director in 2008. He was also the former Executive Director of Iowans for Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Committee. He had worked with all those involved in the cover-up, including Sorenson, from his time working in Iowa politics.

“This is not a happy moment for me or anyone concerned with true Liberty,” Fusaro said after being reached for comment after the guilty verdict. “I tried to get Jesse Benton to come clean on his own and clean it up internally, but instead I was mocked and insulted by him.”

“The cover-up is always worse than the crime,” Fusaro added. “They could have told the truth to the voters of Iowa that Kent Sorenson had been paid or offered payment to endorse Ron Paul. They could have thumbed their noses at the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and made a First Amendment stand over the right to associate for Kent Sorenson. Instead they chose to take on the federal government.”

Another integral figure in exposing this scheme was former State Senator Sandy Greiner. While Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate wished to quietly sweep Sorenson’s transgressions under the rug, it was Greiner who stood alone against her own party and provided the critical fourth vote on the Senate Ethics Committee to appoint an independent investigator to look into Sorenson’s dealings with both presidential campaigns.

On Facebook on Thursday afternoon, Greiner referred to the situation as, “The darkest days of my entire Legislative career.” Greiner added, “I really felt an investigation by Independent Counsel was the only way to clear the air. I take no joy in the outcome.”

After the Senate Ethics Committee voted in favor of appointing independent counsel who would have subpoena power, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court appointed Des Moines attorney Mark E. Weinhardt to investigate. It was his 556-page report that came out in October of 2013, just two months after TheIowaRepublican.com broke the story, that lead forced Sorenson to resign. Soon after, federal authorities charged those involved with scheme for their involvement.

For many Iowans, this story began and ended with Kent Sorenson.   While the this entire case involved him, Thursday’s guilty verdicts prove that the scandal was much bigger than just a State Senator getting paid under the table for an endorsement. While it may have seemed at times that there was an effort to “get” Sorenson, the truth of the matter is that he was the only way expose the corruption in at the highest levels of a presidential campaign.

Not only has justice been served, but hopefully the integrity of the political process has also been preserved.

 

 

 

Ron Paul’s Minions Create a Mess for McConnell Campaign

Earlier this year when Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign, was caught on tape saying that he is “holding his nose” working for the highest-ranking Republican in the United States Senate, McConnell handled the situation like a pro.

081113benton-460x338McConnell defused the incident quickly by posing for a picture with Benton that showed him holding his nose.  Just like that, the story was over.  The odd political marriage between the establishment power broker in the Senate and the anti-establishment campaign operative with deep connections to Ron and Rand Paul continued on as if nothing ever happened.

As is often the case in politics, getting the story off the front page of the newspaper is an important first step, but if you don’t deal with the situation, it could come back to haunt you. Behind the scenes, McConnell was probably livid with Benton, but the political marriage between the two makes too much sense to end the relationship over a recorded phone call.  McConnell needs help against a well-funded primary opponent, and as Benton said in the embarrassing recording, “What we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand [Paul] in 16, so, that’s my long vision.”

McConnell may believe that Benton and his libertarian-leaning connections would help him skate through a pesky primary, but it now appears that letting Benton run his re-election effort in Kentucky could prove to be a major mistake.

Last summer, TheIowaRepublican.com broke the story that showed that Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson was compensated by the Ron Paul campaign before switching his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul just days before the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.  The special investigation that followed the news provided proof that Ron Paul’s Deputy National Campaign Manager, Dimitri Kesari, gave Sorenson a check for $25,000 in late December.  TheIowaRepublican.com’s investigation also provided ample proof that Benton was directly involved in the campaign’s dealings with Sorenson.

On Wednesday, the Des Moines Register reported that the FBI raided Sorenson’s Warren County home south of Des Moines.  Sorenson’s attorney told the paper, “They took computers and things that would be used to verify or validate communications with presidential entities.”  His attorney also indicated that they were not notified that Sorenson was the target of the investigation.  The FBI’s press office has referred all media inquiries to the Justice Department.

Sorenson, who resigned his state senate seat earlier this fall, may have some state legal issues to deal with in the future, but his involvement with the Paul and or Bachmann campaign would not likely get him in trouble with federal authorities.  The likely targets of the federal investigation are probably Kesari and Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

If that’s the case, it’s bad news for McConnell, who, besides employing Benton to manage his campaign, is also paying Kesari as a political consultant.

Last week, OpenSecrets.org reported that the McConnell campaign has paid $61,954 thus far in 2013 to Hyllus Corp for strategic consulting.  The name Hyllus is of Greek origin, which means son of Hercules.  Hyllus was also paid an additional $10,145 by McConnell’s leadership PAC, the Bluegrass Committee.  According to OpenSecrets.org, McConnell sent payments to Hyllus Corp at the same Washington, D.C., PO Box that Right to Work used to pay Kesari, who used to work for that group.

It seems very plausible that two McConnell campaign aides are now under investigation for their roles in the shady dealings that they orchestrated under the employ of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.  While McConnell was able to deal with Benton’s insulting remark by posing for a funny picture, the media will likely have some actual questions for McConnell since the FBI is now involved.

Kesari was the central figure in a pay-to-play scheme that ultimately cost Sorenson his state senate seat and could cause him additional legal and professional problems.  The special investigator appointed by the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court to look into Sorenson’s dealings with the Bachmann and Paul campaign found that Sorenson received a check payable to “Grass Roots Strategies” in the amount of $25,000.  Sorenson is the owner and sole employee of Grass Roots Strategies.

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, who is Demitri Kesari’s wife. Not only did Sorenson violate Iowa Senate ethic rules by accepting the payment, but Kesari broke numerous laws by paying Sorenson with funds not associated with the Paul campaign.

More troubling is that the special investigator also found that Sorenson was paid $73,000 from an entity named ITC Inc., a Maryland firm.  The special investigator wrote 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.

It seems likely that federal authorities are now investigating the money trail used by Kesari and the Ron Paul presidential campaign for their clandestine activities.  That’s not good for Benton, Kesari, the Paul political operations, or Mitch McConnell.

McConnell should have ditched Benton when it became known that Benton couldn’t stand the guy who signs his paycheck.  Now he’s going to have to deal with the ramifications of hiring unscrupulous individuals to work for his campaign.  If McConnell thought hiring Rand and Ron Paul’s political team was a savvy move, I bet he’s regretting it now.

In His Own Words: Sorenson Confirms Payment for Ron Paul Endorsement

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: Hello?

Sorenson: Hey.

Fusaro: Hey, what’s going on man?

Sorenson: Nothing, just living life.

Furaro: So.

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.

Sorenson: Yeah.

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.

Sorenson: Yeah.

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.

Sorenson: Yeah.

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.

Sorenson: Okay.

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.

Pause

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?

Fusaro: No.

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.

Sorenson: Yeah.

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.

Sorenson: 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

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