Top Ron Paul Campaign Aides Found Guilty On All Counts

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Photo by Dave Davidson –

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. 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 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 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.




Ernst’s Answer on Gas Tax Leads to More Questions About Where She Actually Stands

In a Republican U.S. Senate debate on Monday, State Senator Joni Ernst said that her vote in favor of a ten-cent per gallon gas tax increase in March of 2013 was a mistake.  Ernst didn’t just stop there however, she continued by suggesting that Iowa should use existing sales tax revenue to fund road and bridge construction and repair.  Ernst also admitted that the idea came from Nebraska U.S. Senator Deb Fischer.

There are a couple of issues with Ernst’s response on the gas tax.

As a Nebraska State Senator, Deb Fischer didn’t find a new way to pay for roads and bridges.  Fischer voted to raise the gas tax in Nebraska 12 different timesFischer even voted to override Governor Dave Heineman’s veto of a gas tax increase.

What Nebraska did that is different is that it gave an unelected bureaucrat the ability to set the gas tax rate every six months based on needed infrastructure funding.  Empowering the director of the Nebraska Department of Roads to set the tax rate only does one thing – provide political cover for elected officials who don’t want to have defend their votes to increase taxes.

Ernst seemed to suggest in Monday night’s debate that Fischer had found a way to fund state infrastructure with out increasing taxes, but that’s simply not true.  In addition to repeatedly supported raising the gas tax, Fischer also compiled 31 other ways for the state to raise taxes and fees to help pay for roads and bridges.

Fischer’s Legislative Report 152 Report Listed 31 Possible Ways to Raise Taxes

Fuel Tax Increase
Index the Fuel Tax to Inflation
Index the Fuel Tax to Highway Maintenance
State Registration Fee Increase
Motor Vehicle Tax Reformulation
Motor Vehicle Tax Shift
Base Motor Vehicle Fee
Apportioned Vehicle Registration Increase
Electric Vehicle Fee
Rescind Tax-Exempt Vehicle Status
Recreational Vehicle Registration Fee Increase
Local Government Fuel Tax/Sales Tax
LB 846 Reformulation to Local Governments
Countywide Wheel Tax
Highway Allocation Revenue Outside the County Levy Limit
Increase/Require a Local Match for Federal Funds
Transportation Improvement Districts
Driver License Fee Increase
Tire Tax Increase
Train Tax Increase
Car Rental Fee
Lodging Tax Increase
Overweight/Oversize Permit Fee Increase
Eliminate Highway Trust Fund Statutory Requirements Not Related to Highways
Ethanol Tax
Sales Tax on Food/Soda
Toll Roads
Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax
Gambling Expansion
Rest Stop Privatization

In Monday night’s debate Ernst said that she wants to use a portion of the state’s sales tax for infrastructure.  The problem with that proposal is that it’s not like there is a bunch of sales tax revenue that goes unused by the state.  Taking $250 million dollars a year out of the sales tax revenue and putting towards roads and bridges would account for almost 10 percent of sales taxes that are collected each year.

Taking that large of a chunk of money out of the general fund would mean that other areas of the budget would either go unfunded or other taxes would have to be raised to make up for the shortfall.  According to Governor Branstad’s original budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, the current budget surplus is being used to pay for the education reform package and property tax bill that were signed into law last year.

One simply cannot take out $250 million from the existing budget without taking something away from the three biggest budget expenditures, which  are property tax relief, K-12 education, and Medicaid.  The Iowa legislature can’t cut Medicaid because they already made a commitment to the Obama administration on healthcare.  Which means if you want to pay for infrastructure out of the general fund you are either going to renege on property taxes or education reform. Neither are going to be easy or popular decisions.

Ernst admitting she made a mistake by voting to increase the gas tax in 2013 was a politically convenient answer.  The solution she offered doesn’t seem to be very well hashed out.  The question that should be on voters’ minds in the U.S. Senate race is, what is Ernst’s position on the federal gas tax?  There is already an effort afoot to increase it, and it would seem likely based on past history that Ernst and her mentor, Senator Deb Fischer would be open to the idea.

Former Senate Colleague Says Ernst Repeatedly Advocated for a Gas Tax Increase while in the Iowa Senate

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson was surprised at Ernst’s answer on the gas tax in Monday night’s debate.  Sorenson posted the following on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening.

“I find it quite hilarious that Joni Ernst is now saying she supported the gas tax by mistake… Joni is someone that I considered a friend while I served with her, but I argued with her over and over again in caucus about it… She was very adamant in supporting it.. In fact she said that a majority of her district wanted her to. While I strongly disagreed with her I respected her because she actually argued in favor of it in caucus and strongly advocated for it… I guess that was a mistake as well.”







Santa Paul – Ron Paul to host Texas Fundraiser for RPI

I know it’s only Tuesday, but since it’s the week of Thanksgiving, I thought it might make sense to do our weekly roundup early as many of you may be watching football or shopping on Friday.

Santa Paul – Ron Paul to host Texas Fundraiser for RPI

In August of 2012, now-Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chairman David Fischer, Finance Chairman Drew Ivers, and Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt, stood on the floor of the Republican National Convention and proudly awarded Ron Paul 22 of Iowa’s 28 national delegates.

It didn’t matter to them that Paul had finished in third place behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in the caucuses.  They were proud to deliver Ron Paul an Iowa victory regardless of how badly it would reflect on Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation Republican caucuses.  As one would expect, Ron Paul himself remains grateful.

This holiday season, Ron Paul is attempting to give back to those who gave so unselfishly to his presidential campaign.  On Friday, December 13th, Ron Paul is organizing a Houston fundraiser to raise money for the Republican Party of Iowa.  The Eventbrite invitation promises that the event will be the “Christmas Party of the Century.

For a donation of $250, you can attend Ron Paul’s Iowa GOP Christmas Party at the Hilton Post Oak hotel in Houston, Texas.  For an additional $1,000, you can attend a Presidential Suite Private Briefing and Reception with Ron Paul before the Christmas Party.  Both donations entitle you to have your picture taken with Ron Paul.

This isn’t the first time Ron Paul has shown his appreciation of the current leadership of the Iowa GOP.  In May of 2012, the Daily Paul organized an Iowa GOP Money Bomb.  The website wrote, “The RPI is OUR baby now. The establishment has left her on our doorstep, has stepped back and is hoping that WE will let her die.”  The site did another “money bomb” in January of 2013, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul headlined the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln dinner this spring.

The Republican Party of Iowa could use an influx of contributions before the end of the year.  According to the Federal Election Commission, the Republican Party of Iowa has only had two months in 2013 in which they raised more than $100,000.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the party has spent more than it has raised in six of the last ten months and is just barely in the black.  Heading into 2014, the Republican Party of Iowa has raised just $46,591 more than they have spent.

You can watch Santa Paul dance by clicking here.

Not So Quick Hits…

The Christmas Candle:

I’m not an expert when it comes to the movie industry, but I thought that the movie’s performance over the weekend was solid.  Some liberal publications have called the movie a flop, but let’s not fool ourselves, this movie is not even in the same league as the latest Hunger Games or Thor installment.  The Christmas Candle, which was only available in 392 theaters, grossed $832,927 this weekend.  Not bad for a faith-based Christmas film considering it’s limited exposure.

Progress Iowa is upset about the state making progress under Branstad:

Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped again this month.  It currently stands at 4.6 percent, down from 6.1 percent when Governor Branstad took office in January of 2011.  As one would expect, the Branstad campaign was quick to trumpet the state’s success, which caused one liberal organization to sound stupid.

Matt Sinovic, the executive director of Progress Iowa, told the Des Moines Register, “Gov. Branstad needs to stop playing games with the truth and start working on behalf of middle class Iowa families.  He and his administration have tried to hide their woeful record on job creation with deceptive math, rather than spend time fixing the problem.”

I’m sure that most Iowans who read the Register’s article that included Sinovic’s quote scratched their heads like I did.  Maybe I’m a little naïve, but last I checked the unemployment rate going down was good news.

Mr. Sinovic made an appearance on WHO TV 13’s “Insiders” program with Dave Price on Sunday morning.  Sinovic continued to push the narrative that the Branstad administration has a horrible record on job creation.  If the 1.5 percent drop in the unemployment rate under Branstad is awful, then what word would Mr. Sinovic use to describe the 2.5 percent increase in the unemployment rate under Democrat Governor Chet Culver?

Perhaps my favorite part of Sinovic’s interview on WHO TV was when Price asked his to describe his definition of a progressive. Sinovic stated that a progressive is someone whose end goal is to make progress.  “We won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Sicovic told Price.  Isn’t Progress Iowa doing just that with Branstad and the jobs numbers?  I guess Sinovic isn’t a progressive then, he’s just another classic liberal.

Jack Trice Stadium

The $25 million gift that Iowa State University announced yesterday is a great story and a good reason for Iowa State fans to get excited.  Enclosing the south end zone will make Jack Trice look and feel like a big time facility.  My only question is whether it is a good investment in a team that is coming off a dreadful two-win season.

Even as a Hawkeye fan, I will admit that Jack Trice Stadium is my least favorite place to visit every other year.  While enclosing the south end zone would only improve the Cyclones home field advantage, you have to have butts in the seats to make it work.

There is nothing positive about a two-win season in year five of Paul Rhodes’ tenure at Iowa State.  While Rhodes seems to garner a lot of good will and media attention for his post game press conferences, his record in the Big 12 is less than stellar.

The renovation plans look amazing, but it would be more exciting if the Iowa State Football team looked more promising.  Rhodes better be careful, if he has another 2-9 season people might start calling Jack Trice Stadium – Just Twice Stadium.

National Right to Work Committee’s Iowa Activities Questioned 

Russ Choma with has published an interesting article that could get the National Right to Work Committee in some hot water.  The source of the information is Dennis Fusaro, a former employee of the National Right to Work Committee.  The alleged infractions involve a number of current and former Republican legislators, including former State Senator Kent Sorenson.

The allegations are too numerous summarize.  You can read the article by clicking here.

Iowans Still Deserve Answers in Sorenson Ordeal – Potential Connection Between Paul Campaign and $73,000 in Payments Found

According to Kent Sorenson’s 2011 federal tax return, he had a net income of $84,469, which consisted of his state senate salary, wages he received from Steve Deace’s company Veritas Group, LLC, business income from the company who purchased his cleaning business, and income from a rental property as well as his consulting firm, Grassroots Strategy Inc.

In his deposition with special investigator Mark Weinhardt, Sorenson walked through his 2011 tax return line by line.  Sorenson originally claimed that he set up his Grassroots Strategy consulting firm after selling his cleaning business.  The idea was to run all of his consulting activity through that business entity, but Sorenson’s tax return shows otherwise.

Almost all of the money that’s been paid to Sorenson’s consulting firm is from C&M Strategies, a Colorado firm that the Bachmann campaign knowingly overpaid in order to compensate Sorenson for working on the campaign. In his formal response to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, Sorenson stated, “I was never directly or indirectly compensated by Michele PAC or the Bachmann campaign.”  Weinhardt’s investigation discovered that the Bachmann campaign’s contract with C&M Strategies was increased from $15,000 to $22,500 a month to cover Sorenson’s compensation.

The Weinhardt investigation also discovered that the majority of the revenue paid to Sorenson’s Grassroots Strategy consulting firm was from one entity, ICT Inc., a Maryland firm.  ICT paid Sorenson $73,000 from February 2012 through July of 2012.  Weinhardt called the wire transfers from ICT, “deeply suspicious.”

Weinhardt also explains that the first payment from ICT in February for $33,000 could represent a $25,000 payment to make up for the check that Sorenson never cashed from Ron Paul’s Deputy National Campaign Manager Dimitri Kesari, plus his first monthly payment of $8,000. Additional payments were made to Sorenson in $8,000 or $16,000 increments through late July of 2012.

Sorenson was extremely vague while being deposed by Weinhardt about his financial dealings with ICT.  What follows is the transcript from Sorenson’s deposition regarding his dealings with ICT.

Weinhardt: Who is ICT, Inc.?

Sorenson: It’s somebody I consulted with.  I believe they’re a business out of New Jersey.

Weinhardt: And for whom or what was the consulting about?

Sorenson: I can’t go back and recollect entirely, but I know that they’re a video consulting fime that produces videos for concerts, commercials.

Weinhardt: Do you see that ICT Inc. is incorporated in Hyattsville, Maryland?

Sorenson: Yeah; but I believe he’s based out of New Jersey, his business.

Weinhardt: Who is “he”?

Sorenson: I believe – – I’m not sure if it was Nick or Sonny Spanio (phonetic).  I know I’m not pronouncing the name right.  They’re Greek.

Weinhardt: Spell the last name for us the best you can.

Sorenson: I can’t. I can get that to you, I just don’t – – I struggle spelling my own name.

Weinhardt: So what was the consulting work that you were doing for Mr. Spanio?

Sorenson: I don’t think that’s relevant to the investigation.

Weinhardt:  I think that it is, and I’m going to ask you to tell me the answer to the question.

Sorenson: I’m not going to answer the question.

Weinhardt: Tell me what it was that you were doing for the income that was paid from ICT to Grassroots Strategy?

Sorenson: General consulting on political and business issues.

Weinhardt:  Consulting for what or for whom; in other works, who was ICT’s ultimate client?

Sorenson: They have a lot of clients.

Weinhardt:  I know. But what client were you doing work for?

Sorenson: I was doing work for ICT.

Weinhardt:  I know. But what client of ICT were you doing work for?

Sorenson: Not a specific client.  I was working for ICT.

Weinhardt:  Describe your activities for ICT that resulted, to begin with, in your getting $33,000 through Grassroots Strategies on February 9th of 2012?

Sorenson: They asked me to consult them on political issues and also locations for video shoots in Iowa that would appeal to a fraction of Iowans.

Weinhardt:  Do they have any client who was running for president of the United States in 2012?

Sorenson: I can’t answer that.  I mean. I don’t have the answer to that.

Weinhardt:  What politicians, who were running in Iowa, were clients of ICT?

Sorenson: I don’t have answers to those questions.  I wasn’t privy to that.

Weinhardt:  What was it that made you so valuable that they would pay, I think, well over $60,000 over the course of 2012 to you?

Sorenson: I don’t know if you understand how this works, but they – – had an interest in me possibly running for U.S. Senate in this election cycle.  I think if what had happened over the last twelve months, I would probably be one of the front-runners right now; a lot of people believe that.  He asked me to come work for him.  He wanted to help make that happen.

Weinhardt: So who is “he”?

Sorenson: Sonny Spanio. But I can’t spell his last name.

Weinhardt:  Do you have a cell phone number or an office number for Mr. Spanio?

Sorenson: I do not.

Weinhardt: Do you have any contact information for him whatsoever?

Sorenson: Not on me, no; but I can – – I’m sure I can produce that.

Weinhardt: When you return for your deposition on Monday, could you bring us all the contact information you have for Mr. Spanio?

Sorenson: I will.

Weinhardt:  Let me ask this directly: Did the payments that Grassroots Strategy received for or from ICT, Inc., have anything whatsoever to do with the Ron Paul campaign?

Sorenson: No.

Weinhardt:  Did they have anything to do with an identifiable candidate that you know of?

Sorenson: No. Not that I know of.

Weinhardt:  Did they have to do with any particular political issues that you know of?

Sorenson: No. Well – – No. I mean, I know that they were – – they were – – you know, they have a lot – – Listen, if you come to me I can’t honestly answer that question, because do you think somebody is from the far left is going to come ask me to help them?

Weinhardt: Well, my question is, there are organizations that are motivated by particular issues, guns, gay marriage, taxes, things like that.  Is there some issue that ICT was interested in your – –

Sorenson: Not a specific issue.

Weinhardt:  – – consulting about?

Sorenson: Not a specific issue.

Weinhardt:  So let me understand your testimony.  ICT paid you initially $33,000 and then $8,000 a month for a number of months for you to help them find locations for videos and things?

Sorenson: And also information on various voting blocks.

Weinhardt: But you never discussed and identifiable candidate or identifiable issue, and it had nothing to do with anyone running for president?

Sorenson: No.

Weinhardt:  And as you sit here today, you can’t remember the last name of the person who paid you the money?

Sorenson: I told you the name, I don’t recall the spelling.

Weinhardt:  Okay.

Sporer: Is it Spaniel, like the dog?

Sorenson: Spanio.  It’s like, S-p-a-n-i-o, but I’m not sure.

Weinhardt: When were you first approached by this person Spanio?

Sorenson: The first time I met him, I believe, would have been in 2010.  I believe so.

The deposition then went on to ask Sorenson a number of questions about his cell phone, laptop, and iPad before Sorenson had to leave to make a real estate meeting.  When Sorenson returned to Weinhardt’s law office to continue the deposition four days later on September 23rd, he informed Weinhardt that he intended on invoke his Fifth Amendment rights due to the ongoing federal investigation.  Ted Sporer, Sorenson’s attorney, told the Associated Press on Thursday, “Sorenson quit talking after receiving a federal subpoena seeking records related to his campaign work.”

Sorenson’s lack of information and knowledge regarding his own financial dealings with ICT is odd considering that the money he received from that client represents the largest single source of revenue for him in 2011 and 2012. Are we really to believe that someone who Sorenson can’t identify by name or by the state in which they do business, offered him $73,000 out of the blue because that person wants him to run for the United States Senate?

Are we also to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the $73,000 he received from ICT in 2012 just happens to equal an initial payment of $25,000, plus six monthly installments at $8,000 a month?  That six months worth of compensation also just happens to correspond with the timeframe that Ron Paul was still a candidate for the president.  The specific amount of $8,000 per month in compensation also just happens to correspond with the Dorr memo from August of 2011, which laid out Sorenson’s list of demands in return for his support of Ron Paul.

While we don’t yet really know who or what ICT, Inc., we do know that it is a business entity association with documentary film maker Noel “Sonny” Izon.  We also don’t know exactly how ICT may be connected with Ron Paul’s political apparatus, but there seems to be a connection that links ICT to Ron Paul’s Deputy National Campaign Manager, Dimitri Kesari.

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 3.52.24 PMPavlo Kesari, Dimitri’s brother, is Facebook friends with a Noel Izon from Maryland.  Izon’s Facebook profiles says that he works for the AFL-CIO. A LexisNexis search found that Mr. Izon has a possible email address of and links him to an address in Hyattsville, Maryland.  LexisNexis states that he is the manager of Tropical Investments, the President of Interactive Communication Technology (ICT, Inc.), and other film companies named An Open Door Production and Scorpion Pictures, LLC.

Is it just another coincidence that Dimitri Kesari’s brother just happens to be friends with the guy who paid Sorenson $73,000?  I highly doubt it.

Sorenson may have resigned his office, but that doesn’t mean that Iowans don’t deserve answers to these questions.  Hopefully a federal investigation will settle this matter for once and for all.

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Special Investigator Reveals Mountain of Evidence Against Sorenson

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 findings:

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.

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 8.38.55 PMWhen 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.”

Weinhardt’s findings:

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.

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 9.14.08 PMSorenson 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.

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Sorenson Resigns from Iowa Senate

Senator Dix calls for Senator Sorenson’s resignation

DES MOINES – Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, today called for Senator Kent Sorenson’s resignation from the Iowa Senate.

Senator Dix asked for the resignation Wednesday afternoon after the special investigator, appointed by the Senate Ethics Committee, released a finding of “probable cause” regarding the Senate Ethics complaint against Senator Sorenson.

“Today, I called for Senator Sorenson’s resignation, and he agreed to do so effective immediately,” Senator Dix said.

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Why Does Sorenson Keep Changing His Story?

State Senator Kent Sorenson doesn’t just have legal trouble stemming from his financial dealings with two presidential campaigns.  He also has trouble telling the truth.

On the evening before published its initial story that outlined Sorenson’s financial dealings with the Paul campaign, Sorenson was asked for comment on the information that was about to be published.

Sorenson said all the information that Dennis Fusaro had provided us was fabricated and that the source of the information was just bitter after being let go from the National Right to Work Committee.   In a follow up question, Sorenson was asked directly if he had been given a check at a dinner meeting with Dimitri Kesari.  He said no.  He was then asked if his wife had been given a check from Kesari.  He said no again and then reiterated that the entire story was made up.

Last week, Sorenson’s attorney, Theodore Sporer, admitted to the Des Moines Register that Sorenson was still in possession of that check, but Sporer stated that Sorenson did nothing wrong because he never cashed it.  If that is indeed the case, why then did Sorenson blatantly lie to when confronted about the check a month ago?

Sporer’s statement to the Des Moines Register also contradicts what he told the Minnesota Star Tribune back on August 7th.  When asked about Sorenson’s dealings with the Paul campaign, Sporer told the Star Tribune, “There was no money that changed hands. There was no direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign.”

Mr. Sporer may believe that an uncashed check is “simply an autograph,” but according to the legal dictionary on, “a check is a written order instructing a bank to pay upon its presentation to the person designated in it, or to the person possessing it, a certain sum of money from the account of the person who draws it.”  Sporer’s assertion that there was no direct or indirect payment from the Paul campaign is an insult to the intelligence of Iowans.

Sorenson’s possession of the check begs an obvious question – why didn’t Sorenson ever cash it?  One would assume that the reason he’s never cashed it because he knows that doing so would be wrong or even illegal.  Sorenson’s new defense also suggests that he hasn’t had anything to do with the three high-ranking national staffers with Ron Paul’s presidential campaign since the caucuses, but that’s not true either.

On September 15, 2012, Sorenson and his wife traveled to Chantilly, Virginia, to speak at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference, which is put on by the Campaign for Liberty.  The President of the Campaign for Liberty is John Tate, Paul’s 2012 campaign manager.  It was with Tate that Sorenson, through Aaron Dorr, began negotiating the terms of his defection from the Bachmann campaign back in October of 2011.  So, while Sorenson’s attorney wants people to ignore an uncashed check, there is still an ongoing relationship between Sorenson and the Campaign for Liberty.

It’s understandable why Sorenson wants this scandal to go away, but the amount of evidence that contradicts Sorenson’s side of the story continues to grow.   Sorenson’s side of the story would be more believable if it was consistent, but it’s not.  Even if you believe Sorenson’s current storyline, then he lied to the press when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked him “Was money offered to you by anyone in the Ron Paul camp to jump ship?”  Sorenson responded “Absolutely not.”

Again, Sorenson needs to come clean.  The Senate Ethics Committee is small potatoes compared to everything else that is involved in this pay-to-play scheme.  Furthermore, Iowans deserve the truth, not more lies, and not more finger pointing.  It’s time for Sorenson to step up, be a man, and take responsibility for his own actions.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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Zaun: Sorenson Should Resign – Scandal has been “Major Distraction for Senate Republicans”

For the second time in two weeks, a Republican state senator has stepped forward to voice his disappointment in fellow Republican Sen. Kent Sorenson.  Sen. Brad Zaun was on WHO TV’s Insiders program with Dave Price on Sunday.  The straight talking Polk County lawmaker didn’t beat around the bush.  He wants Sorenson to resign.

“I know the answers to many of the allegations,” Zaun told WHO TV’s Dave Price.  “I’m part of the police investigation in Urbandale as well as the ethics investigation.  With that said, I think its been a big distraction for the Senate Republicans, and I would agree with senators Chelgren and Whitver that he needs to resign.”

Price pressed Zaun and asked if he meant that Sorenson should resign now or once the ethics investigation has been concluded.  Zaun reaffirmed his position by saying, “I know answers.  I think Senator Sorenson should resign.”

Zaun also stated that even if Sorenson’s wife or one of his children were paid directly or indirectly by the Ron Paul campaign, it would be a violation of the ethics rules in the Iowa Senate.

After taping the segment, Zaun went to his Facebook page and wrote that, while some people may consider his remarks on Sorenson to be controversial, he’s calling “a spade is a spade.”  Zaun also wrote, “My dad always told me, ‘Tell the truth, and you will never have to remember what you said.’ Well that is how I live my life and always will!”

Earlier this month, released documents and emails that showed that Sorenson had solicited payment in advance of defecting from Michele Bachmann’s campaign to support Ron Paul just days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.  An audio recording of Sorenson confirmed that Paul’s National Deputy Campaign Manager Demitri Kesari had dinner with Sorenson and his wife where he presented Sorenson’s wife a check from Kesari’s jewelry store.

Sorenson is already under investigation for violating Iowa Senate ethics rules that preclude state senators from receiving payment from presidential campaigns.  Sorenson has also emphatically denied any wrongdoing despite mounting evidence that suggests otherwise.

Even though three Republican State Senators have now called for Sorenson to resign, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix has kept quite on the matter.  After being asked for comment on Sunday by, Dix released a statement saying, “The Senate Ethics Committee has appointed a special investigator to examine all the allegations involving Senator Sorenson.  There is a process in place, and it is in place for a reason. Senate Republican leadership believes in the importance of allowing the process to work to maintain the integrity of the Iowa Senate.”

When the ethics complaint was filed against Sorenson in regards to his dealings with the Bachmann campaign back in February, the Senate caucus staff helped craft and send out Sorenson’s statement denying any wrongdoing in that matter.  This time,  Dix seems to be taking a more hands-off approach, and it is interesting that no similar formal statement denying wrongdoing has been made and released by Senate Republican caucus staff.

Below is the video and transcript of Zaun’s interview with Price about the Sorenson situation.

State Senator Brad Zaun:  We’ve had conversations before, and I’ve talked to a lot of press.  I know the answers to many of the allegations.  I’m part of the police investigation in Urbandale as well as the ethics investigation.  With that said, I think its been a big distraction for the Senate Republicans, and I would agree with senators Chelgren and Whitver that he needs to resign.  I think it’s unfortunate, and it gives all of us in the Iowa Senate a bad [name].  There’s always that temptation.  I worked for zero to help Michele [Bachmann] as well as other candidates, but I think when you take any kind of money, legal or not legal, it takes away the genuineness of the endorsement.

Dave Price: To be clear here, are you saying that he should resign now, or he should resign once after this investigation has gone through and it’s been found that he took it?

State Senator Brad Zaun:  I know answers.  I think Senator Sorenson should resign.

Dave Price: In your mind, if a campaign offered your wife the money and not you, does that still violate the sprit of the Senate ethics rule?

State Senator Brad Zaun:  I think it does.  If you look at the ethics rules, the rules say it would be your wife or a family member.  I personally would never.  Let’s let the investigation go forward, but I think it’s been a major distraction for Senate Republicans, and I think he should resign.

State Representative Clel Baudler also had some tough words regarding Sorenson. At the Adair County Lincoln Dinner in Greenfield on Sunday night he said, “He’s a cancer in our party. And you cut it out if you have a cancer in there.”

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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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Display of Strength: Branstad Campaign Unveils 1,033 County Chairs

Governor Terry Branstad may be waiting for the calendar to turn to 2014 before he officially announces his re-election campaign, but his campaign is already in full swing.  The Branstad-Reynolds campaign will announce today that it has already surpassed 1,000 county chairs, a staggering display of campaign organization that is rarely seen in statewide contests in Iowa.

Branstad already enjoys two other major advantages over the two Democrats who hope to challenge him next fall.  The first is the universal name I.D. that comes with being the longest serving governor in the state’s history.  The second his is his robust fundraising ability.  When you add on top of that the Branstad campaign’s grassroots organization, the Democrats’ chances of defeating the five-term governor go from bad to worse.

To put the Branstad campaign’s organizational feat in to perspective, just consider that it took Congressman Bruce Braley twenty weeks to secure 130 county coordinators for his U.S. Senate campaign, and like Branstad, Braley doesn’t have a primary opponent.  Not only is Branstad’s grassroots organization nine-times larger than Braley’s, but it was also accomplished in a much shorter timeframe.

Phil Valenziano, the Branstad campaign’s political director, was hired in the beginning of May.  The campaign’s four field directors, Kaylee Carnahan, Jacob Johnson, Matt Leopold, and Nic Pottebaum, didn’t join the campaign until July 30th.  That means in less than three weeks time, the Branstad campaign has assembled an organization that will be difficult for who ever his Democrat opponent may be to match in the general election.

The Branstad campaign is also quick to note that they are only in the initial stages of organizing their grassroots efforts.  “This is just the beginning of our continual work to build the strongest grassroots organization Iowa Republicans have ever seen,” said campaign manager Jake Ketzner. “We find as we visit with Iowans they are proud to join Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds’ team because of their tireless work bringing jobs to Iowa, growing our family incomes, providing a world-class education for our children and reining in frivolous government spending.”

Jon Laudner, an Iowa State University student, is Branstad’s Story County Co-Chair and a Floyd County native.  “As an Iowa State University student, I appreciate the governor and lieutenant governor’s work to provide the first tuition freeze at Regent universities in over thirty years,” Laudner stated.  “I also know Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds are working diligently to bring even more good, high-paying jobs to Iowa to keep young people like myself in our state.”

Dr. Scott Ihrke, a small business owner and a Co-Chair in Plymouth County, appreciated the work the Branstad-Reynolds teams has done to improve the state’s business climate.  “Unlike businesspeople in other states, small business owners like myself have the fortune of having a governor and lieutenant governor who have restored predictability and stability in state budgeting. Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds’ leadership has allowed my business the ability to grow without the fear of looming tax hikes and government red tape.”

A longtime GOP activist, Joni Scotter, is serving as one of the campaign’s Linn County Co-Chairs.  “Iowa was in serious trouble four years ago, but under Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa’s unemployment has dropped significantly from 6.1 to 4.6 percent, our budget is balanced and transformational education reform has been passed. I’m on team Branstad-Reynolds because the governor and lieutenant governor are building Iowa for a prosperous future.”

While Republicans appear to be eager to help Branstad win a historic sixth term as Iowa’s governor, Branstad’s Democrat opponents are finding it difficult to take issue with his accomplishments over the past four years.  Last week, State Senator Jack Hatch spent $40,000 on a TV ad attacking Branstad over a speeding incident involving the Governor’s black SUV that was being driven by a State Trooper at the time.  Cedar Rapids State Representative Tyler Olson, on the other hand, spent the week trying to get Brandstad to call for Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson’s resignation over a pay-to-endorse scandal involving Sorenson and Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

While the 2014 general election is still a long ways away, the fact that Branstad’s opponents are trying to make political hay over controversies that don’t directly involve the governor himself is telling.  Hatch is also quick to criticize Branstad for not implementing various provisions of Obamacare, but that’s not necessarily an issue that’s going to help Hatch in the general election.

Even though Democrats believe that Branstad is vulnerable in 2014, it will be difficult for them to make the case to Iowans for why Branstad should not be re-elected to another term.  Four years ago, the budget was a mess, and state government stricken with scandals.  To Branstad’s credit, he not only quickly turned around Iowa’s finances, but he has also proven that, by putting qualified people in charge of state agencies, government run more efficiently.

Branstad’s display of organizational strength only confirms that Iowans are more than happy with Branstad’s leadership.  Below is a list of the 1,030 Iowans who have signed on to help the Branstad-Reynolds campaign win re-election in 2014.

Branstad, Reynolds announce 1,033 county chairs

Chairs secured in all 99 Iowa counties; Organization and county chairs continue to be recruited

(URBANDALE, Iowa) – Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ campaign committee – the Governor Branstad Committee – today announced the initial organization of 1,033 county chairs across the state. The organization, which will continue to grow as the campaign works to fill every precinct, includes co-chairs in every county.

Click here to view the Branstad-Reynolds campaign’s list of county co-chairs.








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