Courts & Crime

Former Iowa state senator pleads guilty in presidential endorsement scheme

A former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal campaign finance charge for his part in a sneaky presidential endorsement-selling scheme.

Once a player in Iowa politics, Kent Sorenson “admitted that he accepted under-the-table payments from a campaign committee to secure his support and services for a candidate in the 2012 presidential election,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell.

Sorenson served as state chair for the presidential campaign of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann until shortly before the Jan. 3, 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses. In a dramatic stroke, Sorenson then announced he was switching his support to Ron Paul.

According to the Justice Department, Sorenson “admitted that he had supported one campaign for the 2012 presidential election, but from October to December 2011, he met and secretly negotiated with a second political campaign to switch his support to that second campaign in exchange for concealed payments that amounted to $73,000.”

The payments included monthly installments of approximately $8,000 each and were concealed by transmitting them to a film production company, then through a second company, and finally to Sorenson and his spouse, according to the Justice Department.

Sorenson also admitted that he gave false testimony to an independent counsel who was investigating allegations from a former employee of the Bachmann campaign. Sorenson had previously sold his endorsement to Bachmann, the earlier ethics report found.

“It is manifestly clear that in early 2011, Senator Sorenson negotiated for and obtained compensation, that ultimately reached $7,500 per month, from Bachmann campaign entities in exchange for his support of Representative Bachmann,” the earlier report noted.

Put another way, Sorenson seemed to be sellling his endorsement to the highest bidder, as the $7,500 per month paid for his Bachmann endorsement was trumped by the $8,000 per month paid for the Ron Paul endorsement.