Kent Sorenson (born March 29, 1972) is a former Iowa state legislator who resigned after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and other felonies related to campaign finances.[1]

Kent Sorenson
Kent Sorenson - Official Portrait - 84th GA.jpg
Member of the Iowa Senate
from the 13th district
In office
January 14, 2013 – October 2, 2013
Preceded byTod Bowman
Succeeded byJulian Garrett
Member of the Iowa Senate
from the 37th district
In office
January 10, 2011 – January 14, 2013
Preceded byStaci Appel
Succeeded byRobert Dvorsky
Member of the Iowa House of Representatives
from the 74th district
In office
January 12, 2009 – January 9, 2011
Preceded byMark Davitt
Succeeded byGlen Massie
Personal details
Born (1972-03-29) March 29, 1972 (age 47)
Des Moines, Iowa
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Shawnee
Children6
ResidenceIndianola, Iowa
WebsiteSorenson's legislative webpage

Sorenson graduated from Indianola High School in 1990. He was the owner and operator of Pro-Kleen Maintenance. According to his LinkedIn profile,[2] Sorenson is currently a realtor with EXIT Realty North Star in Norwalk, IA. Sorenson is not listed as an agent on the EXIT website.[3]

Sorenson resigned from office on October 2, 2013, after Iowa's Senate Ethics committee found "probable cause" that Sorenson violated state ethics rules by taking illegal payments from the Michele Bachmann (R MN) and Ron Paul (R TX) campaigns in the 2012 Republican Presidential primaries and that "his denials of doing so constituted felonious misconduct in office."[4] He was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the FEC and one count of obstruction of justice.[5]

Electoral historyEdit

Sorenson was first elected to the Iowa House in 2008, defeating incumbent Democrat Mark Davitt. Sorenson then ran for the Senate in 2010, defeating incumbent Democrat Staci Appel.

A Republican, he served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011, representing District 74 and then represented District 37 in the Iowa Senate. As of October 2013, Sorenson was a member of the Judiciary, Government Oversight, and State Government committees of the Iowa Senate. He was also the ranking member of both the Senate and Joint Oversight Committees and a member of the Advisory Council for Agricultural Education, the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Council, and the Human Rights Board.

Election Political result Candidate Party Votes %
Iowa House of Representatives elections, 2008 [6]
District 74
Turnout: 17,547
Republican gain from DemocraticKent SorensonRepublican8,84650.4
Mark Davitt* Democratic8,68349.5
Iowa Senate elections, 2010 [7]
District 37
Turnout: 29,139
Republican gain from DemocraticKent SorensonRepublican16,74857.5
Staci Appel* Democratic11,64640.0

*incumbent

Campaign finance violationsEdit

On December 28, 2011, Sorenson resigned as Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman and endorsed Ron Paul as his choice in the 2012 Iowa caucus and the presidency of the United States.[8] Sorenson made the announcement at a rally for Paul on December 28, 2011, stating, "I believe we're at a turning point in this campaign. I thought it was my duty to come to his aid, just like he came to my aid during my Senate race."[9]

Initial investigationEdit

In July 2012, Barb Heki, a Johnston, Iowa woman who once worked for Bachmann began legal proceedings against the former Bachmann campaign and her senior campaign aides, claiming Sorenson took an e-mail list from her private computer to promote Bachmann's candidacy among Christian homeschooling advocates before the Iowa caucuses, and that she was unjustly blamed for its use. (Court papers said she had told Sorenson that she would not provide the list to the campaign.) On September 11, Heki filed a police report stating that a private email list was stolen from her office at Bachmann's Iowa campaign office in Urbandale, Iowa sometime between November 1 and November 10, 2011. The police report lists the suspect as a 40-year-old man from Milo who is a state senator, but does not give the legislator's name. Sorenson, 40 at the time of the incident, was the only state senator from Milo.[10] The lawsuit also claims that Sorenson and Bachmann defamed Heki. Sorenson's lawyer said his client did not "make any defamatory or disparaging comments against Barb Heki. We'll present evidence that Senator Sorenson never said anything that could be construed as defamatory."[11]

In August 2013, conservative activist Dennis Fusaro claimed[12] that Sorenson backed Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential campaign after demanding money from the Paul campaign. State senate rules prohibit campaigns from paying senators directly or indirectly. The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee assigned a state special investigator, who reported "probable cause" that Sorenson had broken Senate rules by accepting money for presidential campaign work. The 566-page report stated that Sorenson had in fact received the alleged payments from a $25,000 check from a top official of Paul's presidential campaign, as well as from a political action committee connected to the Bachmann campaign.[13][14][15][16] Sorenson switched from Bachmann's campaign to Paul's in the closing days of the GOP caucuses. Bachmann claimed at the time that he defected to her competitor's team because they were paying him to do so. Sorenson had long denied being paid by any of the presidential campaigns. The investigator's report said Sorenson's denials may have violated state law – a class D felony for felonious misconduct by a public official.

The U.S. Justice Department has since subpoenaed records in connection with possible illegal campaign coordination between Bachmann's campaign and another PAC, but is at present unclear which federal law(s) the Department believes may have been broken. The New York Times has reported on a grand jury investigation which began after Heki filed her complaints with the Federal Election Commission. The Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant in mid-November 2013 at Sorenson's home, confiscating computers and other materials relating to communications. The Des Moines Register reported that the search was related to investigations of Sorenson's actions in the Bachmann and Paul campaigns.[17]

ResignationEdit

Sorenson resigned from his Iowa Senate office on October 2, 2013, after a special investigator appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court, Mark Weinhardt, found he likely violated ethics rules by taking money from political entities connected to former presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, then denied he'd done so (Iowa Senate Ethics Report [18][19]). According to the report, Sorenson received a $25,000 check and a $73,000 electronic banking transfer from the Ron Paul campaign. Iowa Attorney General's Office spokesman Geoff Greenwood stated October 3, 2013, that Sorenson could be charged with a crime and prosecuted. Further, Polk County Attorney John P. Sarcone stated that his office would review the report and consider filing charges if the facts warrant any action.

Federal chargesEdit

Sorenson pleaded guilty[20] to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the FEC and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with the concealed expenditures in August 27, 2014.[21][22] The Sorenson Statement of Facts implicates then Ron Paul Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton, Campaign Manager John Tate and Deputy Campaign Manager Demetri Kesari in the payments to Sorenson. Benton was indicted[23][24] for allegedly arranging $73,000 in payments to Sorenson to convince him to flip his presidential endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul, Rand Paul's father. Benton, Tate and Kesari were all found guilty.[25] Sorenson faces up to 25 years in prison following his guilty plea. The guilty plea was taken by Chief Magistrate Judge Celeste F. Bremer of the Southern District of Iowa for later review by Senior District Court Judge Robert W. Pratt.

SentencingEdit

Sorenson failed a condition of pre-sentencing probation on Sept. 30, 2014, as a drug test came back positive for marijuana.[26] The probation officer assigned to Sorenson asked that no action be taken in response to the drug test.

At a February 19, 2015, hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt, both sides sought a delay in sentencing because of a "larger investigation" of campaign misconduct.[27] On January 17, 2017, Judge Robert Pratt sentenced Sorenson to 15 months in prison and allowed him to turn himself in at a later date to begin his sentence. As Sorenson and his supporters left the courthouse after the sentencing, one of his daughters, Makala Sorenson-Barnes, attacked a photographer covering the event for WHO TV and can be heard screaming profanities as Sorenson and another daughter left the courthouse and hurriedly walked to a waiting vehicle without comment.[28]

Domestic abuseEdit

Sorenson was arrested July 17, 2015, near Milo by Warren County Sheriff's Deputies when a passerby noticed a disturbance and called authorities. The arrest report indicates two deputies were injured during the arrest. Sorenson was charged with domestic abuse, assault and interference with official acts.

The arrest report states Sorenson's wife, Jeannie Shawntell "Shawnee" Sorenson, was crying and left the house through a bedroom window after an argument and was observed walking down the road near Milo when someone called 911. Deputies reported Shawnee had redness around her left eye and stated she had been struck by Mr. Sorenson who is right-handed. During the arrest, Sorenson was aggressive with officers, banging his head against a squad car cage according to court records. Sorenson was charged with one count of domestic abuse and two counts of interference with official acts.[29]

PleaEdit

A February 23, 2016, trial for the one count of domestic abuse and two counts of interference with official act was cancelled following a plea agreement reached between prosecutors and Sorenson. (as of February 2016).[30] Sorenson made an Alford plea to the disorderly conduct charge, maintaining his innocence while admitting that he could be found guilty under the facts of the incident. The disorderly conduct charge is a simple misdemeanor and Sorenson faces a yet to be determined fine. The defense attorney representing Sorenson on the federal charges, contends it is difficult to know exactly how the misdemeanor conviction might affect Sorenson's eventual sentencing in the corruption case. Under federal sentencing guidelines, having a criminal history can increase the recommended amount of time a defendant should spend incarcerated.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Noble, Jason (February 19, 2015). "Exclusive: Sorenson hearing confirms ongoing investigation into possible 2012 caucus chicanery". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  2. ^ "Kent Sorenson LinkedIn profile". p. 35. Retrieved 2015-03-17.
  3. ^ "Meet-Our Des Moines and Norwalk IA Real Estate Agents". p. 35. Retrieved 2015-03-17.
  4. ^ "Kent Sorenson resigns after report finds he received money from Bachmann campaign". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "November 4, 2008 General Election Results". Iowa Secretary of State. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  7. ^ "Official Results Report, General Election held November 2, 2010" (PDF). Iowa Secretary of State. 2010-12-16. p. 35. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  8. ^ "Michele Bachmann chair defects to Ron Paul". Politico. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  9. ^ "Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman endorses Paul". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  10. ^ Noble, Jason. "Home-school advocate files criminal complaint in Michele Bachmann campaign email caper" Des Moines Register September 20, 2012
  11. ^ "Beaumont, Thomas (via AP). "Former Bachmann aide sues campaign, alleging theft" [[Minneapolis Star-Tribune]] July 30, 2012". Archived from the original on August 8, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  12. ^ David Weigel (via Slate). "Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Manager Resigns After Being Ensnared in Iowa Ron Paul Scandal" Slate August 29, 2014
  13. ^ Price, Dave (6 August 2013). "SORENSON SCANDAL: First Caucus Status At Risk". WHOtv.com. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  14. ^ In His Own Words: Sorenson Confirms Payment for Ron Paul Endorsement, Craig Robinson, The Iowa Republican, August 7, 2013
  15. ^ Mitch McConnell's Campaign Manager Says He Must 'Hold His Nose' To Work For Senator - And It's All On Tape!, Rick Ungar, Forbes, August 8, 2013
  16. ^ Ron Paul Campaign Accused of Trying to Buy Iowa Endorsements, Russ Choma, OpenSecrets.org, August 7, 2013
  17. ^ Jacobs, Jennifer. "FBI executes search warrant, takes computers from Kent Sorenson’s home" Des Moines Register December 4, 2013
  18. ^ "Report to the Senate Ethics Committee on the Investigation of State Senator Kent Sorenson: Part 1" (PDF). Des Moines Register. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  19. ^ "Report to the Senate Ethics Committee on the Investigation of State Senator Kent Sorenson: Part 2" (PDF). Des Moines Register. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  20. ^ "United States of America vs. Kent Leroy Sorenson" (PDF). US DOJ. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
  21. ^ "Ex-lawmaker pleads guilty in Iowa caucuses case". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  22. ^ "Former Iowa State Senator Pleads Guilty to Concealing Federal Campaign Expenditures". US DOJ. Retrieved 2014-08-30.
  23. ^ "Three Member of 2012 Presidential Campaign Staff Charged with Concealing Payments Made to State Sentor". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  24. ^ "Rand Paul super PAC head indicted over alleged 2012 campaign finance violations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  25. ^ [2] | May 11, 2018 | Court upholds convictions of 2012 Ron Paul campaign staffers | David Pitt, Associated Press | May 11, 2018 | [3]
  26. ^ "EKent Sorenson Pretrial Supervision Report". Scribd. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  27. ^ Noble, Jason (February 19, 2015). "Exclusive: Sorenson hearing confirms ongoing investigation into possible 2012 caucus chicanery". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  28. ^ http://whotv.com/2017/01/17/13raw-emotions-running-high-as-kent-sorenson-leaves-court/
  29. ^ "Ex-Iowa legislator allegedly hit wife, fought police". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  30. ^ Rodgers, Grant (February 23, 2016). "Former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleads guilty to disorderly conduct". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2016-02-24.

External linksEdit

Iowa Senate
Preceded by
Staci Appel
37th District
2011 – 2013
Succeeded by
Julian Garrett
Iowa House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mark Davitt
74th District
2009 – 2011
Succeeded by
Glen Massie