consultants are sandburs

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Michele Bachmann's and Ron Paul's friend in Iowa, Kent Sorenson, pleads to a count or two of back then being in need of a friendly loyalty bribe.

Is it one of those cases, loyalty to who paid him more, or to who paid him more recently?

Most recently apparently was Ron Paul's campaign, Rachel Maddow last night on MSNBC gleefully recounting detail, including not only the names Kent Sorenson, Michele Bachmann, Iowa, and Ron Paul, but the name Jesse Benton, which goes beyond opening old scabs, such as the fact that Benton was the manager of the Ron Paul campaign back when the bribe to switch endorsement from Bachmann to Paul was given Sorenson; to the present where Benton, due to his skill set no doubt, is presently (or was before the Sorenson plea hit the fan), reelection campaign manager for: Mitch McConnell (Rand Paul being the other senator from Kentucky, with his seat not up this cycle).

The Wikipedia item on Benton notes the Sorenson situation as allegations in the past, but now there is the plea by Sorenson (possibly a plea deal, one count in exchange for testimony). Benton's Wikipedia page likely will soon be updated to include this week's Sorenson plea deal.

In addition to the two links given above, (the DailyBeast item being quite succinct, with links), Politico reports, along with WaPo. A Google.

Yahoo News is on to the story, and why would you expect the thing would be covered in Texas? Because they understand criminal stuff there, indictments and such? Likely also understanding pleas touching the Paul family.

Strib reports the Bachmann dimension of the Sorenson plea; and is that the reason she declined another term in the Minnesota CD6 seat? Anticipating the timing likelihoods of this plea, to federal charges? Strib's lead image, for the report - that Sorenson looks like such a nice, decent, genuine-integrity guy - one you'd trust with your money. No wonder he was attractive to these image-conscious Republican politicians. Likewise, Jesse Benton? Photo collage:

Jesse and Ron.
Jesse and Mitch
Jesse and Walt

Wait. Sorry. That last one is a different Jesse. So please substitute in your minds this clearly Photoshopped image.

UPDATE: This link, to reach the online video of last night's Rachel Maddow coverage, (link discovered at the post end here).

__________FURTHER UPDATE_________
The Justice Dept. press release dated Aug. 27, 2014, on the Sorenson "plea agreement" is online here, stating:

“An elected official 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 Caldwell. “Campaign finance reports should be accurate and transparent, not tools for concealing campaign expenditures. Lying by public officials – whether intended to obstruct the FEC or federal investigators – violates the public trust and the law, and the Department of Justice does not tolerate it.”

“Today, Mr. Sorenson has taken responsibility for his crimes,” said Acting Assistant Director in Charge Gallagher. “Exploiting the political process for personal gain will not be tolerated, and we will continue to pursue those who commit such illegal actions.”

Kent Sorenson, 42, of Milo, Iowa, pleaded guilty today to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with the concealed expenditures. 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. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, 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. On Dec. 28, 2011, at a political event in Des Moines, Iowa, Sorenson publicly announced his switch of support and work from one candidate to the other.

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. In response to criticism of his change of support for the candidates, Sorenson gave interviews to the media denying allegations that he was receiving any money from the second campaign committee, and noted that the committee’s FEC filings would show that the committee made no payments to him.

In his plea agreement, Sorenson also admitted that he gave false testimony to an independent counsel appointed at the request of the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, which was investigating allegations from a former employee of the first presidential campaign. Sorenson testified falsely to the independent counsel about the concealed payments, in part to obstruct investigations that he anticipated by the FBI and FEC .

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the Omaha Field Office and the Des Moines Resident Agency. The case is being prosecuted by Election Crimes Branch Director Richard C. Pilger and Trial Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

Well, sentencing is pending, and only criminality by Sorensen is stated, with "one campaign" and "secretly negotiated with a second political campaign to switch his support" not, yet, naming names. Is there any reader wanting to bet that there will not be other shoes to drop? And, "On Dec. 28, 2011, at a political event in Des Moines, Iowa, Sorenson publicly announced his switch of support and work from one candidate to the other."

Timing is everything? It's some time later, and while this is not an October Surprise, it's an August How-do-you-do.

Hello, Mitch. Mr. Holder wonders, how're things going? Picking up the pace on the backstretch?

As to other shoes likely dropping, there is that last press release paragraph stating, "The case is being prosecuted by Election Crimes Branch Director Richard C. Pilger and Trial Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section," i.e., use of the present tense instead of "was prosecuted" for a plea deal closing the criminal fault book on Sorenson. Wording like that surely implies other action is contemplated. Closing a book chapter on the Sorenson plea, together with that language, suggests more chapters of the book will be written. Possibly touching upon the Bachmann boogie back home. One can hope.

Last thing, that press release references a "statement of facts" also filed with the federal district court in Iowa, along with Sorenson's plea. If any reader knows of a publicly open online link for that statement, giving its detail, a comment or email would be welcome. (In general: Federal district court filings, our federal courts' stuff, is, shamefully, behind a paywall. Go figure that one.) [UPDATE: See sidebar at "Let's Make a Deal," per the caption there; it was found online. Also, here, for link to a 566 p. report finding "probable cause" to conclude Sorenson violated criminal law.]

__________FURTHER UPDATE__________
Regarding CD6 retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann, Strib wrote:

Sorenson publicly announced that he switched his support from Bachmann to Paul on Dec. 28, 2011, just days before the Iowa Caucus. [...]

At the time, Sorenson said it was clear that Bachmann was no longer a viable contender.

“The fact is, there is a clear top tier in the race for the Republican nomination for president, both here in Iowa and nationally,” Sorenson said. “Ron Paul is easily the most conservative of this group.”

Bachmann’s congressional staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sorenson’s plea.

[...] Last year, a special investigator found probable cause that Sorenson violated Iowa’s ethic rules by taking money from committees tied to Bachmann’s campaign by laundering the money through separate consulting firms.
Iowa Senate ethics rules prohibit legislators from receiving payment for work on political campaigns.

On two separate occasions, Sorenson issued written statements to the Senate Ethics Committee, denying that the Bachmann campaign paid him.

Bachmann has also denied the allegations that her campaign paid Sorenson.

[italics added] In subsequent enlarged reporting, Strib added:

Bachmann investigations continue

It remains unclear what implications Sorenson’s plea could have for Bachmann, whose presidential campaign remains under investigation by several federal agencies.

In December FBI field agents seized materials from Sorenson’s home related to his work for the Paul and Bachmann campaigns.

The raid came two months after a special investigator appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court found probable cause that Sorenson violated its rules by taking money from committees tied to Bachmann’s campaign by laundering the money through separate consulting firms.

Iowa Senate ethics rules prohibit legislators from receiving payment for work on political campaigns.

[...] The congresswoman’s presidential campaign also faces an active investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee.

A federal grand jury probe of top Bachmann campaign operatives, including Bachmann’s husband, Marcus Bachmann, was revealed last fall.

The U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed financial registers of the National Fiscal Conservative (NFC) Political Action Committee, which allegedly agreed to help raise funds for a Bachmann campaign mailer ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

The Federal Election Commission is also probing allegations of illegal coordination between the Bachmann campaign and the NFC PAC, as well as with Bachmann’s own political action committee, MichelePAC.

Bachmann announced last spring that she would not seek another term in Congress.

[emphasis added] Leaving in disgrace is no surprise to those thinking her entire political career was a massive disgrace.

In terms of possible money laundering, does any reader know of any payments to Sorenson from MichelePAC?

If so, comments on point would be appreciated.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE______________
This link, 19 pages of detail
That Florida address again, the one online for MichelePAC, Nancy Watkins there, noted as hired by Bachmann in a Sept. 12, 2013, Beltway Insiders item headlined, "Bachmann Hires ‘Fixer’ for Campaign Money Troubles," which reported:

Nancy Watkins, a well-known campaign finance treasurer in GOP circles, submitted paperwork a few weeks ago naming her the new treasurer of both campaign accounts for the Minnesota Republican. Watkins is still the treasurer for Bachmann’s failed 2011 presidential bid, and despite allegations of impropriety surrounding that campaign, Watkins’ stewardship of that account has not been questioned.

“She is a fixer, in terms of coming in and cleaning-up the mess that other people left behind,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox.

Kappel described Watkins as a “total straight arrow” who has been asked by other troubled GOP campaign committees to “clean up the books.”

Former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., brought Watkins in to help him fix his reporting lapses. He ended up paying the FEC a hefty $99,000 fine.

Former Arizona GOP Rep. Rick Renzi also hired Watkins to help him deal with FEC violations. He paid a $25,000 fine. Earlier this year, Renzi was found guilty of 17 felonies connected to a land-swap deal, including conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering.

Like others before her, Bachmann appears to face some potential legal troubles. An Office of Congressional Ethics report released Wednesday said there was “substantial reason” to believe that Bachmann authorized or failed to prevent illegal contributions between her campaign committees, and that she improperly mixed promotion of her book, “Core of Conviction,” with her presidential campaign activities.

In particular, Bachmann is accused of using her leadership PAC, Michele PAC, to subsidize her presidential campaign activities, particularly when it came to paying Guy Short, the director of the leadership PAC.

The OCE explained in its summary:

During the course of the presidential campaign, Mr. Short was compensated by both Representative Bachmann’s leadership PAC and her presidential campaign. Funds from the leadership PAC may have been used to subsidize her presidential campaign.

After Representative Bachmann launched her presidential campaign, Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson was named as her campaign’s Iowa State Chairman. Mr. Short and other consultants to Representative Bachmann’s presidential campaign may have arranged to compensate Senator Sorenson for his service to her campaign by directing payments to Senator Sorenson through Mr. Short’s consulting firm.

During Representative Bachmann’s presidential campaign, she engaged in a series of promotional activities for her book, Core of Conviction, including a multi-stop book tour organized and paid for by the book’s publisher. Representative Bachmann may have used funds from her presidential campaign to promote her book, and may have used book promotional activities paid for by the publisher to promote her presidential campaign.

Around that time NY Times similarly reported, with an image showing Bachmann holding a neat looking presidential campaign tee shirt for her loyalists, a blue one commparably colored to one featured in the sidebar in a link accompanying a red tee shirt image.

Going further, there are links readers can pursue, but listing more would be cumulative. Readers, however, are urged to check that CREW pdf report imaged above.

_________FURTHER UPDATE_________
A parting thought but one having 2016 implications. What did Ron Paul know, and when did he know it? The usual prosecutorial ploy in negotiating a plea deal is to seek out and negotiate with a lynch-pin person in the deepest end of the criminal liability pool, within the full range of investigated dealings, who can sit on a witness chair and provide first-person testimonial facts reaching in a host of directions. Somebody with something to trade.

Kent Sorenson seems that person, in this scenario, and pleading to only two federal counts with sentencing pending, where prosecutorial recommendation one way or another will weigh heavily in the sentence given; that pattern suggests a gift that will for a while keep on giving. Over time. With voters listening.


Anonymous said...

Paragraph after paragraph disparaging successful people who willingly contributing to a person or political party. BUT Not a word written about forcing people to contribute to a single political party through a union to which they are forced to pay tribute.

eric zaetsch said...

Yeah, anon. It's like having to pay more for gas because those corporate big wigs buy lobbyists and politicians, and that cost gets passed through to you and me.

Big Pharma, same story.

Politicians competing to buy Sorenson, with some kind of pass through there, ultimately to the public paying more for needed goods.

It is not fair, is it?

eric zaetsch said...

Anon. Which union in particular do you have a grudge against?

The general impression, contrary to your comment, is that union workers get better pay and benefits than those not in a union, in part via concerted worker-friendly politics.

You prefer free loaders? Get the benefit of union effort, but "right to work" [for less] does not apply because they pay no dues but the union still helps.

What's the problem with that? You like to see labor exploited? Pinkertons? Strike breakers?

That McConnell, kissing up to Koch backsides, costs you money at the pump for their subsidizing him. Happy camper, do it to me?

Anonymous said...

And you think blocking the Keystone pipeline doesn't increase the price I pay at the pump? And you think blocking it isn't playing to the Dem base for votes?

Anonymous said...

I for one am furious over the fact that my tax dollars were used to bail out the UAW ie GM..And that is just the beginning..Teachers unions? can you even began to understand the conflict to the tax payers? money is being confiscated from me through taxes to support your corrupt political party. And now you are using the full weight of the IRS to silence my political views. You are a corrupt blind old man living in the stone age.

eric zaetsch said...

Who said that? Abigale Whelan?

Is that what #MillennialTakeBack means?

#MillennialTakeBack is what, old fashioned name calling with a hashtag? From a scarecrow head out of Oz?

(Note, I for one will not get caught up in name-calling. It is unbecoming. Impolite. And in critizing education, whoever you are; do note, Abigale Whelan IS its output; carried to a much greater degree than normal people go that way, then doing a job search at a party caucus, where other products of our educational system buy in big time. You just might have a point in critizing effectiveness of education in our nation - given example output.)