Former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo) who resigned from the Iowa Senate last fall plead guilty 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 for false testimony he gave to those investigating the allegations.
When Sorenson, age 42, resigned from the Iowa Senate he maintained his innocence on Facebook. “I did not do anything illegal. I never did anything that was against the Iowa Senate Ethics Rules as they are written,” Sorenson wrote. He later called the investigation a “sham” and “witch hunt” despite compelling evidence that he did break the rules.
“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 Leslie 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 FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Timothy Gallagher. “Exploiting the political process for personal gain will not be tolerated, and we will continue to pursue those who commit such illegal actions.”
Chief Magistrate Judge Celeste Bremer of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Iowa received his plea. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt is responsible for reviewing Sorenson’s plea. Sorenson’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. The Des Moines Register reports that Sorenson could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the first count, and 20 years in prison and $250,000 for the second count.
Sorenson admitted that he had supported Michelle Bachmann’s campaign for the 2012 presidential election, but from October to December 2011, he met and secretly negotiated with the Ron Paul campaign to switch his support in exchange for concealed payments that amounted to $73,000. Sorenson announced his switch of support and work from Bachmann to Paul on December 28, 2011.
Sorenson received monthly installments of $8000 concealed by transmitting the payments to a film production company, then through a second company, and then finally to Sorenson and his wife Shawnee. Sorenson denied the allegations at the time and said that the committee’s FEC filings would not show any payments to him.
Sorenson also admitted that he gave false testimony to the independent counsel appointed by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee in response to allegations made against him.
As part of the plea agreement Sorenson’s wife Shawnee will avoid charges.
Sorenson’s attorney F. Montgomery Brown in a released statement said, “As indicated by the Department of Justice, Kent Sorenson appeared this morning in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa and entered pleas of guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement to federal offenses relating to federal election campaign expenditure reports and obstruction of investigation. Mr. Sorenson’s pleas are part of the process of taking complete responsibility for the series of compounding errors and omissions he engaged in, aided and abetted, and participated in with others. The essential facts underpinning his pleas are set forth in the Stipulation of Facts and admitted during colloquy with the Magistrate Judge in open court. This is a very sad day for Mr. Sorenson, his family, and his friends, many of whom were in attendance in court. To the extent others may take glee with his predicament, there is nothing that can be done. In the end, Mr. Sorenson is a husband and father and as his counsel I urge respect for his family’s privacy.”
It certainly is a sad day, and this is a story that I hate writing. I don’t know what led to Sorenson making the decisions he did, and I don’t care to speculate. Dishonestly does lead to a cycle of dishonesty, and it is good that Sorenson has come clean which I’m sure was incredibly hard to do, but freeing at the same time. May Sorenson, who is a brother in Christ, experience the fruit of repentance, and draw closer to Jesus and his family in this time.
I ask our readers to join me in praying for peace for Kent and his family. Pray that they would grow in their faith. Pray that God would give them strength and comfort to carry them through this time. Pray for the truth to come out about others involved. Pray for God’s favor with sentencing. I don’t know if there is a reduced sentence on the table as part of his plea agreement or not. Pray that Kent, with grace and humility, will accept the consequences of his actions and that they will be just and fair.