Mitch McConnell has more pressing things to worry about: a wealthy tea partier primarying him, a fresh-faced Democrat challenging him — to say nothing of the difficulties of holding his Senate conference together in a time of GOP civil war.
But McConnell might need to add Kent Sorenson, an obscure former Iowa state senator, to his list. Sorenson resigned from office in October after a special investigator in Iowa found probable cause that he broke state law by lying about accepting payment to work on Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign. He’s also suspected of taking money from Ron Paul’s campaign to switch his support to that candidate — whose operatives are now deeply linked to McConnell’s.
Last month, the FBI seized Sorenson’s family computers and told his attorney it was looking into his contact with 2012 presidential campaigns. It’s not clear what aspect interests them, but if the Iowa investigator’s report is any indication, the federal probe could have implications for McConnell’s 2014 Senate bid.
The Iowa investigator found that while working on the Bachmann campaign, Sorenson knowingly tried to circumvent the state Senate’s ethics rules barring Iowa lawmakers from work for pay on presidential races; he had the money sent to his own firm through the political consulting firm of a Bachmann aide. Just days before the Iowa caucuses, though, Sorenson’s wife received a check for $25,000 from Paul’s deputy campaign manager, Dimitri Kesari. Then Sorenson left Bachmann’s faltering campaign and endorsed Paul.
After Sorenson’s desertion, Bachmann claimed publicly that he had told her he’d been paid “a lot of money” to defect to the Paul camp. Sorenson denied it — until a former Paul campaign aide leaked to The Iowa Republican, a website that covers party politics, an audio clip in which a person said to be Sorenson admits receiving the check, written from the jewelry business of Kesari’s wife. Sorenson, who never cashed the check, has since turned it over to investigators.
In August, the same Paul aide leaked another recording to The Republican of former Paul campaign Chairman Jesse Benton, who is now managing McConnell’s campaign. In it, the aide asks Benton whether he knew about the check. Benton replies, “I don’t know anything about that.” But on another recording obtained by The Republican, Sorenson suggests that Benton was aware. “I know Jesse knows,” Sorenson can be heard saying. The Republican also posted emails between a Sorenson ally and Paul campaign officials in which the ally details the money needed for Sorenson to make the switch. (Kesari and Benton did not respond to messages requesting comment.)
There’s more. Last week, Open Secrets, a site that tracks federal campaign contributions, found that McConnell’s Federal Election Commission reports cite payments to Hyllus Corp. for consulting. The money was sent to a P.O. box that had previously been used to send checks to Kesari, who cut the original check to Sorenson. McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore tells National Journal that Hyllus “was contracted in early 2013 for a specific project, which was accomplished last spring.
The campaign has had no further dealings with Hyllus or Mr. Kesari since the completion of the project.”
While Sorenson didn’t cash his $25,000 check, it still might have broken federal campaign finance laws: If the check was written in exchange for something of value, the campaign would have been required to disclose it to the FEC as an in-kind contribution. That didn’t happen. Whatever investigators find could be a lot worse for the Bachmann and Paul camps. But questions about Kesari’s consulting for McConnell’s campaign and what his campaign manager knew at the time are the last thing the Senate minority leader needs.
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When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage.
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Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."
Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.
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