A well-known conservative state senator in Iowa who abruptly dropped his support for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in the 2012 presidential campaign and backed Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) just days before the Iowa caucuses allegedly sought payments from the Paul campaign in return for his endorsement, according to materials published this week.Sorenson ended up endorsing Paul's campaign in December, 2011, after which Bachmann instantly accused him of taking cash to switch teams. Sorenson, however, denies taking any money and says there was never a payola scheme.
State Sen. Kent Sorenson wanted to be paid $8,000 a month through the fall of 2012 and receive a $100,000 donation for his leadership PAC, according to an e-mail that one of his associates wrote on Oct. 29, 2011, to John Tate, Paul’s campaign manager. The e-mail was published by the conservative site TheIowaRepublican.com and OpenSecrets.org, the Web site of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
But according to Dennis Fusaro, a former Ron Paul aide who went public this week with allegations of the pay-to-play scheme, Sorenson is not telling the truth. To support his claim, Fusaro released emails and an audio recording of a phone call that he says was between Sorenson and himself.
If the emails and audio recording prove to be authentic, it not only undermines Sorenson's claim, but could create a problem for former Ron Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton—who is now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager. That's because one of the emails released by Fusaro shows that Benton was familiar with at least some of Sorenson's terms and conditions for joining the Paul campaign, yet nonetheless urged Sorenson to "revisit ... joining our team." Benton did not explicitly reference any cash offer, but his language makes it clear that he believed something was on the table. "The window is sill [sic] open, but it will close in the next few days," Benton wrote.
In addition to the email, Fusaro released a telephone conversation between Sorenson and himself. In the conversation, Fusaro and Sorenson discuss a $30,000 check that a Ron Paul aide had delivered to Sorenson after his endorsement. Sorenson asks Fusaro whether Ron Paul's inner circle is aware of the check, which he said he would not cash, and Fusaro responds in the affirmative, saying that he thinks Benton was aware of it. Sorenson concurs: "Oh, I know that Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows."
Thus far, Benton has remained silent about the allegations that he was involved in and aware of the payola scheme. According to The Washington Post, neither he nor McConnell's campaign have responded to inquiries about the allegations. However, in an email released by Fusaro, Benton did say that his former colleague was "an insane and delusional person," adding that he hopes he "will get help."