Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Why Sorenson Matters

If you haven't read it yet, I want you to leave this page right now and read Craig Robinson's piece from yesterday in TheIowaRepublican, "The Payoff - Details Revealed on Sorenson's Deal With Ron Paul." Get another cup of coffee, it's a long read. But do it.

You're back. All done? You didn't? Do what I told you.

Still didn't? OK, the tl;dr version for those with short attention spans.
Documents obtained by suggest that State Senator Kent Sorenson sought and likely received financial compensation from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign before he ditched Michele Bachmann just days before the Iowa caucuses.

To date, only Sorenson’s dealings with the Bachmann campaign have been made public. New information has been provided to that details the courting of Sorenson by the Paul campaign, which began in October 2011, long before his public endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul on December 28, 2011.

In total, the asking price for Sorenson’s defection was $208,000. That’s $88,000 for Sorenson, $20,000 for (Sorenson’s clerk and right-hand man) Chris Dorr, and $100,000 for (a) newly created state PAC.
The allegations are documented in meticulous, mind-numbing detail.

It's no secret that TheIowaRepublican and the current state party leadership have a relationship of mutual loathing. And someone with an axe to grind against Sorenson and the state party was obviously a great deal of help to Robinson. But Craig's point of view and his long standing as a top level party activist takes nothing away from this solid work of journalism. My beret is tipped in salute.

This is not how we play in Iowa. This is something out of Boss Hogg or Boss Tweed.
You're not supposed to be able to buy an Iowa state senator under the table. And you still can't. That is, unless the state senator is as shameless and self-centered as Kent Sorenson. He's a disgrace even to those who share his hard-right views. He permanently damaged the standing and reputation of one of the state's leading home-school activists, letting her take the fall for the improper use of the group's email list that was not for sale at any price. And how much of Michele Bachmann's fall from favor, while certainly deserved, between October and December was because her state chair was secretly looking for a sweeter deal?

This is important to Democrats, too. It's important to all Iowans.

Iowa's special first in the nation place in the presidential nominating process is already in serious danger. The too close to call, flip-flopped 2012 Republican caucus result was just bad luck. But the aftermath - the removal of the competent Matt Strawn as party chair and his replacement by A.J. Spiker and the Ron Paul faction, the Paul-dominated national delegation that bore no resemblance to the results, the end of the long-standing courtesy of talking to the other party before setting caucus/convention dates, the Iowa GOP's recent ranking as one of the most disfunctional state parties in the country - has been a disaster.

Sorenson's aberrant behavior - the list stealing ("alleged"), the last-minute disloyalty, and now the FOR SALE sign - has made it worse. He has soiled the work of generations of sincere, hard-working Iowa activists of both parties, paid staff and volunteers, who have poured their essence into making the Iowa caucuses what they were supposed to be: a national version of the town meeting, with Iowans standing in as trusted, lucky, and fair surrogates for the entire nation, sizing up would-be presidents on the merits, one to one.

Sure, there were occasional shenanigans from out of staters, and some body-checking by the locals. But by and large we played fair. National operatives, even presidents, come and go. But the Iowa political activists of both parties knew we had to stay here and work with our neighbors.

And that was what we had going for us. Sure, we were a long way from the beltway, too old, too cold, too white, too ethanol and notch-baby obsessed. Our process was too weird. But we played fair.

We were seen as honest brokers. And most of us still are. But Kent Sorenson has damaged that reputation, and in doing so has damaged every Iowan: every Republican, every Democrat, and every independent who's crossed over or even thought about going to a caucus.

And of COURSE the official Iowa Republican Party leadership has been silent since the story broke in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Nothing from the party, nothing from Spiker. That's because Sorenson can do no wrong now that he's part of what TIR's Kevin Hall calls "Big Liberty," the Ron/Rand Paul faction in control of the party apparatus.

Something has to happen. Sorenson's legislative colleagues need to make sure this can't happen again. The Republican PARTY won't do anything, but there are enough fair-minded legislative Republicans outside the Spiker faction who, alongside Democrats, can take action.  We have a tradition of working together for the caucuses, and it's time to revive that tradition.

As for Sorenson? Silence from him as well. At a minimum, he needs to stand down from his re-election race next year. If not, a primary challenge is in order.

An immediate resignation would be more appropriate.

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