A former Iowa State Senator pleaded guilty today to concealing payments he received from a presidential campaign in exchange for switching his support and services from one candidate to another and to obstructing a subsequent investigation into his conduct.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Assistant Director in Charge Timothy A. Gallagher of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.
“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.