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Editorial: Stop compromising Iowan integrity

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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It seems that Iowa’s politicians, not its people, may be compromising the integrity of the state’s elections.

In a sworn affidavit filed Monday, Andy Parrish, the former chief of staff for Michele Bachmann during her run for the Republican presidential nomination, admitted that, in 2011, the Bachmann campaign paid Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, $7,500 per month to lead Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa.

Sorenson faces an ethics investigation in the Iowa Senate regarding that payment by the Bachmann campaign, which may have violated Rule 6 of the Senate Code of Ethics, which prohibits senators from accepting employment from a political-action committee or any tax-exempt entity that “engages in activities related to the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate for public office.”

Sorenson has previously denied that he was paid by the Bachmann campaign, but emails provided as evidence with Parrish’s affidavit dated from March through May 2011 indicate that Sorenson was indeed employed and paid by the campaign.

Parrish filed his affidavit in support of the original ethics complaint filed against Sorenson on Jan. 28 by Peter Waldron, another former Bachmann staffer. Waldron alleges that Sorenson received personal compensation for his work on the Bachmann campaign from Bachmann for President and MichelePAC, two political-action groups forbidden from employing Iowa state senators under Rule 6.

Waldron also alleges that Sorenson admitted to stealing a private home-school list from a coworker’s private computer with the intent to distribute that information for unauthorized use by the Bachmann campaign.

It is clear, based on the testimony of Parrish and Waldron, as well as the testimony of other former Bachmann staffers, that Sorenson probably skirted the Senate’s ethics rules and stole crucial voter information in order to get a leg up at the polls.

Meanwhile, in Des Moines, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, continues to push his proposed “reforms” to Iowa’s voting laws. Schultz, who made waves in the lead-up to the 2012 election with his ultimately failed effort to crosscheck Iowa’s voter lists with a potentially outdated immigration database, is an outspoken advocate of a statewide voter-ID law.

In a speech to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition earlier this month, Schultz implored his fellow partisans to fight for his voter-ID plan.

“[Y]ou have to start caring about voter ID and election integrity … because if you don’t have that, you’ll never be able to make a difference in any other issue you care about. Never,” he said. “Because they will cheat. They’ll cheat. And we need to make sure we stop them.”

It is unclear who Schultz believes will cheat if voter-ID laws are not instituted in Iowa. In March 2012, he claimed to have identified 1,208 foreign nationals in Iowa who illegally voted in the 2010 election. Since then, only around 10 individuals have been charged with voting illegally, according to Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation releases.

The existential threat to democracy posed by fraudulent voting that Schultz has warned us about pales in comparison with the threat posed by the unethical behavior of politicians such as Sorenson. It is the machinations of politics, not of the public, that threaten the integrity of Iowa’s elections. Fraud hawks such as Schultz would be wise to turn their attention inward.


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