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Senator resigns after scandal report

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | OCTOBER 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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With the political future of one now-former Iowa senator still in limbo following a public resignation this week, a handful of local and state officials say this incident gives the state’s reputation a black eye.

Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, resigned Wednesday night after accusations of receiving money from former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s campaign during the runup to the 2012 caucuses, according to reports by the Associated Press.

The reports contend Sorenson received a $25,000 check from a senior official in Ron Paul’s former presidential campaign and accepting $73,000 in wire transfers.

Sen. Bill Dix announced Sorenson’s resignation just after 5 p.m. when special investigator Mark Weinhardt reported to have found probable cause to believe Sorenson took money, which was deemed unethical by the Iowa Ethics Committee.

Serving as the previous campaign head for Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, he has denied the position.
Calling Sorenson’s decision to step down after a more than two-year tenure as senator a “right decision,” Gov. Terry Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht upheld the notion that this one incident does not define the state.

This is due, he said, to the state’s good history with ethical behavior among its top political players.

“This is really an isolated incident when it comes to Iowa,” Albrecht said. “We have a clean and transparent system.”

University of Iowa Associate Professor of political science Timothy Hagle said issues with Sorenson, who joined the Legislature in 2009 as a representative, started when he shifted his support from Bachmann to Ron Paul just two days before the caucuses.

“That made a lot of people very uneasy,” he said. “If you want to leave your candidate, that’s one thing, but then to automatically endorse somebody else [is] poor behavior on the part of [an] elected official.”

Although the procedure executed by the ethics committee was an efficient way to deal with Sorenson’s situation, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he believes the situation is still an unfortunate one.

“This is one of the worst things that could happen to the state,” he said. “We try to put ourselves out as a very honest, straightforward state.”

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, agreed with Dvorsky, adding that he believes Iowa did a “great job” with the situation in looking into Sorenson’s personal doings.

“I for one don’t want to work with somebody who I have concerns over their honesty or their integrity,” he said.

Chelgren emphasized that Iowa takes politics very seriously and tries to run a clean election. Had Sorenson not chosen to step down, he said, it would have been a distraction in the 2014 elections.

“I feel that anyone who has charges brought against them deserves to have their day in court, but at the same time, when the evidence is overwhelming, I think it’s pretty obvious that you need to take action,” he said.

For Albrecht, the way the situation was handled is an example that Iowa’s judicial system works.

“Ultimately, anyone who engages in this type of conduct faces a call for a resignation,” he said. “It was handled properly. It was handled swiftly, and a just result occurred.”

And while Albrecht maintained that the situation was remediated well, one official still remains unsure as to what is to come about next.

“If there is any kind of actual trial for this, and he is acquitted, then maybe he has an opportunity to rehabilitate,” Hagle said. “I think he would still have a difficult time.”


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