'Everyone Sells Out in Iowa, Why Shouldn't I?'
(CN) - A former Iowa state senator admitted concealing $73,000 he got from the presidential campaign of former Congressman Ron Paul to switch his support to Paul and away from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in 2011.
Kent Sorenson, 42, of Milo, Iowa, pleaded guilty Wednesday to causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission and obstruction of justice in connection with the concealed expenditures.
He faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the first count and up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the second, according to the plea agreement in Des Moines Federal Court.
According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Sorenson admitted that while he supported one campaign for the 2012 presidential election, he met and secretly negotiated for months with a second campaign to switch his support in exchange for concealed payments of $73,000.
In December 2011, Sorenson announced his withdrawal of support for Bachmann's campaign. He said at the time that the switch was due to Paul being "the most conservative of this group" of Republicans.
Bachmann angrily responded that Sorenson "personally told me he was offered a large sum of money" to switch to Paul.
"Kent campaigned with us earlier this afternoon and went immediately afterward to a Ron Paul event and announced he is changing teams," Bachmann said in a statement at the time. "Kent said to me yesterday that 'Everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn't I?' then he told me he would stay with our campaign. The Ron Paul campaign has to answer for its actions."
Prosecutors said the payments were in installments of about $8,000 each and were concealed by being sent to a film production company, then through a second company before finally being sent to Sorenson and his wife.
Sorenson also admitted to giving false testimony to an independent counsel appointed at the request of the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee that was tasked with investigating allegations from a former employee of Bachmann's 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," prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.
Sorenson's attorney, F. Montgomery Brown with Brown Scott in West Des Moines, said his client's plea showed that he was "taking complete responsibility for the series of compounding errors and omissions he engaged in."
"This is a very sad day for Mr. Sorenson, his family, and his friends, many of whom were in attendance in court," Brown said Wednesday. "To the extent others may take glee with his predicament, there is nothing that can be done."
Sorenson's sentencing has not been scheduled.