A former Iowa state senator who abandoned then-presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to endorse Ron Paul a week before the 2012 Iowa caucuses has pleaded guilty to “concealing payments” from Paul’s campaign in exchange for his support, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
In December 2011, state senator Kent Sorenson, then the Iowa chairman for Bachmann’s campaign, made a surprise announcement that he had switched his endorsement to Paul. At the time, Sorenson said he made the decision based on his support for Paul’s policies, but this week he admitted to accepting tens of thousands of dollars from the Paul campaign as part of the deal. According to a DOJ release, “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.”
The payments were delivered in $8,000 installments, which were “concealed by transmitting them to a film production company, then through a second company, and finally to Sorenson and his spouse,” the DOJ statement read.
“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,” DOJ Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in a written statement.
Paul, a Texas Republican who retired from Congress in 2013, went on to place third in the state caucuses behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. He continued to campaign through the spring and ended his run in May 2012. Paul’s son, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, is considering his own bid for the presidency in 2016.
The consequences for those involved with Paul’s campaign are unclear. Jesse Benton, a Paul campaign spokesman at the time, did not return a request for comment. Benton is currently the campaign manager for Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is running for re-election.
In an interview with Yahoo News, DOJ spokesman Peter Carr declined to discuss details of the agreement but said that the investigation “remains ongoing.”
Sorenson resigned from his office in 2013 amid allegations that he had also taken illegal contributions from a political action committee aligned with Bachmann.