(Photo: Reuters/Jeff Haynes)
Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson reportedly offered the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign his endorsement and access to the email lists of the state's largest homeschool network and Michele Bachmann supporters for $208,000 for himself and his staff, according to a report by The Iowa Republican. The report does not confirm whether the Paul campaign paid off Sorenson, but Paul did receive Sorenson's endorsement.
Sorenson was backing Bachmann, but made headlines shortly before the Iowa caucus when he switched his endorsement from Bachmann to Paul.
Paul finished a close third in the Iowa caucus with 21 percent of the vote, behind Rick Santorum (25 percent) and Mitt Romney (25 percent). Bachmann finished a distant sixth, with five percent of the vote, and dropped out of the race.
According to an Oct. 29, 2011 letter obtained by The Iowa Republican, sent by Sorenson associate Chris Dorr to the Paul campaign, Sorenson asked for $8,000 a month through the Fall of 2012, a $100,000 donation to an Iowa PAC he controlled, and $5,000 a month for Dorr.
In exchange for those financial contributions, Sorenson would endorse Paul, but not before November 11. On November 11, there was a Senate leadership vote and if Sorenson switched his support from Bachmann to Paul before that vote he would have lost support, the letter explained. Sorenson did not seek a leadership position for himself, but was active in the election.
In the quid-pro-quo pitch, Dorr mentioned their access to "targeted home-school mail" for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, which the letter calls "the main Iowa home-school group."
The email list made news in December 2011, when the Bachmann campaign used the list without the group's permission. Barb Heki, who worked for the Bachmann campaign, was dismissed from the NICHE board of directors shortly after the incident.
Another part of the pitch to the Paul campaign argued that Sorenson would help Paul win the support of social conservatives. Dorr accurately predicted that Santorum would be a threat to Paul in this area. At the time of the letter, Santorum was only polling at five percent but went on to win the race.
The letters were provided to The Iowa Republican by Dennis Fusaro, former executive director of Iowans for Right to Work Committee and the national field director for Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Fusaro was included in the communications because he had close relationships with both the Paul campaign and Sorenson.
When asked to comment on the report, Sorenson said that Fusaro made the whole thing up and denied receiving any money from the Paul campaign.
The Bachmann campaign has long complained about the incident. Those complaints have prompted investigations by the FBI, FEC and Iowa Senate Ethics Committee.
Paul is unlikely to run for president again, but his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.), has expressed interest in doing so.