Even after his resignation on Wednesday after the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee special prosecutor filed his report, former State Senator Kent Sorenson could still face legal repercussions from allegations that he accepted money from U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign. The special prosecutor’s report determined there was probable cause to believe that he knowingly made misstatements about the money, which could result in felony charges.
It should be noted that, despite the 566-page report, no charges have been filed against Sorenson, and it is unclear whether any ever will be. Moreover, if he did accept money from the Bachmann campaign or Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, which was not part of this report, the accusation is not criminal, but a violation of Senate ethics rules. While still serious, any ethics violations may be open to interpretation.
The possibility of felony criminal charges would not be related to Sorenson’s alleged acceptance of payments, but to whether he knowingly lied about doing so. According to an article in the Des Moines Register, knowingly making false statements constitutes a felonious misconduct in office, a Class D felony.
The special prosecutor is not in a position to file any criminal charges against Sorenson, but his finding of probable cause could well be taken seriously by the attorney general.
The prosecutor did find probable cause to believe that Sorenson violated Senate ethics rules by accepting money from organizations connected to the Bachmann campaign. The ethics committee could decide to do anything from taking no action to adjudicating him guilty, which would largely be symbolic at this point.
Sorenson told reporters that the special prosecutor’s line of questioning during interviews clearly indicated he had already drawn his conclusion. He denies he misstated any material fact, arguing that he was never an employee of the Bachman campaign but of two corporations. Accepting money from corporations is not illegal, and even the prosecutor admitted the allegations are “a question of interpretation” and urged the Iowa Senate to clarify its ethics rules.
Source: Des Moines Register, “Kent Sorenson resigns after report finds he received money from Bachmann campaign,” Jason Noble and Jennifer Jacobs, Oct. 2, 2013