Iowa Senate committee decides not to act on ethics complaint involving Bachmann

Former Bachmann aide claimed that state senator received illegal payments

The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted not to reprimand a state senator accused of skirting Senate ethics rules while he worked for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign, or even to appoint an investigator to look into the allegations.

The committee voted to dismiss one allegation against Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, and hold off on two others indefinitely, during a 30-minute hearing Wednesday.

“I think it shows, and the committee agrees, that the allegations were baseless,” Sorenson said.

The committee — made up of three Democrats and three Republicans — did find one allegation baseless and dismissed it outright, but it didn’t characterize the two others as such.

The remaining allegations accuse Sorenson of theft, claiming he took a list of home-school parents from a computer not belonging to him, and of accepting money from Bachmann’s campaign through a third party for his work. The latter could violate a Senate rule that prohibits senators from accepting money for work for political action committees or nonprofits that work on behalf of a specific political candidate.

Instead, the committee ruled there wasn’t sufficient evidence to ask for an investigation, based on what was contained in the ethics complaint.

“What we had in the packet was a bunch of fuzzy stuff and very few facts,” said Sen. Sandy Greiner, R-Washington.

That complaint was made by Peter Waldron, a Florida evangelist and former Bachmann aide. Waldron also filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Bachmann about how money was spent through her political action committee.

Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport, was the only member of the committee to vote against delaying action on the two and dismissing the one complaint. He said a better option would have been to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to open an investigation into the allegations.“It wasn’t a presumption of innocence or guilt,” Seng said. “The (investigation) seemed a more, better alternative where a Supreme Court justice could give us a reason to see if there was a probable cause for this to go forward.”

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