Government

Trump pardons include two from 2012 Iowa caucuses scandal

The men worked for then-U. S. Rep. Ron Paul's campaign

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul speaks Jan 2, 2012, to potential voters at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids. T
Presidential hopeful Ron Paul speaks Jan 2, 2012, to potential voters at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids. Two men who worked for his campaign were charged with corruption in a scheme to funnel $73,000 to Kent Sorenson, then an Indianola state senator, to switch his allegiance from Minnesota Sen. Michele Bachmann to Paul in the final days of the campaign. (The Gazette)

President Donald Trump’s flurry of pre-Christmas pardons included two men tied to a 2012 Iowa caucuses bribery scandal.

The pair, Jesse Benton and John Tate, who worked for Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 caucus campaign, were among those pardoned Wednesday night by the president. They had been charged with corruption in a scheme to funnel $73,000 to Kent Sorenson, then an Indianola state senator, to switch his allegiance from Minnesota Sen. Michele Bachmann to Paul in the final days of the campaign.

Sorenson, who pleaded guilty to two charges connected with the scandal, was not pardoned. He served 15 months of a 25-year sentence in federal prison for violating a federal election law and obstruction of justice for lying under oath during a deposition by a special prosecutor appointed to investigate Iowa Senate ethics violations.

Sorenson cooperated with prosecutors in 2014, testified to a grand jury and was a witness in the trials of the Paul campaign staffers.

Tate and Benton were convicted in 2016 of public corruption charges. All but one of the charges against Benton was thrown out by a judge. They each served six months of home confinement and two years of probation.

Their pardons had the support of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the son of former Rep. Paul, and a former Federal Election Commission chairman, who said in a pardon statement that the law was too vague.

Benton managed Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign and held a similar position with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell until he resigned following Sorenson’s guilty plea.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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