When the Bachmann campaign claimed that their former Iowa state chair Kent Sorenson got bought by Ron Paul’s campaign to switch allegiance, I chalked it up to the momentary and understandable hyperbole in the immediate aftermath of betrayal. It’s still a little difficult to believe, but Bachmann and her team might not have made up the claim out of anger, either. The New York Daily News reports that Susan Geddes, who ran Sorenson’s last two political campaigns, says that Sorenson told her on several occasions that the Paul campaign was offering a lot of money to get him to switch:
Susan Geddes, a veteran operative in conservative GOP political circles who managed Sorenson’s 2008 and 2010 legislative races, said Sorenson had told her several times, as recently as last month, that the Paul campaign had offered him money to leave Bachmann’s campaign for the Texas congressman’s.
Geddes said Sorenson had damaged his political future in Iowa by abandoning Bachmann’s campaign less than a week before the caucuses.
“He just committed political suicide,” she said.
I’m still skeptical about this, because it would have to involve monumental stupidity on someone’s part. Let’s say that the Paul campaign gave Sorenson cash in a legitimate manner, perhaps as a big campaign-to-campaign contribution, to convince Sorenson to switch. I believe that would be entirely legal, although perhaps a tactically questionable use of campaign funds in the middle of a primary, but it would have to be disclosed in FEC records — and the quarter-end reports are due in days, which means that the subterfuge will be exposed almost immediately. That would make Sorenson out to be a fool, especially since he’s denying it now, and it would be political suicide. I’m not convinced that Sorenson is a big enough fish to woo with cash anyway, but at least that would explain why he would leap from Bachmann to Paul, two campaigns that have diametrically opposed viewpoints on foreign policy and immigration.
The other alternative, if Geddes is telling the truth, is that the Paul campaign arranged an off-the-books payment to Sorenson, either directly or indirectly. That would be unbelievably idiotic, as it would be a prime example of corruption once exposed and would ruin everyone involved. And for what? Sorenson may be a larger fish in the smaller Iowa pond, but Ron Paul’s political future hardly hinged on the blessing of Kent Sorenson, nor did it hinge on derailing the all-but-derailed-already Michele Bachmann. And whatever one thinks of Ron Paul, the people running his campaign aren’t stupid — and they’re certainly not this stupid.
However, Geddes has nothing much to gain from stepping forward and making this claim, either. She may have burned some bridges by speaking out, and there will be many more elections in Iowa that could provide her employment in the future, if she so chose, and outing one’s close ally as a sellout isn’t exactly a confidence builder for the next candidate to consider her. The switch in this case is so odd that a backroom deal seems a more likely explanation, and perhaps we’ll see more when the campaigns release their financial statements.
Update: Jennifer Rubin made a good point on Twitter: “you assume a lump sum payment.. they can just pay him a nice “salary” for some time[.]” That’s true, and given the Paul track record on raising cash, that has a lot more security than a similar arrangement would have been with Bachmann. However, that still would have to be disclosed at some point through campaign disclosures, and Sorenson’s lie revealed. That would be perfectly legal for Paul’s campaign, and almost perfectly stupid on Sorenson’s part.