10:42 AM, Aug 13, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign is refusing to answer questions about allegations the campaign paid for endorsements before the Iowa caucuses last year. Jesse Benton, a longtime Paul aide who is now campaign manager for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, has not replied to requests for comment after an audio recording surfaced whereby an Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, admitted he had received a $30,000 check from high-level Paul campaign official, accepting the money in exchange for switching his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. Sorenson also said that Benton was aware of the transaction.
The details of the story come from the Iowa Republican, which obtained a recording of a phone conversation between Dennis Fusaro, a former Ron Paul aide and supporter, and Sorenson days after Sorenson says he received the check:
The recording features Sorenson explaining how the Ron Paul campaign’s Deputy National Campaign Manager, Demitri Kesari, met with Sorenson and his wife at a restaurant where, Sorenson says, his wife was presented and accepted a check while he was in the bathroom.
Fusaro asks Sorenson for the name of the jewelry store that Kesari owns with his wife, Jolanda Pali Kesari. Sorenson says, “I honest to God don’t know. I’ll have to look at the check and tell you. I haven’t even seen it.” That confession indicates that the check given to the Sorensons was from the jewelry store account. The Kesari’s store is called Designer Goldsmiths and is located in Leesburg, Virginia. This account of events in which Sorenson appears to be denying initial knowledge of the payment is at odds with emails previously published by TheIowaRepublican.com, which showed that Sorenson was aware of the payments requested on his behalf from the Paul campaign. However, Sorenson does unambiguously confirm that he had possession of a check from a Ron Paul operative.
Sorenson also confirms that Paul’s National Campaign Chairman, Jesse Benton, was aware of Kesari’s actions. After asking Fusaro if he thought the key players inside the upper echelons of the Ron Paul campaign knew of Kesari’s actions, Fusaro stated that he was confident that Benton knew. Sorenson quickly responds by saying, “Oh, I know Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows.”
An Iowa state ethics committee is currently investigating Sorenson. Republican governor Terry Branstad has said he supports the investigation but declined to comment on whether Sorenson should resign his senate seat.
As revealed last week, Fusaro also recorded a phone conversation with Benton in January in which he asks Benton, now with the McConnell campaign, about the payment. Benton told Fusaro, “I don’t know anything about that.”
“We’re you involved in it?” Fusaro asked.
“Uh, no,” Benton replied.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD contacted the McConnell campaign to ask about the allegations that Benton knew about the under-the-table payment. Did Benton, as Sorenson claims, know about the payment? If not, when did he learn about it? McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore replied via email.
“Our camp is happy to respond to questions involving Sen. McConnell and Kentucky, but we can't respond to races that are not our own,” Moore said. A follow-up email sent to both Moore and Benton himself has not been returned.
In the same January phone conversation with Fusaro, Benton said he was “holding his nose” working for McConnell in anticipation for the potential 2016 presidential campaign of Rand Paul, the other Kentucky senator and son of Ron Paul. The McConnell campaign replied to reports about the conversation last week on Twitter with two photos showingMcConnell and Benton humorously holding their noses.
As well as being a veteran of Paul family campaigns, Benton is married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter.
2:14 AM, Jan 4, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
As caucusgoers gathered Tuesday night in Iowa, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign here tries to maintain its focus on the first in the nation New Hampshire primary. In the campaign office on Elm Street, a cadre of young, college-aged volunteers works the phones and snacks on pizza. Except for the communal television which is tuned to Fox News to check in on Iowa, and which only attracts the scattered attention of a few staffers, work goes on as usual.
8:08 AM, Jan 3, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich lowered the boom on Mitt Romney in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan. Gingrich criticized his GOP rival as a "Massachusetts moderate" while touting himself as a "Southern conservative." Asked if he ought to be responding more aggressively to attacks from Romney and the other Republican candidates, Gingrich said he would need to fight back, as some aides have reportedly been urging him to do.
2:31 PM, Jan 2, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
CNN's Dana Bash touted her interview with Texas congressman Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, by noting on Twitter that the elder Paul "ruled out running outside" the Republican party if he fails to win the GOP nomination for president. But that's not exactly what Ron Paul said. Here's the quotation (emphasis mine):
8:16 AM, Jan 2, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
It’s likely that no candidate will win so much as 30 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. Yet you can bet that the press corps will crown as the big winner the candidate who gets perhaps one-quarter of the votes of caucus-goers in a state that’s half the size of the average state. Meanwhile, those who get one-sixth, or one-seventh, or one-eighth, of that same vote, will be labeled as losers who might want to think about dropping out of the national race. This, of course, is foolishness.
11:00 PM, Dec 31, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The latest poll of Republican Iowa caucusgoers by the Des Moines Register finds Mitt Romney maintaining a slight lead over his Republican rivals with 24 percent support. In the survey, conducted over four days in the last week, Ron Paul comes in a close second with 22 percent, and Rick Santorum sees his numbers improve to 15 percent ahead of Tuesday's caucuses. Here's more from the Register:
4:16 PM, Dec 28, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The latest CNN poll of Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans show Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in the lead in both states. The New Hampshire poll confirms Romney's long-held advantage over his GOP opponents at 44 percent, 9 points up from a similar poll conducted by CNN earlier this month.
7:18 PM, Dec 27, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Newt Gingrich has released a 30-second ad that will air on television in Iowa starting on Wednesday. The ad focuses on his jobs plan and reminds Iowa Republicans of Gingrich's strong debate performances this past fall. Watch the video below:
Ignore the caucus results. They won’t matter. Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By FRED BARNES
When Senator Paul Simon of Illinois was running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, one of his first stops was in the backyard of a residence in Wartburg, Iowa. About 100 people had assembled to hear him. The first question: What’s up in Namibia?
7:55 AM, Dec 16, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Mitt Romney had a strong performance Thursday night in the final debate before the January 3 Iowa caucuses. From Medicare reform to foreign policy to the economy, Romney provided mostly succinct answers within the mainstream of Republican ideas. And because he did not spend much time engaging his opponents, he also avoided missteps like his infamous “$10,000 bet” with Rick Perry at last week’s debate.
3:09 PM, Dec 2, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Former Iowa governor Robert Ray has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Ray is a moderate Republican who served as governor of the Hawkeye State for 14 years. "I want our next president to be someone whose character and judgment I respect and whose ideas are valid for our country," Ray said in a statement. "I believe Mitt Romney offers the personal qualities and vision to become a truly great president."
Newtmentum?9:01 AM, Nov 11, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A new national CBS News poll shows a close three-man race for the Republican nomination for president among Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Cain received 18 percent support, while Romney and Gingrich are both tied at 15 percent.
9:00 PM, Oct 17, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Iowa Republican party, announced the 2012 Iowa caucuses will be held on January 3, moving up from the planned February 6 date. From the press release: