Supporters of Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley will raise money Wednesday night at the home of an attorney who once defended a Catholic bishop accused of molesting young boys. Trial lawyer Tim Bottaro will host the fundraiser at his home in Sioux City along with other supporters of Braley's Senate campaign.
Bottaro is a partner at a Sioux City firm that specializes in personal injury, workers compensation, divorce, and similar legal work. He's starred in a few TV commercials, asking potential clients to call his firm at 1-800-I-AM-HURT.
But a few years ago Bottaro also represented the former Bishop of Sioux City, Lawrence Soens, in a number of lawsuits that claimed Soens had sexually abused children. Soens resigned from his office as bishop in 1998 but continued minstering for several years after that. According to the Washington Post, 15 boys who had attended a school at which Soens taught in the 1960s claimed the priest touched them inappropriately "under the guise of discipline." The number of accusers eventually grew to 31. Soens denied the charges, which came amidst a wide-sweeping investigation into alleged abuse in the Diocese of Davenport, where the future bishop was working. The diocese eventually filed for bankruptcy and publicly apologized for the abuse of children by priests.
"The damage has been done as far as his reputation and all the good he has done," Bottaro told the Post in 2007. "There have been a lot of testimonials given that talk about him being an entirely different person back in that time in Iowa City. But there are just as many people, former students, staff, secretaries ... who claim none of those things happened."
In 2009, most of the lawsuits against Soens were dropped "in an attempt to free up the Roman Catholic Church to punish Soens." Bottaro was still representing Soens at that time.
Braley, a four-term congressman and a trial lawyer himself, will be in Sioux City Wednesday afternoon. An email to his campaign to confirm his attendance at Bottaro's fundraiser has not been returned. The event is advertised as a "Bruce Braley Fund Raising Reception."
Braley is running in a tight race for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. His Republican opponent is Joni Ernst, a state senator and Iraq veteran.