Google’s lawyers, Ron Paul’s grandson, and the most depraved campaign crime in decades
It is easily the most depraved little episode of presidential campaign crime in decades, worthy of Nixon’s CREEP or Boris Yeltsin’s goons, and it’s been almost totally ignored by the media—mainstream and otherwise.
Ron and Rand Paul’s top campaign aides, led by the husband of Ron Paul’s granddaughter, bribing and extorting a crooked Tea Party Iowa politician to endorse the “Ron Paul rEVOLution”—which turns out to have been little more than a mirage built on fraud, oligarch cash, and the credulous fantasies of a few thousand pimply college-aged waffendweebs.
And then there’s the specter of the world’s largest private surveillance apparatus, Google, looming over this story—playing a central role in the criminal investigation that is both deeply conflicted, and oddly conflicting.
For over a year now, Google has refused to comply with federal warrants to hand over Gmail accounts of the three indicted Paul campaign managers and operators: Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimitrios Kesari, who all have held senior posts in Rand Paul’s various campaigns and PACs. (Many of the legal filings mentioned in this article are embedded below.)
But it goes further: Ron Paul himself is named in a federal subpoena made public last year. Prosecutors want access to the libertarian hero’s emails, as he appears to be a person of interest in the criminal investigation, an investigation that Google has been hindering with legal roadblocks and distractions.
The crimes are bad enough, and I’ll explain them in a minute—but when you have the most powerful Internet company in the world, and one of the largest corporate lobbyists in Washington DC, protecting indicted criminals who run presidential campaigns for politicians—Ron and Rand Paul—which Google has given thousands of dollars to in recent years, and whose libertarian ideology Google has supported in a number of ways and venues. . . . then we’re talking about potentially nightmare-scenario levels of conflicts-of-interest.
Potentially—that’s the key here, because the real story of Google’s role in this sordid crime is a bit more complicated than that, and not entirely evil, much as that might frustrate me and many of our readers. Google’s problem in this case rests in its overwhelming monopoly power—it’s as if the Nixon Tapes were on Google’s servers, along with all of our own personal recordings, and Google had a policy of generally being a pain in the ass about handing over tape recordings so as to keep consumers lured into spending all their babbling moments babbling into their tape recording product...only in this case, Google is also a major campaign donor to Nixon and his political agenda. It’s very problematic, and I’ll save a deeper discussion of Google’s conflicts in fighting government warrants for Ron and Rand Paul’s indicted felons for another article...
But first, the crime. Let’s start with Kent Sorenson, a mean, dumb, thumb-headed prairie bumpkin who so far stands as the only person convicted of a series of felonies involving the Ron Paul 2012 campaign, after Sorenson pled guilty last year to crimes—including filing falsified federal election reports, and obstruction of justice, crimes that could carry a maximum sentence of 25 years behind bars.
Sorenson was, until recently, Iowa state Senator Sorenson, Iowa’s leading firebreathing Tea Party radical who vowed to “burn down” Des Moines when he won his seat in the state’s upper chamber in 2010. Sorenson talked the God-talk, bashed gays, the poor, drug users, and immigrants, which made him a darling among Tea Party libertarians like Ron Paul, who personally endorsed Sorsenson’s run for state senate in 2010.
Among the bills Sorenson pushed—a state Constitutional amendment banning same-sex civil marriages; a “birther” law aimed at Obama, requiring presidential candidates to produce their birth certificates; a law forcing indigent welfare recipients to submit to random drug tests—and denial of benefits if they failed the tests.
Naturally, it was later discovered—after he was elected— that Sorenson had been busted in 1992 delivering a baggie of weed and taking $30 cash from a drug informant, for which the Tea Party firebrand was convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor and sentenced to six months in county jail. He was 20 years old; he served five days. When the story came out in 2011, he blamed another guy and claimed to have mended his ways. But it was also discovered that he’d welched on his child support payments, had his wages garnished, was penalized again for failing again, was charged but cleared of domestic violence, and had declared bankruptcy on his mortgage and student loans debts, which he blamed on usurious interest rates. In other words, a typical mean dumb white lowlife.
Last year, after Sorenson was first convicted of taking bribe money from Ron Paul and lying about it, he was subjected to mandatory drug tests of the sort he voted to impose on Iowa’s poorest residents—and yes, Sorenson failed his own drug tests — not once, but three times.
And just last month, police arrested Sorenson again for allegedly beating his wife.
But in our official narrative, as far as all the media harrumphers and pundits were concerned, Sorenson was a serious Tea Party evangelical, driven by conservative principles, no matter how much those principles might ruffle mainstream two-party Establishment feathers, by gum!—just like Ron Paul. In early 2011, Sorenson’s endorsement was something taken seriously, as a matter of weighty Tea Party principle—and he threw in early for Michele Bachmann. As it turns out, he endorsed her, and became her Iowa campaign co-chairman, on a more familiar principle: Payment in kind. In secret and in violation of Iowa Senate ethics (and federal laws, once those bribes became falsified reports), the Bachmann campaign paid Sen. Sorenson nearly $8,000 per month in a clunky scheme in which Bachmann funds went through a couple of dummy companies and into Sorenson’s pocket.
This is how politics works, folks; it’s not what they teach you in middle school civics classes, but journalists should’ve gotten over that little shocker by now.
In public, Sorenson said his endorsement of Michele Bachmann was all on account of shared deep Christian libertarian principles. Meanwhile, towards the end of 2011, as the Iowa caucuses were drawing near, Ron Paul’s grandson-by-marriage, Jesse Benton, and his fellow staffers, having learned Sorenson was for sale (apparently everyone but the media knew it), opened negotiations to buy Sen. Sorenson’s support by outbidding Bachmann. It helped that Ron Paul was raising money hand over fist compared to Bachmann, thanks to all the Silicon Valley and extraction industry billionaires who love Paul’s vision of government without taxation or regulation or welfare or help of any kind for anyone or anything, but their private property, which is always in need of armed protection...
According to a recently unsealed indictment, in late October 2011, Benton — who also led his uncle Rand Paul’s SuperPAC until just recently, in case I haven’t made this family point clear enough — sent an email to Sorenson and Sorenson’s top aide offering to take over paying Sorenson’s $8,000/month bribes in return for Sorenson switching his allegiance from Bachmann to Dr. Paul. Both Sorenson and Dr. Paul’s people agreed to delay Sorenson’s switch until after a meeting of Iowa Republicans, where he’d strengthen his own position within the party, on the eve of the big caucasus, as a principled Tea Party Christian libertarian.
Then from mid-November 2011 until late December, a Ron Paul operative, Dimitrios Kesari, made numerous calls to Sorenson to negotiate and lobby for the bribe-and-switch deal. A few days before the switch, around Christmas 2011, Sorenson agreed with Ron Paul’s campaign heads to write up a press release in-advance explaining how his Tea Party principles moved him to abandon Bachmann for Ron Paul. Sen. Sorenson then sent his draft statement to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign chiefs for editing—his granddaughter's husband Jesse Benton, his family operative Kesari, and John Tate, the head of a Ron/Rand Paul libertarian organization called Campaign For Liberty, who also served as an officer in Rand Paul’s SuperPAC. And in case Sorenson double-crossed Ron Paul over his planned double-cross of Michelle Bachmann, Dr. Paul’s campaign chiefs had readied a plan to smear Sorenson and ruin his life by leaking select emails of their payoff negotiations.
Sorenson agreed to switch to Ron Paul in exchange for being put on an $8,000 a month under-the-table salary, plus a $100,000 payoff to Sorenson’s personal PAC. Being a thumb-head, Sorenson demanded a $25,000 check, and Dr. Paul’s operative, Kesari, agreed, handing him a check in the name of Kesari’s wife’s jewelry company at an Iowa diner. But as soon as Sorenson got that big fat $25,000 check, he wasn’t sure what he should do with it. So he just held onto it, figuring it would be useful later (and it was useful—to federal prosecutors). Two days after getting the $25,000 check, on December 28, 2011, Sorenson appeared at an early afternoon rally for Bachmann at Pizza Ranch, still playing the role of her campaign’s co-chairman—but he kept silent throughout the Bachmann rally, claiming he couldn’t speak because he’d just had dental work done and his mouth was so numb “he was afraid he would drool on himself,” according to the Des Moines Register.
After the Pizza Ranch rally for Bachmann, Sen. Sorenson skulked away in his car, and showed up to a Ron Paul 2012 rally (“Sorenson said he drove to Paul’s event, called a Paul staffer and asked: ‘Do you guys want me on board?’”—reported the Des Moines Register) and jumped on the stage in a fake-spontaneous Tea Party moment of libertarian passion, announcing that his conscience had compelled him, at the spur of the moment, to switch allegiance to the Ron Paul rEVOLution!
Sen. Sorenson sent the 500 Ron Paul dupes into a placard-waving frenzy, telling them,
“We have a choice where we can elect more of the same … or we can elect someone who’s going to transform this country to get it back to what our founding fathers wanted, and I believe that’s Ron Paul.”
Benton gave statements to the press full of high-minded civics class gravitas:
Congressman Paul is delighted to accept the endorsement of Senator Kent Sorenson, whose blessing and assistance carry a great deal weight in Iowa. The fact that he doesn’t take this decision lightly tells a great deal about the senator and Ron Paul.
Indeed. And if that wasn’t sick farce enough, the Paul campaign released a giant “spontaneous” statement from Sen. Sorenson—heavily edited by Ron Paul’s campaign chiefs and relatives—full of high-minded anti-establishment libertarian blather, air-quotes and all. Here are a few choice quotes::
Since my election, I’ve learned that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. It’s easy to see why so many legislators “sell out” once elected. The pressure to do so is immense.
But what America needs now is a President who will not just “go along to get along.” Instead, we must send someone who puts doing what is right above all else to the White House. That candidate is Ron Paul.
If you are as frustrated as I am with what's been done by the ruling class, I urge you to join me in supporting Dr. Paul. We can send the national big government political establishment a message they will never forget by voting for Ron Paul for President in the January 3 Iowa Caucuses.
Sorenson’s betrayal was meant to land as a punch to the gut, to shock and awe Bachmann into total submission, losing her co-chair like that. What the Ron Paul hicks didn’t expect was that Bachmann — a prairie hick of a different subspecies of mean-and-dumb, the kind of prairie hick that self-destructs unless under constant 24/7 watch from a slick political minder — would expose the whole scam. Bachmann went straight to the press and spilled the beans, that Sorenson had been bribed by Ron Paul’s campaign, and that Sorenson had even told her that they were going to bribe him. Which was true—Sorenson had been bargaining with her, trying to leverage the Paul campaign’s offer to squeeze a better counter-offer bribe out of Bachmann.
Immediately after Bachmann’s suicidal statement, her top aides ran to the media and said no-no-no-, you know how crazy Michele is, cuckoo! cuckoo!... nothing of the sort was going on, we’re all honorable people here, Ron Paul’s family member included. Because, obviously, there was the fear that if anyone decided to look into the allegations, they’d find that Bachmann’s campaign was guilty of the same crime.
And according to last year’s subpoena, the FBI wants access not only to Ron Paul’s and his campaign staffers’ emails, but to Bachmann’s and her staffers too.
* * * *
Bachmann’s statement about Paul’s bribes caused a brief controversy among the media, which didn’t want to believe such a thing could happen in America, and especially not from the campaign of that real-life 21st C Jimmy Stewart—albeit a hick-fascist Confederate Jimmy Stewart, but earnest and “authentic” all the same, according to the rubes in the media, pushing Paul as the perennial anti-establishment hero. Among the conspirators, however, it caused a real panic, and a brief change of plans.
The next day, December 29, Benton & team had Sen. Sorenson issue a defiant statement that basically said, “You think I get paid for my principles? Wait till you see the FEC filings, then you’ll see that Bachmann is a liar and no one’s paying me anything, by gum!” And then Sorenson and the Paul capos proceeded to forge their FEC filings to funnel their payments to Sorenson through a pair of dummy front companies. Not exactly the sharpest conmen, but brains aren’t much of a requirement for success as a con artist. An empty conscience, some cunning, and the stupid sense that you and your testicles are smarter than everyone else—those are much more important qualities.
And then in January 2012, the payments started rolling: Sen. Sorenson filed an invoice for $33,000 from his dummy company, Grassroots Strategy, to a Ron Paul company called ICT Inc; then the Ron Paul people behind ICT filed an invoice for $38,125 from ICT Inc to the Ron Paul 2012 committee, and that way passed through their first payment. That was in January 2012, while the rubes in the libertarian movement and their fanboys in the progressive media were having high-minded debates about Ron Paul’s principles. More followed throughout that year, ending in June, totaling nearly $80,000. The last payment, for $8,850, elicited an annoyed response from John Tate—who until his recent indictment was president of Rand Paul’s main SuperPAC, America’s Liberty.
When Sen. Sorenson’s last invoice came, Tate emailed Ron Paul operative Kesari:
What is this? What is it for, who is it? Why do we keep paying them? The last payment was supposedly the last.
Kesari responded with two short emails:
This is the last payment for kent Sorenson [sic]. The deal jesse [Benton] agreed to with kent.
Is [sic] was for 6 months
By this point, Ron Paul’s people got even lazier and just expensed the last payoffs as “AUDIO/VISUAL EXPENSES” in their FEC filings.
And all this time, for some inexplicable reason, Sorenson clung to that uncashed $25,000 check the way that zombie in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead clung to that pistol as he shuffled around the shopping mall, dimly aware in some twitchy reptilian-zombie way, that the check could be useful.
CUT TO: September, 2013. One of Sorenson’s true-believer Christian aides couldn’t stomach the sleaze, spilled the beans and incriminating emails, and landed Sorenson in an ethics committee investigation that he couldn’t crawl out of. At this point, former Ron-now-Rand Paul operative Kesari jetted to neighboring flat state Nebraska so as to not look suspicious, and gunned it straight to Iowa to get that motherfucking $25,000 check from Sorenson that the lughead never cashed.
According to a federal indictment,
Kesari [the Paul operative] flew to Omaha, Nebraska, backtracked to Senator Sorenson’s home in Iowa, required that he and Senator Sorenson show each other that neither was wearing a recording device, and then asked that Senator Sorenson either return to Kesari or alter the $25,000 check that Kesari previously gave to Senator Sorenson...which Senator Sorenson refused to do.
One thing Sen. Sorenson had some experience with was ratting out others. He ratted out the pot dealer he got busted with and got his sentence reduced to five days and probation, and later, in office, voted to turn up the heat in the War On Drugs (funny how this didn’t bother Ron Paul’s principled people); and last year, after FBI agents raided Sorenson’s home and took his and his family’s computers, Sorenson copped a plea. Now the feds have the very top people in both Ron and Rand Paul’s campaigns for president going back to 2007, campaigns heavily underwritten by Silicon Valley billionaires and true believers...
This past week has been an active one in the government’s case against Jesse Benton, John Tate and Dimitrios Kesari—the Southern Iowa District Court ruled that they were such a risk for leaking confidential documents that they could only view government evidence on CDs stored in their lawyers’ offices.
On Thursday of this week, Jesse Benton and John Tate appeared before the court and pled not guilty on a number counts that mirror the Watergate charges 40 years ago: conspiracy to “knowingly defraud the United States”; “knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal and cover up by a trick, scheme and device a material fact in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch”; “knowingly cause the concealing, covering up, falsification...with the intent to impede obstruct, and influence the investigation...” and so on.
Meanwhile, the Court just sided with Google that it still wasn’t required to comply with the FBI warrant just yet and allow access to all the Gmail accounts that the feds demanded last year. As Google was careful to point out in its filings, the company has made sure to preserve and protect all email communications from those listed on the warrant — including presumably Ron Paul’s emails — to prevent anyone from trying to scrub or alter them. So Google is essentially complying, and they’re going to eventually hand them over, in all likelihood, and it will be some very incriminating material that could drive a barbed stake in the heart of libertarianism’s First Family...
The funny thing is that real libertarians don’t even necessarily believe that bribery and fraud are legitimate crimes, if carried out in self-interest. For the most part, even mainstream libertarians from the CATO Institute argue that bribery should be legal.
And yet—because libertarians have paradoxically transformed in recent years into the most sanctimonious loud-mouthed whiners in the political arena, this is one of those ugly, sleazy, low-rent corruption scandals, going all the way into the Paul family gene pool, that won’t sit well with the young, credulous males who give the libertarian cult its energy.
Most of all, however, this story finally answers the question that all the hundreds of quasi-grizzled, quasi-cynical campaign trail journalists failed to answer: What happened to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, the most hyped-up, promoted candidacy of anyone’s over the past two years? The liberal media has been drooling over Rand Paul like he’s the second coming, the Confederate with the heart of gold that all middle-class liberals dream of. I heard a lot of suckers claim that the Koch brothers had suddenly decided, after all these years of supporting their pet Pauls, that Rand was not to their liking, too much of a lightweight, or something like that. Because you know the Kochs only go with Very Serious Gravitas-y Heavyweights—the Herman Cains, Michele Bachmanns, Scott Walkers…
I’ve learned since coming back here that American political journalists mistake their sneering for cynicism. Cynicism is what you learn in a place like Russia, which isn’t as far from the US as one would think (or hope). It never crosses a smug sneery journalist’s mind that the politics they’re reporting on is as corrupt as a tinpot dictator’s, that all the cant about principles is capital to be cashed, and cash it they do. Because politics is about dividing up trillions of dollars in wealth and power and privilege, not about high-minded debates in three-pointed hats.
Those campaign donations that all the boring, unreadable nonprofit watchdog sites report on—that’s the dull accounting stuff for public consumption. The real game is the payoff—the check cashed, the dummy company that gets the wire transfer. First you have to be willing to see that it’s there.