Is Ron Paul in Big, Big Legal Trouble?

By Adam Weinstein – FortressAmerica.gawker.com

Back in August, an Iowa Republican state senator pled guilty to taking cash payments to abandon Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign and endorse Ron Paul. Also in August, Paul started spending oodles of cash on lawyers. There’s ample evidence to suggest the two events are connected.

A new report by the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets blog, which tracks money in campaigns, shows that Paul, the choice of folksy libertarian brogrammers everywhere, is burning through his more than half a million dollars in leftover 2012 campaign contributions, all to keep some legal eagles driving Porsches while they contend with federal investigators from—surprise!—Iowa:

Leftover campaign cash can be used for a variety of purposes, but since August, the Paul campaign has been deploying much of it to pay legal bills. In fact, since Aug. 1, the Ron Paul presidential campaign has paid $237,997 to lawyers. In the previous 19 months, the campaign spent just $190,000 on all expenses.

What on earth does Ron Paul need with all those attorneys? It’s probably related to the upcoming allocution and sentencing of former Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, who in the leadup to the 2012 Iowa GOP caucuses had been running Bachmann’s presidential campaign in the state. But six days before the voting, Sorenson jumped over to Paul’s ship.

Sorenson admitted three months ago to federal prosecutors that he received $73,000 in “under the table” payments from a shadowy company called ICT shortly before shifting his support from Bachmann to Paul. And according to Open Secrets, “the Paul campaign sent ICT $82,375 in payments that almost exactly match payments to Sorenson.” Which probably explains why U.S. attorneys in Iowa have subpoenaed emails and records from a bunch of Paul campaign workers—and possibly the old man himself.

There’s something else, too: “Sorenson’s sentencing date has not yet been set,” Open Secrets writes, “but his plea agreement suggests he will be asked to testify against someone before sentencing.” He has not previously named the people who paid him, although media reports have identified a deputy for Ron Paul’s campaign who gave Sorenson another $25,000 check through a jewelry store owned by the deputy’s wife.

What did Ron Paul know, and when did he know it? Whatever the answers, he and his bevy of lawyers will probably paint the former congressman as a kindly but feeble and trusting old man who had no idea such unsavoriness was going on under his nose. Which doesn’t seem like much of a defense for a politician who aspired to lead the free world, but is a fine, fine quality in a retired grampa covering for taking his grandkid to see the ponies in the fifth race at Gulfstream.

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