Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he wants a quick resolution to the ethics complaints surrounding a Republican state senator, adding that he has “concerns” over how the allegations might affect Iowa’s reputation.
But the governor did not join an increasing number of state GOP officials who have called on Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, to resign.
“This is something that should be resolved by the (Iowa) Senate,” Branstad told reporters after a ribbon-cutting Monday at a new Kemin Industries facility in Des Moines. “I hope they work quickly, and we need to do all we can to protect the integrity of the Iowa caucuses.”
Sorenson has been accused of violating Senate ethics rules that prohibit senators from taking money, directly or indirectly, from presidential campaigns.
Sorenson denies any wrongdoing.
Branstad called the Ethics Committee’s appointment in May of a special investigator to investigate charges that Sorenson took payment for working on Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign “extraordinary.” The governor also defended the Iowa caucuses.
“Our tradition has been honest, clean and transparent government,” Branstad said. “I think we need to maintain that tradition, and that’s why the Senate has an important responsibility to investigate this and take appropriate action.”
Further allegations against Sorenson were made this month when the Iowa Republican online news site released emails and recorded telephone conversations that indicated Sorenson may have been paid by Ron Paul’s presidential campaign to leave Bachmann’s camp just before caucus night and move to the Paul campaign.
Over the weekend, Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who also worked for the Bachmann campaign, told a Des Moines television show that Sorenson should resign his post since the allegations were making all Iowa state senators look bad.
Branstad said he has never been offered, nor taken, money for his support.
“As governor, I’ve tried to be a very good host and encourage all candidates to come to Iowa and let them know we have a tradition of open, honest government,” he added.
Also, the Republican State Central Committee’s decision to move its 2014 Iowa GOP state convention from June 14 to July 12 is a wrong one, Branstad said.
“I believe they should reconsider and maintain the convention in June,” he said. “I think it’s a real mistake to move the convention back.”
The state convention could play a big role in determining who gets to represent the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate race for the seat being vacated by Tom Harkin, a Democrat.
At least four Republicans – Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Ankeny, former D.C. staffer David Young and college professor Sam Clovis – are in the race. A fifth person, former energy executive Mark Jacobs, is a likely entrant.
If none of the Republicans gets 35 percent of the vote in the June 3 primary election, the winner would be chosen at the convention.
The State Central Committee made the decision to move the date over the weekend.
“If nobody gets 35 percent of the vote, the sooner we have a convention to choose a nominee, the better it is for the party,” Branstad said. “We’ve always had conventions in June as long as I can remember, and I’ve been involved in every one of them pretty much since 1968.”