Friday, December 30, 2011

Bachmann stands firm on bribery allegation against Paul campaign

Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Michele Bachmann pressed her allegations that the former head of her Iowa presidential bid was bribed by the campaign of rival Ron Paul to endorse him, even as one of her own aides denied the charge.

The aide who issued the denial later quit Bachmann’s campaign, the candidate said.

The dispute centered on the decision yesterday of Kent Sorenson, an Iowa state senator who was Bachmann’s campaign chairman in the state, to abandon her effort and endorse Paul, a Texas congressman. Paul is a leading contender to win Iowa’s Jan. 3 Republican caucuses.

“He told me that he was offered money, he was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign,” Bachmann said of Sorenson in comments to reporters today in a parking lot adjacent to a funeral home near downtown Des Moines. “No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself.”

Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswomen who polls show is in the back of the pack in the Iowa race, said Sorenson told her during a Dec. 27 phone call that he was offered money to support Paul. As she spoke outside the studios of WHO-AM radio in Des Moines, she declined to say how much money was involved.

Sorenson’s Denial

Sorenson yesterday resigned as Bachmann’s state chairman and announced his backing of Paul. Following her comments today, he issued a statement through Paul’s campaign denying what he termed Bachmann’s “ridiculous allegations.”

“I was never offered money from the Ron Paul campaign or anyone associated with them and certainly would never accept any,” Sorenson said in the statement

Paul’s campaign earlier had sent out a statement by Wes Enos, Bachmann’s Iowa political director, also denying the bribery charge.

“I can say unequivocally that Kent Sorenson’s decision was, in no way financially motivated,” Enos said in his statement. “While I personally disagree with Kent’s decision, and plan to stay with Michele Bachmann because I truly believe in her, I cannot, in good conscious watch a good man like Kent Sorenson be attacked as a ‘sell-out.’”

Bachmann said in a later interview with CNN that Enos has now quit her campaign and been replaced as political director.

Sorenson’s Reasoning

Sorenson, in a statement released yesterday by Paul’s campaign, said he made the switch because he believes Bachmann can’t win her party’s contest.

“There is a clear top tier in the race for the Republican nomination for president, both here in Iowa and nationally,” he said. “Ron Paul is easily the most conservative of this group.”

Bachmann in her comments in Des Moines also targeted Paul for criticism on other fronts, including the Texas congressman’s calls to withdraw U.S. troops from overseas commitments and to legalize drugs as a way to better regulate their sale and reduce profits to violent drug cartels.

She termed Paul’s foreign policy “dangerous,” and said he is “willing to legalize drugs in the United States, including heroin and cocaine.”

Bachmann denied that her campaign is struggling in Iowa, where she has placed her greatest emphasis. She also said she would finish he quest to visit all of the state’s 99 counties today.