EX-GOP con­sul­tant writes of ‘crooks’ in Congress

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro & State - DAVE LIEBER watch­dog@dal­las­news.com

Con­gress­man Kenny Marchant is “so ar­ro­gant, so self-serv­ing and so greedy,” his for­mer po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant writes in a new book.

Con­gress­woman Kay Granger “had a tem­per, wor­ried too much what oth­ers thought and in gen­eral had a chip on her shoul­der.”

These are the words of a for­mer in­sider, a vet­eran Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant who worked for both politi­cians and pub­lished a tell-all mem­oir.

Au­thor Leslie Sor­rell tells The Watch­dog that she grew dis­en­chanted with her for­mer pro­fes­sion when she re­al­ized that mem­bers of Congress

be­come, in her words, “crooks” and po­lit­i­cal “pros­ti­tutes.”

As leader of the Dal­las­based Mag­no­lia Group, Sor­rell worked ex­clu­sively for Repub­li­cans in Congress and the Texas Leg­is­la­ture, and on at least one White House cam­paign (Mitt Rom­ney’s).

Her book is From Clients to Crooks: An In­sider Re­veals the Real Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The Watch­dog high­lights her claims here be­cause Sor­rell turned watch­dog on her own, harshly blow­ing the whis­tle on her clients. Sor­rell was ide­al­is­tic when she jumped into the game of pol­i­tics. “I be­lieved that pol­i­tics rep­re­sented the great­est ideals of our so­ci­ety,” she opens on page 1. By the end, page 229, she’s so dis­ap­pointed that she’s ready to move to another coun­try. And so she did.

The shine is gone. “I was in a world that no one tells you about and the me­dia fails to cover,” she writes.

“Over the years I watched my clients slowly trans­form from those awk­ward can­di­dates I fer­vently be­lieved in to slick politi­cians . ... In­stead, as time passed, they moved closer and closer to the line be­tween right and wrong, un­til work­ing on the edge be­came rou­tine and the line it­self be­gan to fade.”

She launched her ca­reer in Wash­ing­ton, but moved to Dal­las to start her own firm and help lo­cal can­di­dates. She had three strong tal­ents. She could raise money. She could fill a room for a fundraiser. And she slav­ishly de­voted her­self to her can­di­dates.

She writes of Granger bark­ing or­ders and blow­ing through staff. (Granger’s spokesman didn’t re­spond to my emails for com­ment.)

Sor­rell jumped ship to work for U.S. Rep. Jeb Hen­sar­ling. She writes that when Hen­sar­ling (who re­cently an­nounced his re­tire­ment) was first elected in 2002, “He thanked God, Se­na­tor (Phil) Gramm and me.”

When Hen­sar­ling even­tu­ally fired her, he told her, “I prayed over this, Leslie.”

She writes, “A lot of con­gress­men think they have a mo­nop­oly on God.”

She also worked for U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess. Her crit­i­cism of him is mild by com­par­i­son. “De­spite me beg­ging him to stop wear­ing black ten­nis shoes, he wore black ten­nis shoes,” she re­calls.

No fan of Marchant

Her harsh­est crit­i­cism is saved for Marchant, whom she calls a “sleaze.”

Now, I haven’t ver­i­fied all of the al­le­ga­tions Sor­rell makes in her gos­sipy, com­pelling read. But when I con­tacted Marchant’s of­fice this week, his spokesman Rob Dam­schen told me, “Dave, here is the quote you may use from Con­gress­man Marchant: ‘I do not com­ment on for­mer po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants or em­ploy­ees.’”

Sor­rell helped Marchant raise money, but she writes that he wasn’t al­ways help­ful.

“I learned Kenny doesn’t ‘do break­fast’ or morn­ings . ... I dis­cov­ered Marchant doesn’t do late nights ei­ther.”

That left only day­time to raise money, but it wasn’t hard. Marchant’s elec­tions were a fore­gone con­clu­sion. His district lines, which he helped draw when he served in the Leg­is­la­ture, were com­pletely fa­vor­able to him.

Af­ter one meet­ing at a com­pany where the pair raised sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars, Marchant told her he didn’t want to visit donors.

“They should come to me!” she quotes him as say­ing.

She writes, “I thought he needed to be hum­bler and ap­pre­cia­tive to be more suc­cess­ful in fundrais­ing.”

She even­tu­ally dou­ble­crossed Marchant. She grew dis­en­chanted with him, and in 2012 she be­came cam­paign manager for for­mer TV re­porter Grant St­inch­field, who chal­lenged Marchant in the GOP pri­mary.

Why? She claims in her book that Marchant’s per­sonal net worth grew, by her stan­dards, too much while in of­fice. She also crit­i­cized him for rarely speak­ing on the House floor and for hav­ing a weak record in­tro­duc­ing bills.

In the big­gest blow, though, Marchant, she al­leges in her book, put pres­sure on all her other clients to drop her and kill her busi­ness. Many did drop her un­der the threat of los­ing do­na­tions if they didn’t, she charges.

Loss ends ca­reer

Ear­lier this year, The Watch­dog re­ported that Marchant re­fused to hold open pub­lic town hall meet­ings and de­clined to meet with many of his con­stituents.

Sor­rell writes that Marchant avoided town halls be­cause “it was no se­cret that Con­gress­man Marchant was known to be lazy.”

She writes how Marchant sup­port­ers kept steal­ing St­inch­field’s signs. She also ac­cused the Marchant cam­paign of pub­lish­ing a list of sup­port­ers that in­cluded names who weren’t sup­port­ers.

Marchant re­fused to de­bate, she charges, be­cause “a de­bate would ex­pose not only Kenny’s lack of leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments, but his ar­ro­gance.”

St­inch­field lost badly. Sor­rell’s ide­al­ism about pol­i­tics had eroded. She lost her clients, too.

“I couldn’t go back to work­ing with peo­ple I now be­lieved were whores for fi­nan­cial gain,” she writes.

She tells me, “I was heart­bro­ken, dev­as­tated. I re­ally ad­mired these peo­ple. Once I fig­ured out the world I was op­er­at­ing in, I was par­a­lyzed. If I con­tinue, I’d be like them, and I’ve got to end it.”

But in truth, many wouldn’t hire her back be­cause of her re­bel­lion against in­cum­bent Repub­li­cans.

She’s done. She re­tired and now runs a beach­front bed and break­fast with her hus­band in Belize.

For in­for­ma­tion on the book, check Ama­zon.


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