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The Watchdog: Ex-GOP consultant writes of 'crooks' in Congress

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Dave Lieber, The Dallas Morning News

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."

Leslie Sorrell
Leslie Sorrell

As leader of the Dallas-based 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 double-crossed 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.

Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.

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