Ron Paul and Mitch McConnell's former campaign manager, Jesse Benton, was indicted along with two co-conspirators on federal charges stemming from conduct during the 2012 Presidential campaign for Ron Paul.
You might recall the stories about how Jesse Benton, John Tate and Demetrios Kasari allegedly laundered money through shell corporations to pay off then-State Senator Kent Sorenson in exchange for a last-minute endorsement switch from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul.
Today Benton, Tate and Kasari were indicted on charges of conspiracy, falsifying records to obstruct an investigation, submitting false FEC reports, and scheming to lie to the FEC.
Jesse R. Benton, 37, of Louisville, Kentucky; John M. Tate, 53, of Warrenton, Virginia; and Dimitrios N. Kesari, 49, of Leesburg, Virginia, are charged by indictment with conspiracy, causing false records to obstruct a contemplated investigation, causing the submission of false campaign expenditure reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and engaging in a scheme to make false statements to the FEC. Benton is additionally charged with making false statements to the FBI, and Kesari is also charged with obstruction of justice.
Kesari appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa today. Benton and Tate are scheduled to appear on Sept. 3, 2015.
The defendants were members of a campaign for a candidate in the 2012 presidential election. According to allegations in the indictment, former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson initially supported one candidate in the 2012 presidential election, but between October and December 2011, secretly negotiated with the defendants to switch his support to their candidate in exchange for money. On Dec. 28, 2011, at a political event in Des Moines, Iowa, Sorenson publicly announced his switch of support.
The payments to Sorenson were allegedly made in monthly installments of approximately $8,000 each and ultimately amounted to over $70,000. The indictment alleges that the defendants concealed the payments by causing them to be recorded – both in campaign accounting records and in FEC filings – as campaign-related audio-visual expenditures, and by causing them to be transmitted to a film production company and then to a second company that was controlled by Sorenson. According to the indictment, the conspirators concealed their campaign’s payments to Sorenson from their candidate and also from the FEC, the FBI and the public.
The indictment further alleges that, in response to criticism of Sorenson’s change of support from one candidate to the other, the conspirators arranged for Sorenson to issue public statements denying allegations that he was offered money for his endorsement and noting that the campaign committee’s FEC filings would show that it made no payments to Sorenson.
On Aug. 27, 2014, Sorenson pleaded guilty to causing a campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the FEC and to obstruction of justice. He has not yet been sentenced.
Rand Paul immediately turned it into a conspiracy theory, saying that it was all just an evil plot to throw him off center ahead of the first Republican debate Thursday.
Rand Paul's campaign, through an unnamed spokesman, offered similar criticism of the timing. "Senator Rand Paul is disappointed that the Obama justice department chose to release this just prior to the highly anticipated first Republican presidential debate," the campaign said. "It certainly appears suspiciously timed and possibly, politically motivated. Additionally, these actions are from 2012 and have nothing to do with our campaign."
Daddy helped reinforce that perception:
"I am extremely disappointed in the government's decision," Ron Paul said in a statement. "I think the timing of this indictment is highly suspicious given the fact that the first primary debate is tomorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved."
It was straight-up corruption, which is what we all expect from Republicans. It's just too bad we can't prove it more often.