Justice is slow, but the wheels do grind. Former Ron Paul aides Jesse Benton, John Tate and Dmitri Kesari were convicted on felony counts for their effort to buy former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson's vote away from Michele Bachmann in 2012.
According to The Des Moines Register, the three were tried and convicted on multiple felony counts. Benton, who served as Mitch McConnell's campaign manager and had a leading role in Rand Paul's failed bid for the Republican nomination, was convicted on conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reporting, and guilty of a false statements scheme.
John Tate was found guilty on the same four counts. Kesari was found guilty on three of the four counts, with the campaign expenditure count not found against him.
Their defense was utterly lame.
Defense attorneys for the the three operatives, Jesse Benton, John Tate and Dimitri Kesari, have not disagreed that Sorenson was paid by the Paul campaign. Rather, defense lawyer Jesse Binnall, who represents Kesari, has suggested that Sorenson did legitimate work for the campaign, including recording robocalls and travelling to South Carolina ahead of the Republican primary there.
In an opening argument, Binnall told jurors that the final destination of the cash — a consulting company owned by Sorenson — was mistakenly obscured by a campaign worker who improperly coded the expenditures as "audio/visual" expenses. Attorneys for both Benton and Tate argued that the two operatives were largely removed from discussions about Sorenson's role on the campaign.
That ignores the chain of emails where they hatched their plan to funnel campaign money to Sorenson in exchange for his shocking switch from Bachmann to Ron Paul at the very last minute.
However, another email shown to jurors during testimony from an FBI agent showed Benton and Tate appearing to hash out a plan on how Sorenson should respond to the allegations of payment.
"We need to make sure anyone asked about this … is prepared to say the same thing," Tate wrote in an email to Benton after the switch.
These trials have taken a convoluted loop through the justice system, with the first trials ending with a single conviction before they were all tossed out by a judge, enabling prosecutors to come at them again with different arguments. In the end, those arguments prevailed, and these three are heading for prison.
It's an interesting dilemma for the conservarati out there who likes to fund challenges to campaign finance cases, isn't it? This is a case I'm sure Charles Koch would like to see go all the way to the Supreme Court, but for the fact that he doesn't have that reliable fifth vote anymore.