March 8, 2022

Jesse Benton, a former campaign staffer and the grandson-in-law of Rand Paul who also received a pardon from Trump, has been charged with directing Russian money into the 2016 presidential election, according to the US Department of Justice. The unsealed indictment was announced yesterday. Via Yahoo News:

Business Insider reports that Jesse Benton, Mr. Paul's former aide, "conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian foreign national" into the 2016 campaign.

[...] Mr. Benton received a $100,000 wire transfer from an unnamed Russian national in October of 2016, according to the indictment. He was allegedly promised that he would get to "meet a celebrity" at a Philadelphia fundraiser a month earlier.

Though prosecutors did not name the candidate involved in the memo, Insider confirmed that Mr. Trump was hosting a fundraiser in Philadelphia the night of the fundraiser mentioned by the Russian national.

Here's the kicker: Benton used the $100K to make a $25,000 donation -- and kept the $75,000! I guess the conspirators split it!

Dude also managed Moscow Mitch's 2014 campaign and was convicted in 2016 of criminal charges related to paying $73,000 to Kent Sorenson, a former Iowa state representative, to get his endorsement for then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. That's the crime for which he received the Trump pardon. At the time, Sorenson was the state chair for Michelle Bachmann's presidential campaign, but switched to Paul after he got the bucks.

Benton was also convicted of campaign finance fraud relating to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.

More to the point: It seems very likely that Republican candidates are going to lose a major revenue stream they were counting on for this year's midterms. Worse, they no longer have control of the FEC to block disclosures.

Should be a very interesting six months!

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