Jesse Benton, a long-time adviser to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been acquitted in a federal corruption probe of former Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.
A jury in Des Moines, Iowa, found Benton not guilty of lying to FBI agents when interviewed about pay-offs made by the campaign of Ron Paul, who is the father of Sen. Paul, after the 2012 Iowa caucuses. The jury found another campaign staffer, Dimitri Kesari, guilty of causing the campaign to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission. But Kesari was acquitted on a second charge, and the jury couldn’t reach verdicts on three others.
Earlier, a judge had dismissed other charges against Benton and all charges against a third Paul ally. John Tate managed Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign and founded America’s Liberty, a superPAC currently backing Rand Paul’s presidential bid.
Benton was chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign. He managed Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign in Kentucky, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign last year. This year, Benton was running America’s Liberty superPAC. He’s also part of the Paul family; his wife is Ron Paul’s grand-daughter and Rand Paul’s niece.
Ron Paul and Rand Paul both said the indictments were timed to damage Rand Paul just before a Republican presidential debate.
The case revolved around former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson. In 2011, he was the salaried state chairman for GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann. Weeks before the Iowa caucuses in January 2012, he abandoned Bachmann to support Ron Paul.
Sorenson later said the Paul campaign paid him $73,000 to switch, and he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. A grand jury indicted Benton, Tate and Kesari in 2014, alleging the Ron Paul campaign had concealed the purpose of the payments and the three politicos had tried to cover up the episode.