Top Rand Operative Indicted In 2012 Iowa Bribery Scandal

A federal grand jury has indicted a longtime aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in a bribery scandal connected to his father Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential bid, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Jesse Benton was indicted on five counts including conspiracy, causing the submission of false campaign expenditure reports to the Federal Election Commission and making false statements to the FBI, according to the indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Iowa. The charges stemmed from an alleged scheme to bribe a former Iowa lawmaker to switch his endorsement in the 2012 Republican presidential primary from then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to Paul, then a congressman from Texas.

A spokesperson for Paul’s presidential campaign said in a statement provided to TPM that the charges against Benton were politically motivated.

“Senator Rand Paul is disappointed that the Obama Justice Department chose to release this just prior to the highly anticipated first Republican presidential debate; it certainly appears suspiciously timed and possibly, politically motivated,” the statement read. “Additionally, these actions are from 2012 and have nothing to do with our campaign.”

Benton has worn many hats in Paul world. He led both Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate and Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and currently heads up America’s Liberty PAC, which is supporting the younger Paul’s current presidential bid.

Benton also served as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign manager until August of that year, when he resigned over reports that he faced subpoenas for his emails and financial transactions in connection with the alleged bribery scheme.

The founder of America’s Liberty PAC, John Tate, and another staffer to Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, Dimitri Kesari, were also indicted in the alleged bribery scheme.

The former Iowa lawmaker at the center of the alleged bribery scheme, Kent Sorenson, pleaded guilty in August 2014 to concealing “under the table payments” he received for switching his loyalties from Bachmann to Paul.

Ron Paul questioned the timing of the DOJ announcement in a statement Wednesday afternoon, according to BuzzFeed News’ Rosie Gray:

Read the indictment below:

This post has been updated.

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