Three Things You Need To Know About A Top Rand Paul Operative’s Indictment

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, listens as campaign chairman Jesse Benton has a word with him as he signs autographs at the Cass County Community Center in Atlantic, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 29... Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, listens as campaign chairman Jesse Benton has a word with him as he signs autographs at the Cass County Community Center in Atlantic, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) MORE LESS
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A longtime fixture in the political orbit of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father, Ron Paul, was indicted Wednesday in an alleged bribery scheme concerning the elder Paul’s 2012 presidential bid.

The investigation has been years in the making, and the indictments unveiled on Wednesday were the closest yet to land to the Paul family.

Here are three things you need to know about how development ties into the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign and the Republican primary.

The indictment doesn’t touch Rand Paul’s current campaign

Benton and another man indicted in the bribery scheme, John Tate, were the top dogs on Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. Benton also ran Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Neither man currently works for Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, however.

Instead, Tate and Benton are affiliated with America’s Liberty PAC, which describes itself as “a Super PAC created for and dedicated to, electing Senator Rand Paul President of the United States in 2016.” Tate founded the super PAC and Benton was tapped to lead it shortly after Paul announced his candidacy.

Rand Paul previously denied Benton did ‘anything wrong’

The Kentucky senator first addressed Benton’s role in the alleged bribery scheme last fall, after reports surfaced that investigators had subpoenaed Benton’s emails and financial transactions.

“I think Jesse is honest, he’s good at politics and I don’t think he’s done anything wrong,” Paul told Louisville TV station WHAS in December.

Paul went on to suggest that the investigation into the alleged bribery scheme was politically motivated. He also appeared to take a swipe at the campaign finance rules Benton was accused of violating.

“You can do something that really I think ought to be like a civil fine for people and people end up not reporting it or reporting it in a way it wasn’t supposed to be reported,” he told WHAS. “And frankly it’s so complicated if we threaten people with penalties that are above and beyond sort of, ‘You need to pay a fine for being late on something,’ I think we’re going to scare a lot of good people away from helping.”

Paul world is spinning the indictment as a government conspiracy

Ron Paul, known for his apocalyptic predictions about the imminent collapse of America’s financial institutions, suggested Wednesday that the indictment against Benton was yet another government conspiracy.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News’ Rosie Gray, the former congressman from Texas, questioned why the indictment was unsealed the day before the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 presidential race.

“I am extremely disappointed in the government’s decision,” Paul said via a spokesperson, as quoted by BuzzFeed News. “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.”

Paul’s son polled well enough nationally to qualify for a coveted spot in the Republican primary’s first primetime debate, which is scheduled to air Thursday night on Fox News.

An attorney for Benton, Roscoe Howard, echoed the elder Paul’s suspicion in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

“Jesse Benton, a prominent conservative Republican, has cooperated with the government during its multi-year investigation,” Howard told the news site. “That this indictment is now suddenly announced on the eve of the first Republican Presidential debate strongly supports our belief that this is a politically motivated prosecution designed to serve a political agenda, not to achieve justice. Mr. Benton is eager to get before an impartial judge and jury who will quickly recognize this for what he believes it is: Character assassination for political gain.”

A spokesperson for Rand Paul’s presidential campaign concurred in a statement provided to TPM.

“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.”

This post has been updated.

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