Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday and a key figure in Paul circles is reportedly making a comeback.
Jesse Benton (pictured left), former campaign manager to now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and a longtime aide of both Rand Paul and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), will serve as the new presidential candidate’s campaign manager, according to National Journal.
Benton will serve as a general consultant with Paul’s 2016 super PAC, National Journal said, citing “a person familiar with the arrangement.” Benton will use the America’s Liberty PAC, which was initially established for Ron Paul’s political interests, as the basis for Rand Paul’s new 2016 super PAC.
In 2014, Benton resigned from running McConnell’s campaign after news broke that he faced subpoenas over financial transactions and emails related to his alleged role in a bribery scandal. The probe of the bribery scandal centered on Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson (R) switching his 2012 presidential endorsement from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to Rep. Paul after receiving a $25,000 check linked back to Paul aide Dimitri Kesari. Benton was Rep. Paul’s political director during the congressman’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Benton’s role as McConnell’s campaign manager was seen as something of an alliance between two opposing camps within the Republican Party. McConnell hails from the establishment wing of the GOP, and endorsed Republican Trey Grayson over Paul during the 2010 Kentucky Senate primary. But Paul won and associated himself with the anti-establishment wing of the GOP. Benton’s hiring as campaign manager seemed to be a detente between Paul’s camp and McConnell’s camp.
But in 2013, audio surfaced of Benton saying he was “sorta holding” his “nose for two years…cause what we’re doing here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in ’16,'” suggesting that Benton was only working with McConnell to help Sen. Paul’s eventual presidential run.
McConnell has said that if Paul did choose to run for president in 2016, “he would be the most credible candidate for president since Henry Clay.”
In December, after Benton’s resignation from McConnell’s re-election campaign, Sen. Paul said Benton would be involved in his political operation in the future.
“Jesse is married to my niece and was a big help in the Kentucky election here in 2010 and a big help for Sen. McConnell,” Paul said in an interview with Kentucky’s ABC affiliate, WHAS11. “And, yes, he’ll help us.”