Jesse Benton is an integral part of Senator Rand Paul’s bid for the White House and he is extremely close to the Paul family. Not only is Benton the chief of Rand’s biggest super PAC, America’s Liberty, he managed Rand’s 2010 campaign, managed his father, Ron Paul’s 2012 bid for the presidency and he’s married to Rand’s niece. Unfortunately for Rand, on Wednesday, Jesse Benton and two associates were indicted for charges related to a bribery scandal in 2012.
In 2012, Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson was endorsing Michele Bachmann, but former Rep. Ron Paul really wanted that endorsement. So his campaign figured out a sure-fire way to get it: Bribe Sorenson with thousands of dollars.
Less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Sorenson suddenly withdrew his support for Bachmann and gave it to Ron Paul. He released a statement “explaining” himself:
“The decision I am making today is one of the most difficult I have made in my life. But given what’s at stake for our country, I have decided I must take this action.”
Michele Bachmann immediately called Sorenson out and on the same night he withdrew his support, she told the country how corrupt he was:
“Kent Sorenson personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign. Kent said to me yesterday that ‘everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn’t I?’”
Sorenson denied the accusation that he accepted a bribe, but investigators uncovered that he was lying. They found a $25,000 check that was made out to the Iowa senator from one of Ron Paul’s aides. He never cashed the check, but that wasn’t the only money he received. Investigators continued to dig and found out that Paul’s campaign had funneled $73,000 to him through a consulting firm and film company Sorenson owned.
Sorenson pleaded guilty in 2014 to charges stemming from the investigation and threw Benton right under the bus. The senator told investigators that Paul’s campaign bribed him to withdraw his support for Bachmann. That was all the FBI needed and they began to look into the elder Paul’s aides.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced its indictment. Benton, along with John Tate, the founder of America’s Liberty superPAC and Dimitrios Kesari, a staffer, were indicted for violations of federal campaign finance laws. They were charged with scheming to create false statements, conspiracy, causing false campaign expenditure reports and causing false records.
Instead of admitting that Benson did something wrong and speaking out about corruption, Rand Paul’s campaign blamed Obama:
“Senator Rand Paul is disappointed that the Obama Justice Department chose to release this just prior to the highly anticipated first Republican presidential debate,” the campaign said in a statement to NPR. “It certainly appears suspiciously timed and possibly, politically motivated. Additionally, these actions are from 2012 and have nothing to do with our campaign.”
President Obama has absolutely no reason to go after Rand Paul’s campaign, because it is already failing all on its own. If the president were going to launch a politically motivated attack, he’d probably want to target a Republican who actually has a shot at winning the GOP nomination. Rand Paul only has 4.8 percent of the party’s support and he barely made it on the main debate stage for Thursday’s debate. So, his response makes absolutely no sense.
It’s nice to see the Justice Department actually enforcing campaign finance laws. For far too long corruption has gone unchecked and it is literally destroying our political system. We have billionaires buying politicians and politicians bribing politicians, it’s infuriating. But this is one small step in the right direction; now we just need an amendment to repeal Citizens United and we will be on a path to recovery.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.