Head of Rand Paul Super PAC indicted by federal grand jury

Jesse Benton, head of Rand Paul’s Super PAC, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday for his role in an alleged scheme to pay an Iowa state senator to switch allegiance to then-presidential candidate Ron Paul in 2012.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell released a statement which read:

Federal campaign finance laws are intended to ensure the integrity and transparency of the federal election process.  When political operatives make under-the-table payments to buy an elected official’s political support, it undermines public confidence in our entire political system.”

The indictment specifies Benton obscured $73,000 in secretly-funneled cash payments to former Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, who then abandoned support for former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and eventually endorsed Ron Paul.

Included in the citation are John Tate and Dimitrios Kesari; Tate is the current president of Rand Paul’s super PAC and Kesari was the Deputy National Campaign Manager with (Ron) Paul for President 2012.

Federal prosecutors say monthly cash payments in the amount of $8,000 were paid by the Ron Paul campaign to both a film-production company and to a firm owned by Mr. Sorenson.  The Paul campaign reported the expenses to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as “campaign-related audiovisual expenditures.”

In the midst of receiving cash payments, Mr. Sorenson, then an Iowa state senator, renounced his backing for Bachmann and affirmed support for Mr. Paul’s presidential bid just days prior to the Iowa Caucus.

Shortly after losing Sorenson’s support, Michele Bachmann declared in public that Sorenson’s defection was the culmination of cash payments and alleged Mr. Sorenson had admitted as much to her in private.

A Bachmann campaign aide, Peter Waldron, filed a complaint with the FEC and against Sorenson with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee.  Sorenson resigned from the Iowa state senate in 2013, was indicted and pleaded guilty to obstruction and filing false expenditures in 2014.

“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. Additionally, these actions are from 2012 and have nothing to do with our campaign,” said an unidentified Paul campaign spokesman.

[Politico] [Washington Post]