Politics

Pro-Trump PAC Leader Guilty in 2012 Endorsement Scandal

Former Ron Paul aide linked to campaign finance fraud

Aides to Ron Paul were found guilty of corruption while working on his 2012 presidential campaign. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three former 2012 presidential campaign aides to former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul were found guilty on Thursday of public corruption.  

One of the aides convicted by a federal jury in Iowa, Jesse Benton, was tapped this year to be a chief strategist of a super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  

The charges stem from $73,000 in payments made to former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who flipped his support from the campaign of ex-Rep. Michele Bachmann to Paul just days ahead of the Iowa caucus, according to the Des Moines Register .  

Defense attorneys for the three operatives, Benton, John Tate and Dimitri Kesari, have admitted Sorenson was paid by the Paul campaign, but they maintained Sorenson did campaign work, such as record robocalls and travel to South Carolina ahead of the state's primary.  

Benton, Tate and Kesari were re-indicted in November after Benton and Tate were acquitted on similar charges the previous month.  

Prior to his pro-Trump super PAC position, Benton also served as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager in 2014  and worked for a super PAC that supported Rand Paul.  

Prosecutors said the three aides broke campaign expenditure reporting laws by paying Sorenson through a third-party video production in an effort to make the money untraceable in public reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Sorenson denied allegations that he'd accepted cash in exchange for the endorsement.  

Benton and Tate were found guilty of conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reports and a false statement scheme. Kesari was found guilty of conspiracy, campaign finance and false statement charges.  

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.