Updated 1:25 p.m. | A longtime ally of Sen. Rand Paul who at one point served as the 2014 campaign manager for now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been indicted for alleged campaign finance fraud.
Louisville, Ky.-based political operative Jesse Benton was McConnell's campaign manager until he abruptly resigned on Aug. 29, 2014, after former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson admitted to taking concealed payments from the 2012 presidential campaign of former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Benton was the campaign chairman.
Sorenson had switched endorsements from then-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
"Violating campaign finance laws by concealing payments to an elected official undermines our electoral system and deceives the public," FBI Special Agent David J. LeValley said Wednesday. "The FBI will aggressively investigate those who corrupt the integrity of our democratic process."
Benton was one of three individuals indicted on conspiracy and obstruction charges, as well as for alleged efforts to cause submission of false reports to the Federal Election Commission. The others are John M. Tate and Dimitrios N. Kesari, both of Virginia. Kesari was the deputy campaign manager for Ron Paul's effort. In the 2016 presidential race, Benton and Tate are helping to run the leading super PAC backing Rand Paul's presidential bid.
Benton maintained his innocence at the time he resigned from McConnell's 2014 campaign operation, and McConnell's campaign quickly issued a statement at the time saying: "Senator McConnell obviously has nothing to do with the Iowa Presidential Caucus or this investigation so it would be inappropriate for his campaign to comment on this situation."
The indictment alleges a trail of emails show efforts to orchestrate a $25,000 payment to Sorenson from a political committee by wire transfer. The Justice Department also alleges that money was moved through a film production company in order to provide improper payments to Sorenson.
"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," Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said.