Jesse Benton

Jesse Reeves Benton (born October 4, 1977) is an American conservative political operative, writer, entrepreneur, and convicted felon.[1] Benton is closely associated with the Paul family. He served as a campaign manager for both Ron Paul and Rand Paul. He is married to Valori Pyeatt, Ron Paul's granddaughter.[2]

Jesse Benton
Jesse Benton, American political consultant.jpg
Benton at a book signing at Iowa State University in 2011
Born
Jesse Reeves Benton

(1977-10-04) October 4, 1977 (age 44)
Alma materMary Washington College
OccupationPolitical consultant
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Valori Pyeatt
Children1

Benton served as the campaign manager of Republican Mitch McConnell, until resigning on August 29, 2014, amid rumors surrounding campaign finance allegations during the 2012 presidential election.[3] On August 5, 2015, Benton was indicted by a grand jury on charges arising from an alleged coverup to conceal the expenditure of campaign money to hire an Iowa politician.[4] Four of the five charges were initially thrown out because of misconduct by the prosecutor.[5] Benton was found not guilty at trial on charges of making false statements.[6] Over the objections of a former U.S. Attorney,[7] Benton was subsequently re-indicted and was found guilty at a second trial of conspiring to cause false records to the Federal Election Commission.[1] Benton was given two years probation.[8] He was pardoned by President Donald Trump on December 23, 2020.[9]

CareerEdit

Benton's political career began in 2000 when he worked with the Republican National Committee.[10] Benton has been involved with various political candidates and organizations, including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Liberty Coalition, the Performance Institute, and Louisiana Senator David Vitter. Benton opened his own political firm, CIC solutions, working mostly in Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 2007, Benton became involved with Ron Paul's 2008 presidential candidacy. Benton started out as a volunteer, being attracted by Paul's message on spending, civil liberties, and foreign policy, but eventually became Paul's communications director.[11]

After the end of Ron Paul's 2008 campaign, Benton joined the Campaign for Liberty, a political organization founded by Ron Paul to advocate for his political message.[12]

Rand Paul campaignEdit

In 2010, Benton served as Rand Paul's campaign manager when Paul was elected Senator of Kentucky. Benton simultaneously served as Ron Paul's political director. Rand Paul had never run for office before, and was seen as an underdog.[13] Benton and Rand Paul became close, with the two speaking nearly every day and Benton moving into Paul's basement.[11] Rand Paul's ultimately victorious campaign was praised for its use of the internet fundraising and recruiting, and Paul's ability to knock off a more established candidate was described by a Republican strategist as establishing a new norm for Republican primaries.[14]

Ron Paul presidential campaignEdit

After Rand Paul's election, Benton worked on Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.[12] During the campaign, Benton urged Paul's delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention to act with "decorum and respect."[15]

Benton has been criticized by some Ron Paul supporters who see Benton as being overly concerned with his own career,[16] incompetent,[17][18] and not truly a "hardcore Paulite." Thomas Woods, an historian, political analyst, and former Ron Paul adviser, criticized Benton for what he saw as downplaying Ron Paul's libertarian ideals in order to earn "GOP respectability,"[12] a notion echoed by other Paul supporters.[19]

In August 2012, conservative activist and former fired 2008 Ron Paul staffer Dennis Fusaro released emails and phone conversations that implicated Benton in being involved in an attempt to hire Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson in order to secure Sorenson's support of Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Sorenson initially worked for Michele Bachmann's candidacy, but switched his support to Paul, prompting Bachmann to accuse the Paul campaign of buying Sorenson.[20][21] Sorenson resigned after a special investigator found it "manifestly clear" he violated Iowa Senate ethics rules by accepting money and then denying he'd done so.[22]

Fusaro then released a phone conversation regarding Benton's employment with the McConnell campaign, in which Benton said he was "sort of holding my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016." The incident was referred to on Twitter as "nosegate."[23] In response to Fusaro's actions, Benson stated, ""It is truly sick that someone would record a private phone conversation I had out of kindness and use it to try to hurt me. I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election. Being selected to lead his campaign is one of the great honors of my life and I look forward to victory in November of 2014." The McConnell campaign stated that Benton would "absolutely" keep his job with the campaign.[24]

Although Paul was not nominated, Benton praised Paul's followers for helping to elect Paul supporters to positions of leadership within the GOP.[25]

Mitch McConnell campaignEdit

After the 2012 presidential election, Benton agreed to serve as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager for his 2014 re-election campaign. In hiring Benton, McConnell hoped to avoid a Republican primary from a conservative challenger, although Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin would ultimately challenge McConnell.[26] The move was notable as McConnell had endorsed Paul's 2010 Republican primary opponent, Trey Grayson, and McConnell represented the "establishment" wing of the Kentucky Republican party while Benton's background was in "grassroots" advocacy.[27]

The move, which was followed by Rand Paul endorsing McConnell's re-election, began a political alliance between the two Republican Senators from Kentucky.[17] Benton views his working with McConnell as part of a goal to unite different factions of Republicans, saying that "it's a really, really important mission to bring all Republicans and conservatives together."[11] Benton helped Rand Paul gain McConnell's approval of Paul's noted filibuster of future CIA Director John O. Brennan, in which Paul criticized the Obama Administration's use of combat drones.[28]

Benton resigned his post as Mitch McConnell's campaign manager in August 2014 when details of a campaign filing scandal from Paul's 2012 presidential campaign came to light.[29][30]

In March 2016, Benton was hired by the pro-Trump "Great America" super PAC.[31]

Political viewsEdit

Benton has described himself as both a political operative and activist. Benton views his role as helping to bring the "voice" of the Tea Party into a governing coalition.[17] Benton is an adherent of the Austrian School of Economics, believing that "The market can always do better. Ultimately the market is the best way to provide things to society."[32] Benton has contributed money to Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kurt Bills, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Louisville and Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee.[33] In 2013, Benton sent out an email that claimed that Barack Obama wanted to create a national gun registration system; the claim was criticized by The Washington Post's fact-checker.[34]

Indictment and acquittalEdit

Benton was indicted[35][36] for allegedly concealing over $70,000 in payments to Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to convince Sorenson change his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul, a longtime Texas congressman. The indictment charged Benton and two other defendants with conspiracy, causing false records to obstruct a contemplated investigation, causing the submission of false campaign expenditure reports, concealing these payments from the Federal Election Commission and the FBI, and perjury. All but one of the charges against Benton were thrown out by an Iowa judge for proprietorial misconduct, and he was acquitted at trial of the only remaining charge.[37][38]

Conviction and pardonEdit

The government was able re-indict Benton on the dismissed charges, and he stood for a second trial. On May 5, 2016, a federal jury in Des Moines found Benton guilty of four federal crimes: conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reports and making false statements.[39][40] Campaign managers Jesse Benton, John Tate and Demetrios Kesari were all found guilty of covering of conspiracy. Benton was sentenced to two years probation.[41][42][43]

With the support of Rand Paul and Lee Goodman, Benton was given a full pardon by Donald Trump on December 23, 2020.[9]

September 2021 indictmentEdit

On September 20, 2021, the United States Department of Justice announced that Benton (along with Doug Wead) has been indicted. Benton and Wead are both charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution, and cause false records to be filed with the FEC, one count of contribution by a foreign national, one count of contribution in the name of another and three counts of making false entries in an official record.[44][non-primary source needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Benton is a Philadelphia native and an alumnus of Mary Washington College, where he was an economics major and played rugby.[32] Benton is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt, and they have a daughter, Caroline. The two met when Benton arranged for Pyeatt to do an interview as part of Paul's presidential campaign.[11] In addition to doing interviews for the Paul campaign, Pyeatt has also helped to organize fundraising receptions. Pyeatt is the daughter of Ron Paul's daughter Lori Pyeatt, who has also worked on the Ron Paul campaign.[45]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Pitt, David. "Court upholds convictions of 2012 Ron Paul campaign staffers". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  2. ^ Service, RONNIE ELLISCNHI News. "Benton to manage McConnell's 2014 re-election campaign". The Independent Online. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  3. ^ "Mitch McConnell's campaign manager resigns after Iowa bribery scandal deepens | U.S. Senate Election | Kentucky.com". Archived from the original on 2014-08-31.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Ben (August 5, 2015). "Ron Paul's top 2012 campaign staff members indicted on felony charges" – via www.theguardian.com.
  5. ^ "Judge Drops Multiple Charges Against Jesse Benton". Roll Call. 2015-10-09. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  6. ^ "Former Paul aide Jesse Benton acquitted in campaign fraud case". Politico.
  7. ^ Ax, Joseph (2015-10-23). "Adviser to Ron and Rand Paul found not guilty in bribery case". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  8. ^ Rodgers, Grant (September 20, 2016). "Top Ron Paul aide Jesse Benton avoids prison". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 2021-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b Austin, Emma. "President Trump grants pardon for Louisville activist Christopher 2X". The Courier-Journal.
  10. ^ Wilson, Reid (June 20, 2013). "Republican Presidential Prospects Lay Groundwork for Invisible Primary". National Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d Trinko, Katrina (July 31, 2014). "From Rand to Mitch". National Review. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Weigel, David (September 13, 2012). "Ron Paul's Campaign Manager Will Work for Mitch McConnell". Slate. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  13. ^ Boerma, Lindsey (March 25, 2011). "A Tale of Two Pauls: Either Ron or Rand Likely to Jump Into 2012 Race". National Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Dinan, Stephen (June 8, 2010). "Political parties lose control as Internet aids challengers". The Washington Times. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  15. ^ Halloran, Liz (May 15, 2012). "Ron Paul Spokesman: Candidate Unlikely To Ever Endorse Romney". NPR. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  16. ^ Weber, Doug (February 8, 2013). "Ron Paul Network Was Lucrative for Jesse Benton". Open Secrets. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c Wyler, Grace (September 13, 2012). "Why Ron Paul's Campaign Manager Is Now Taking A Job With The GOP Establishment". Business Insider. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  18. ^ Wenzel, Robert (May 18, 2012). "Jesse Benton's $586,616 Take as a Result of the Ron Paul Campaign". Economic Policy Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  19. ^ Doherty, Brian (September 11, 2012). "Ron Paul's Political Director Jesse Benton Quits Campaign for Liberty". Reason. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  20. ^ Robinson, Craig (August 7, 2013). "In His Own Words: Sorenson Confirms Payment for Ron Paul Endorsement". The Iowa Republican.
  21. ^ Choma, Russ (August 7, 2013). "Ron Paul Campaign Accused of Trying to Buy Iowa Endorsements". Open Secrets. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  22. ^ Ryan J. Foley (October 2, 2013). "Kent Sorenson Quits After Report On Michele Bachmann Campaign Money". HuffPost. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013.
  23. ^ Meador, Jonathan (August 8, 2013). "'Nosegate' Puts McConnell Campaign Manager Jesse Benton Under Fire". WFPL News.
  24. ^ Martin, Jonathan (August 8, 2013). "Top McConnell Aide 'Holding My Nose' to Help Rand Paul". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Doherty, Brian (May 15, 2012). "Ron Paul Campaign Pull Back: Clarifications from the Campaign". Reason. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  26. ^ Sullivan, Sean (August 9, 2013). "Why 'holding my nose' is a problem for Mitch McConnell". The Fix. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  27. ^ Weiner, Rachel (September 13, 2012). "Mitch McConnell hires Ron Paul aide". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  28. ^ Goldmacher, Shane (March 7, 2013). "Inside the Rand Paul Filibuster". National Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  29. ^ Youngman, Sam (August 29, 2014). "Mitch McConnell's campaign manager resigns after Iowa bribery scandal deepens". kentucky.com. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  30. ^ Bailey, Phillip M. (August 29, 2014). "McConnell Campaign Manager Resigns After Iowa Bribery Probe Expands". WFPL.org. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  31. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (March 11, 2016). "Pro-Trump PAC hires GOP veteran as strategist". Politico. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  32. ^ a b Donadio, David (February 25, 2008). "What's Your Story? Jesse Benton". Doublethink Online. Archived from the original on September 17, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  33. ^ Cooper, Kent (August 8, 2013). "Liability Meter Rising on McConnell Campaign Manager". Roll Call. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  34. ^ Kessler, Glenn (January 30, 2013). "A McConnell aide's over-the-top claim about a 'national gun registration scheme'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  35. ^ "Three Member of 2012 Presidential Campaign Staff Charged with Concealing Payments Made to State Sentor". The United States Department of Justice. August 5, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  36. ^ "Rand Paul super PAC head indicted over alleged 2012 campaign finance violations". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  37. ^ "Charges Dismissed Against John Tate and Jesse Benton (Mostly)". October 13, 2015.
  38. ^ "Jesse Benton Acquitted in Campaign Fraud Case". October 22, 2015.
  39. ^ US V Jesse Benton (July 30, 2015). "Department of Justice". Retrieved May 5, 2015 – via www.justice.gov.
  40. ^ "Trump super PAC strategist found guilty of 2012 campaign-finance violations". Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  41. ^ Greene, Renss (October 27, 2016). "Hamilton Councilman Kesari Resigns After Conviction". Loudoun Now.
  42. ^ Andrea Noble (May 5, 2016). "Three former Ron Paul staffers guilty in campaign-bribery case". The Washington Times. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  43. ^ Gerstein, Josh (September 20, 2016). "2 ex-Ron Paul aides get probation for paid 2012 endorsement cover-up". Politico. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  44. ^ "Political Operatives Indicted". U.S. Dept. of Justice. 20 September 2021. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  45. ^ Mosk, Matthew (May 27, 2008). "Ron Paul's Campaign Is a Family Business, FEC Reports Show". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 9, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2013.

External linksEdit