After being involved in an alleged bribery and vote buying scandal, the campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) resigned on Saturday. Jesse Benton has been caught up in a scandal dating back to the 2012 election when he was working for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
Jesse Benton offered his resignation to Mitch McConnell on Saturday and the Senate Minority leader reluctantly accepted, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. During the 2012 election, Benton worked as the political director for Rep. Ron Paul. Despite denying the allegations, which he calls "inaccurate," as well as "politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue” in a statement released Saturday, Benton decided to step down as to not be a further distraction to McConnell's re-election campaign.
It was reported that on Wednesday, Kent Sorenson, a former State Senator from Iowa, plead guilty to accepting $73,000 from the Paul Campaign in exchange for his endorsement and to an obstruction of justice charge for lying about the incident. The Herald-Leader notes that, while Benton's name wasn't linked to any court documents, private e-mails released by Republicans in Iowa show that Benton was personally involved in recruiting Sorenson. After endorsing Paul in December of 2011, Sorenson claimed that the Paul campaign had sent him $73,000 by the end of 2012, including a check of $25,000 that was sent his wife, and average monthly payments of $8,000.
In the statement released on Saturday, Benton noted that, “the press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false. However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign." While not directly related, The Hill reports that Benton's involvement with the Paul campaign scandal could be linked to another alleged bribery, this time involving the current McConnell campaign.
"There may be lingering ties between McConnell's campaign and the bribery scandal. One of the key players in that scheme, Paul presidential campaign aide Dimitri Kesari, appears to have been paid nearly $62,000 from the McConnell campaign in 2013.
Kesari was the Paul campaign liaison that Sorenson alleged, during a private phone conversation that was leaked to the press, delivered him a check as part of the bribe. Sorenson also suggested during the conversation that Benton knew about the bribe."
Mitch McConnell is in a tough re-election battle against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Though Kentucky is considered a reliable red state, McConnell's approval ratings have dipped, making Grimes a legit threat to the incumbent in November.