Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, and his father were previously associated with one of the defendants in the case. PHOTO: Washington Post by Salwan Georges.
A political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted of a 2012 campaign finance ruse is now facing new charges related to an alleged plot to illegally transfer funds from a Russian national to the then campaign. White House candidate Donald Trump.
Jesse Benton, 43, who previously served as a top aide to former Congressman Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, and who later managed a political action committee (known in the US as super PACs) in support of Trump, was indicted this month, according to a federal indictment in Washington that was revealed Monday. Also being indicted is Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George HW Bush.
According to the indictment, in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Benton and Wead asked a Russian citizen for a donation to a US election campaign, in violation of federal law, and then filed false campaign finance reports. to make it look like the donations came from Benton.
Federal records from that period make it clear that the donations were used to support Trump’s campaign, although the recipient is not named in the indictment. The authorities allege that Benton arranged for the Russian citizen to attend a fundraising event and “take a photograph with” the candidate, “in exchange for a political contribution.”
Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal authorities and the public,” according to the indictment.
The court document does not name Trump, but the details in the indictment are consistent with a $ 25,000 donation that Benton made in the fall of 2016 to a committee that jointly raised funds for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. National Committee, RNC), campaign financial records show.
The Russian national, who is not named and is described as a Wead business associate, transferred $ 100,000 from a bank account in Vienna, Austria, to the account of a Benton-owned political consulting firm, authorities allege.
In return, Benton and Wead allegedly arranged for the Russian citizen to participate in a fundraising event that took place in Philadelphia in September of that year. The following month, Benton used his credit card to pay the $ 25,000 for the Russian citizen’s entry to the event and told a campaign committee consultant that he had “bought the tickets and given them away” to Wead and the individual.
Benton then paid the $ 25,000 with his credit card using the funds transferred through his consulting company by the individual. Benton kept the other $ 75,000, the indictment alleges.
Benton did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night. Wead referred the questions to his attorneys, Jane Raskin and Jay Sekulow.
“Doug Wead is a respected author and advocate for charitable causes,” Sekulow said in an email Monday night. “He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will continue to respond appropriately in court.”
The $ 25,000 donation to Trump’s Victory Committee was apparently Benton’s only contribution to the 2016 federal election campaigns, not counting a $ 5 donation for a “Super PAC” in support of Trump, according to the financial records of Bell.
Neither Trump nor RNC spokesmen immediately responded to requests for comment.
In another unrelated matter, Benton and two other Ron Paul associates were convicted in 2016 of an attempt to buy a senator’s support for Paul’s presidential candidacy in 2012. The trio had been accused of hatching a scheme to pay a Iowa state senator in exchange for his support of the campaign and his organization in the states that vote first.
Benton had led the re-election campaign for Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, in 2014, but resigned in August after details of investigations into his role in the Paul’s campaign plot were revealed.
Benton later worked for the “Great America Super PAC” political action committee, which supported Trump, but resigned in 2016 when charges were filed against him. Late last year, Trump pardoned Benton, backed by Rand Paul.
Benton had also come under media scrutiny in the fall of 2016 for allegedly trying to use the Great America Super PAC as a way to receive donations from abroad. Journalists from the British newspaper Telegraph, posing as alleged associates of a potential Chinese donor, took written and audiovisual evidence in which Benton claimed that he can transfer millions of dollars from his company account to the Super PAC account, in an elaborate scheme to hide the foreign origins of funds. The investigation led to a federal indictment against Benton.
Wead was also a Republican candidate for Congress for Arizona in the early 1990s and gained notoriety in 2005 when he revealed that he had secretly recorded George W. Bush’s phone conversations for a two-year period. Wead released excerpts from the recordings, which were made legally, and the White House at the time did not deny their authenticity.
David Weigel of the Washington Post contributed to this report.
Isaac Stanley-Becker is a national politics reporter.
Felicia Sonmez is a national policy reporter covering breaking news from the White House, Congress, and election campaigns. She was previously based in Beijing, where she worked for Agence France-Presse and The Wall Street Journal.
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