Ron Paul's Political Director Jesse Benton Quits Campaign for Liberty

Jesse Benton, Rep Ron Paul's controversial political director and the de facto guy in charge of the political end of the Ron Paul operation (though never officially the "campaign manager") has left the position in the larger Paul machine he held between the 2008 and 2012 runs, senior vice president of the Campaign for Liberty. (Benton also managed Rand Paul's winning Senate campaign in 2010 in the interim.)

Campaign for Liberty is the grassroots activism group launched in the aftermath of the 2008 Paul run, most closely associated with "Audit the Fed" activism.

Benton said this in his public resignation letter to Campaign for Liberty president, and Paul 2012's official campaign manager, John Tate.

After much soul searching, I have decided that my passion lies in direct electoral politics, and I plan to work on campaigns rather than resume my work in grassroots advocacy.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that I will not rejoin Campaign for Liberty’s staff this fall. Please know that you, our team, Dr. Paul, and all our wonderful members have my undying friendship and loyalty.  I am of course happy to be a resource and friend to any and all of you, for whatever is in my power to provide.

Benton is also married to Paul's granddaughter Valori Pyeatt. Ron Paul appended this to the letter:

As Jesse moves on to new opportunities, I wanted to take a moment to thank him for his tireless efforts on behalf of our cause these past few years.  

Jesse remains committed to building on the historic progress our movement has made, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

I look forward to seeing the great things I know he and Valori will accomplish together in the years to come.

Benton, in my reading of the campaign, was the leading strategist behind the idea that it was best for the Paul machine to normalize itself within the Republican Party, and is also known for being eager to segregate the campaign from the Paul grassroots' more radical edges. Taking that tack often earned him the enmity of many of Paul's more hardcore fans, especially the ones who wanted a loud and vigorous and messy fight-to-the-death against the establishment until the very end.

The comment thread at this afternoon's Daily Paul post on his resignation is a fair representation of the sort of vituperation regularly aimed at Benton.

I'm hearing unspecific and unsubstantiated tales that Benton will be announcing his next political job very soon, and that the specifics of it may further aggravate Paul hardcore fans. (Not that there is any other political campaign around that's as good in libertarian terms as Paul's.) Benton himself is not commenting about that as of this afternoon.

The history of the Paul campaigns is told in my book Ron Paul's Revolution.

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  • Brandybuck||

    Do you blame him? Perhaps he tired of everyone accusing him of being the sole reason Ron Paul did not trounce Romney to get the nomination. Nevermind that the vast majority of Republicans are still pro-war, anti-liberty social conservatives, nevermind the underhanded shenanigans by the RNC stogie tokers, the fault must all be with the poor campaign Benton ran for Dr. Paul. What else can explain it? If only Benton had loosened the purse strings for a few more sign waving parties we could have won!

    I'm in the minority veiwpoint thinking that was GREAT that Ron Paul got as much attention as he did during this election season, that because of him many libertarian ideas are now being seriously discussed by the mainstream GOP. To me that's a huge success, but the small-minded nincompoops hogging the movement's microphone say it was a complete failure and it's all Jesse's fault.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The successes RP had are entirely attributable to the grass roots. The official campaign botched everything it touched after draining tens of millions of dollars from the libertarian nonprofit economy.

    I remember a meeting of my RP meetup in 2008 where we had become so frustrated with the campaign's bungling that we were thinking of setting up a pro-Ron Paul PAC to donate to. Of course the red tape was found to be enormous, but it's not like the camp had a stellar rep for efficiency.

  • Brandybuck||

    From what I saw of the grassroots, I think I would prefer the bungling. Maybe it was different in your neck of the woods, but out here the grassroots thought they knew everything and refused to listen to the oldsters who had worked on campaigns before. They were extremely pie-in-the-sky naive, and refused to have anything to do with the county party.

  • CE||

    Benton did a good job, straddling the line for Ron Paul's campaign between serious candidate and libertarian activist. A more mainstream campaign manager might have produced better primary results, but Ron Paul was never going to win with most Republican primary voters taking their cue from the mainstream media, and with most anti-government Americans not bothering to vote in the primaries.

  • CE||

    and Ron Paul apparently didn't want a more mainstream campaign manager, and none of the big guns would work for him since he was unwilling to change his message.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    straddling the line for Ron Paul's campaign between serious candidate and libertarian activist.

    bug, not feature. They never made up their mind on what the goal of the campaign was, so you got this muddled mess which accomplished little.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Nevermind that the vast majority of Republicans are still pro-war, anti-liberty social conservatives,

    Wrong, wrong and wrong.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Benton is also married to Paul's granddaughter Valerie Pyeatt.

    I loved her as Miss Tessmacher.

    Those Daily Paul commenters. It seems like the Paulites didn't care for his selling out the Doctor to the GOP. I can see that. I can also see that the Liberty Movement could just as easily be making a very big step backwards soon, unless they find just a little pragmatism in his absense. Just a little.

  • C. Anacreon||

    I'm guessing I'm the only one to catch the Valerie Perrine reference?

    Valerie Perrine -- also the first topless gal on a PBS show, when she took a shower in Steambath. That was one time when federal funding for PBS made sense.

  • LibertarianAmazon||

    Nepotism.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    My problem with Benton isn't his keeping the wingnuts at arm's length, it's that he ran two very well-funded primary campaigns, with scads of built-in volunteer and grassroots support, into the ground. Massively unprofessional for RP to have his son-in-law in such an important position, but that's how the Pauls have operated forever. It's tempting to think they run campaigns for the sole purpose of keeping the Paul family fully employed.

  • pmains||

    Apparently the delegate strategy was Jesse's idea. That seemed pretty good. I agree that the nepotism angle is unseemly.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The delegate strategy was flawed for reasons that are now obvious. He was never going to get enough delegates to deadlock the convention, and even if he did the other candidates would make deals with each other before making deals with him. Then the "delegate strategy" morphed into a drive to get him nominated from the floor so he could have a good speaking slot, which is pretty weak tea, and we all know how easily the GOP brushed aside that attempt anyway.

    If you don't have voters you will suck at elections. That's pretty much the bottom line, and the huge problem with the Paul campaign was that they were doing everything except trying to win over actual voters.

  • CE||

    To be fair, Ron Paul earned a speaking slot with the delegate strategy, but they changed the rules on him and just ignored the real results in Maine and Louisiana.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Which was a totally foreseeable event. The delegate strategy was just an attempt to exploit the technicalities of the process. Live by the technicalities, die by the technicalities.

  • Paleo-ConAvenger||

    The Paul family paid themselves pretty damn well too....

  • Brandybuck||

    At the risk of sounding negative against Ron Paul, I seriously doubt his goal was to win the nomination. I rather suspect he's running to fill his political coffers. Which is not necessarily bad if he uses the loot to fund stuff like C4L.

  • Paleo-ConAvenger||

    RP's campaign didnt run the right ads, plain and simple. They didnt focus on clarifying and explaining his foreign policy, which was his main criticism.

    I was extremely active in the grass roots, and to be honest, I blame the nutty Paultards also for 65% of our problems. They made RP and us sane supporters look like utter fools on the internet and at grassroots signwaves/rallies. There was a group of 9/11 'truthers' and other conspiracy nuts that showed up at 8 of the 15 sign waves I hosted. They yelled and passed out their propaganda. I wholeheartely blame DailyPaultards and Alex Jones types for a great deal of everything that went wrong.

  • CE||

    True more in 2008 than in 2012. The Ron Paul ads were pretty darn good this time around. The problem is that very few people vote in the primaries, and those who do tend to be old ladies who listen to talk radio all day and never heard any right wing commentator treating Ron Paul as a serious candidate, even though they pay lip service to the ideas of liberty.

  • pmains||

    Have you seen the Doug Wead interview where he discusses (in not great depth) an ultimatum that Mittens made to RP? Basically, "I will level you with horrific ads that will tarnish your name forever." I assume that meant rehashing the newsletter stuff or playing up the Rachel Maddow, "what, don't you think blacks should eat at lunch counters?" angle.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    No. Perhaps you have a link to back this up? It's a pretty strong claim.

  • thejerk||

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    God damn wackos, keep showing up at and ruining my events where we stand around and wave signs at people.

  • Paleo-ConAvenger||

    Its hard to sell a candidate to the 'mainstream' when another so called supporter is lecturing the same person you are trying to convince with campaign literature that the military will throw you in FEMA camps....if you dont vote RP...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    How would you recommend dealing with Paultards? Embarassing they may be, but they are necessary to get the message out. Every political campaign will have some over-exuberant supporters and the skill is managing them and "mainstreaming" them.

    I personally hope Paultards keep it going. Hard.

  • Paleo-ConAvenger||

    Are you replying to me?

  • crazyfingers||

    Ron Paul didn't try to win. It was clear from the beginning he was running another 'educational' campaign. That can't be blamed on Jesse Benton or any other person/group for that matter.

    Not that I blame Ron Paul either. He probably figured the establishment would NEVER let him win no matter how he conducted himself/many votes he got, so he might as well tell the unvarnished truth. Looking at the GOP shenanigans, that doesn't seem like much of a stretch.

    I expect to see Jessee on the Rand Paul 2016 exploratory committee, assuming Mittens loses (and eventually maybe even if he doesn't).

  • CE||

    I hope Rand Paul hires a REAL campaign manager.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    You don't need a political director for an educational campaign.

  • Joshua Wise||

    As far as I can tell, Benton did a well enough job. I have nothing against the man, I just want to point out using terms like "after much soul searching" and "with a heavy heart" are so absurdly cliche, they make you look like a douchebag just using them.

    I don't think Benton needed to soul-search at all, let alone do "much" of it to decide he likes actual campaigns rather than sitting on an organization that just has the name campaign in it. And although he might have a "heavy heart", so does everyone who ever does anything signifcant in their life. Moving? You'll have a heavy heart. Someone you love moving? You'll still have a heavy heart. Getting a new career? Heavy Heart. Watched a romantic drama? Heavy heart. Deal with it.

  • PaulSD||

    I personally believe Doug Wead should have been in complete control from the start. He was the only one of them that has played at this level and won. I personally think Tate and especially Benton worked hard at keeping their options open after this. Doug Wead is a bit older and has had it with most of the political games and knows how to play them better. Doug would have gone all out and won but if not we would be in the same place we are today. I also think they needed to bring in a few hired guns to get stuff done right. Even if they are only there for the money they get stuff done as long as the money keeps coming.

  • PaulSD||

    I personally believe Doug Wead should have been in complete control from the start. He was the only one of them that has played at this level and won. I personally think Tate and especially Benton worked hard at keeping their options open after this. Doug Wead is a bit older and has had it with most of the political games and knows how to play them better. Doug would have gone all out and won but if not we would be in the same place we are today. I also think they needed to bring in a few hired guns to get stuff done right. Even if they are only there for the money they get stuff done as long as the money keeps coming.

  • LeftLeaningLibertarian||

    "I personally think Tate and especially Benton worked hard at keeping their options open after this."

    This is exactly correct. To take it one step further Jesse Benton said after the Maine ruling by the Republican Rules Committee to strip delegates from Paul. "Dr. Paul won’t be nominated because we came up short on winning five states of unbound delegates, not because of any lawyers,". How does this make sense when Paul Supporters took 21 of 24 delegate spots in Maine. It was also reported that "Paul’s high command and key supporters were disappointed by their defeats but surprisingly conciliatory." on the ruling for Maine.

    And let's not overlook this quote from the article "I plan to work on campaigns rather than resume my work in grassroots advocacy." which to me says I plan to make a career shilling for the two party system. The guy is coming off as a sellout. Funny thing is that Adam Kokesh (who I find to be Thomas Paine like and not very credible or hard to take seriously because of his fringe and eccentric views) called this back in May in a pod cast that Benton and others in the campaign leadership were serving self-interests over getting Paul elected.

  • steven@endthefed.us||

    There are both positives and negatives at both the official campaign level as well as the grassroots level. Over the years I have found much to object to the handling of both Presidential campaigns and never felt inspired by the Washington centric "send us money and we will take care of this for you" approach of Campaign for Liberty. By the same token, the grassroots is dominated by idealists who lack appreciation for the benefits of organization and planning and strategy, preferring to rely exclusively on spontaneity and emotion.

    I initially doubted Ron Paul's strategy of moving into the Republican Party and attempting to renew it. We can now see that that has been a wise and effective approach. Much has been achieved in a very short period of time. If the grassroots can move towards organization and strategic orientation and away from anarchistic hippyyism then there is no reason at all that we cannot see major electoral gains on every level in 2014 and 2016. Really, it's time to grow up and become part of an adult, mature, responsible real world battle for real world power. That requires actual work, discipline and dedication as well as structure and organization. Most will resist that.

  • steven@endthefed.us||

    Fortunately there is a growing, solid base of Liberty Republicans successfully winning hearts and minds within the GOP and sparking a real Renaissance of the party's core principles. I would urge everyone to get active in their local Republican Party, join a GOP organization, particularly the Republican Liberty Caucus, support Liberty Republican candidates where available and build relationships within the party.

    My time is very limited and I have to choose where to focus my political energy. I choose to be a part of the structure to represent Liberty from within rather than powerlessly shaking my fist at the man from the outer fringes. We need to be about political power. They have it, we want it. Period. if we really want it and we are willing to organize, strategize and execute a plan, we can take it.

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