Ron Paul

Former Ron Paul Staffers Indicted in Connection with Payments to Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson [UPDATED with Statements from Ron Paul and Benton's Lawyer]

Jesse Benton, John Tate (now running a Rand Paul SuperPAC) charged with "knowingly caus[ing] the concealing, covering up" of campaign finance records.


The Justice Department announced this morning it is indicting three officials from Ron Paul's 2012 campaign in connection with alleged payoffs to an Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, to switch his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul.

I wrote about this ongoing investigation into possible payoffs from the campaign to Sorenson back in 2013 and again in 2014 as the story was predicted to possibly shadow Rand Paul's campaign. (No one involved, so far, had given any indication that Ron Paul himself knew of any of it.)

Two of the indicted, Jesse Benton and John Tate, are currently running an unaffiliated Rand Paul-supporting SuperPAC, America's Liberty. Tate also is boss at the Paul-affiliated grassroots advocacy group Campaign for Liberty. The third indicted is former Ron Paul staffer Dimitri Kesari.

Details from DOJ's news release:

"Federal campaign finance laws are intended to ensure the integrity and transparency of the federal election process," said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  "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."

"Violating campaign finance laws by concealing payments to an elected official undermines our electoral system and deceives the public," said Special Agent in Charge LeValley.  "The FBI will aggressively investigate those who corrupt the integrity of our democratic process."….

The payments to Sorenson were allegedly made in monthly installments of approximately $8,000 each and ultimately amounted to over $70,000.  The indictment alleges that the defendants concealed the payments by causing them to be recorded – both in campaign accounting records and in FEC filings – as campaign-related audio-visual expenditures, and by causing them to be transmitted to a film production company and then to a second company that was controlled by Sorenson.  According to the indictment, the conspirators concealed their campaign's payments to Sorenson from their candidate and also from the FEC, the FBI and the public…..

On Aug. 27, 2014, Sorenson pleaded guilty to causing a campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the FEC and to obstruction of justice.  He has not yet been sentenced.

The indictment itself

I was unable to reach Benton for comment yet this morning, or anyone with Campaign for Liberty. Will update if new things come in.

UPDATE: Campaign for Liberty emailed this statement from Ron Paul, whose campaign the indicted were working for: "I am extremely disappointed in the government's decision. I think the timing of this indictment is highly suspicious given the fact that the first primary debate is tomorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved. I will not be commenting further on this matter at this time."

UPDATE II: Benton's lawyer Roscoe Howard emailed this statement, which strives to make something political about the indictment and questions its timing as an attempt to possibly smear Rand Paul by association: "We are deeply disappointed to learn of today's indictment by the Department of Justice. Jesse Benton, a prominent conservative Republican, has cooperated with the government during its multi-year investigation. That this indictment is now suddenly announced on the eve of the first Republican Presidential debate strongly supports our belief that this is a politically motivated prosecution designed to serve a political agenda, not to achieve justice.  Mr. Benton is eager to get before an impartial judge and jury who will quickly recognize this for what he believes it is: Character assassination for political gain."

NEXT: A School Cop Handcuffed an 8-Year-Old Boy's Arms Behind His Back. That's Not Okay.

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  1. Libertarian moment?

  2. What’s wrong with those guys? Don’t they know you have to be a Democrat to get away with stuff like that? I mean, you just say the magical words ‘Fake Scandal’ and *poof*, it goes away!

    1. Glad that you figured it out, you Teabagging ratfucker!

      1. Wow! Your handle is a link to NAMBLA? Politics aside, intended to be a joke aside, you’re an asshole.

        1. Regardless the motive, this guy’s essentially promoting pedophilia. He’s worse than an asshole.

          1. I suspect the handle was linked there in order to trick people into having a web history of visting that repulsive site.

            You’re right, I was too kind by half. So…

            You’re a disgusting, vile, dickless puddle of shit and I hope you die very soon from Lou Gehrig’s disease!

            1. For Weigel, not OEB, if there was any(doubtful) confusion.

      2. Go away.

      3. Weigel you’re a sick fuck.

        Get help, if that’s possible.

    2. You know, the speed at which every single thing, even the indictment of Republicans, becomes somehow Democrats’ fault, is breathtaking.

      Where are the real libertarians?

      1. Almost as impressive as the speed at which you can create a straw man.

      2. Wait, is Benton a Democrat now?

      3. Almost as impressive as Tony being a asshole, dick sucking fuck tard who eats shit for breakfast. Tony:” ITS ALL THE LIBERTARIAN AND CONSERVATIVES FAULT WAH! WAH! WAH! Mom come and wipe my ass, I shit my adult diapers again and I can’t find the gay porn site I was looking at yesterday. WAH! WAH! WAH! MOM MAKE ANOTHER HOT POCKET THIS BASEMENT IS GETTING COLD! DERPITY! DERP!” Yeah fuck you, Tony.

    3. This.

      “Violating campaign finance laws by concealing payments to an elected official ”

      If the government official isn’t elected but is appointed, does that make it ok ?

    4. (this is a non issue like Bridge gate). Somehow using the IRS to intimidate and derail the campaign support of your opponents, destroying confidential documents illegally stored on your personal server is considered fake while non stories like is considered meaningful.

      1. this is a non issue like Bridge gate

        Interesting point of view. So bribery is a “non-issue”? For bribery is essentially what this guy tried to do when he paid that Michelle Bachman campaign official to defect to the Ron Paul campaign.

        And of course Bridgegate is only a “non issue” if you weren’t somebody caught up in that traffic chaos which came of it.

  3. I know Iowa is a big primary state… But $70k is a hefty price for the Ron Paul Campaign to try to change what ONE Iowa state senator thinks about Michelle Bachmann who probably was never much of a threat…

    1. Yeah, I’m thinking that if they gave the guy this much money, it was for other reasons.

    2. That raised one of my eyebrows too. Maybe it was for hookers and blow.

    3. According Wikipedia, Sorenson also had an e-mail list of homeschooling advocates. Still, it’s hard to understand why the 2012 Paul Campaign thought this guy was worth serious money. This is world-class stupid.

      1. According Wikipedia, Sorenson also had an e-mail list of homeschooling advocates.

        Buying that list seems like an excellent pretext for greasing his palm.

        1. sorenson could have just created a marketing company and sold it to them, which would have been legit.

  4. Violating campaign finance laws by concealing payments to an elected official undermines our electoral system and deceives the public
    Notice it’s the payments being made and not the payments being recieved that’s the problem. Nobody is deceived about that part of it.
    (And yes, this is as good an indication as any that there ain’t nobody in politics that’s got clean hands and a clear conscience and a pure heart. They’ve all got some of the pig shit on ’em.)

    1. No, the payments being received where a problem too. It’s just the guy receiving the payments already pled guilty.

  5. “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 it’s business as usual.”

  6. I’m not surprised they got caught. The money took a circuitous route.

    1. It was channelled through an intermediary. They don’t care if money changes hands shadily, just DO NOT launder it.

      1. Yes, maybe a donation to a trust or a foundation with your name on it, or something. That would obviously pass muster.

    2. And they’re Republicans and were working for Ron Paul. Ron Paul, a guy who gets you on a terrorist watch list for having one of his bumper stickers on your car.

    3. Yeah, that was insanely stupid. As someone who engaged in the selling of substances of questionable legality in his early twenties I can tell you this: cash, or GTFO.

      1. You were a Raw Milk dealer?!!

  7. If this has legs, Rand had better be distancing himself from these guys asap.

    1. It will be difficult; Jesse Benton is married to Rand’s niece. It would make for some awkward Thanksgivings. 🙂

      1. I’m thinking it already will.

    2. Unfortunately America’s Liberty seems to be by far the biggest funder of Rand Paul ads and such for the time being. That’d be a really, really hard decision for him to make.

  8. Way back in the day I questioned Ron Paul’s executive ability, citing his track record for hiring people he liked who then did terrible things without him firing or effectively disciplining them.

    Jesse Benton strikes me as yet another instance of that phenomenon.

    1. Is it possible that Ron’s just playing the game like everyone else? In fairness, if this was Hillary! wouldn’t we be saying that she obviously directed her functionaries to do this and was directly connected to it?

      I’m basically just playing devil’s advocate, but we might all have a blind spot when it comes to libertarian candidates possibly doing corrupt things just to play the game…

      1. I don’t think that’s true. If they did something bad, then they deserve the same fate as anyone else regardless of political affiliation.

        I think the typical reaction from a libertarian if a libertarian candidate winds up in a scandal is to be pissed and call them idiots if the allegations are true.

        If it’s a democrat and there is a democrat caught up in a scandal, their reaction is always deny, deflect, fake scandal, etc, etc. Really, they don’t care about the ethical behavior of their candidates because they themselves don’t have any ethics.

        1. It’s a principal/principle thing. Most TEAM players just want the team to win, no matter which scumbags are playing for them.

          1. I think this thread right here is proof of my point, where we are having an actual conversation about this. If this was about a democrat, the comments on HuffPo and other proggie sites would all be some variation of:


      2. There are a large number of libertarians who think Ron Paul and his family are enriching themselves using his campaigns and accuse him of being corrupt; the scandal where he was getting reimbursed twice for each flight* leaps to mind .

        I believe him to be more sincere than that since he actually could have made out like a bandit from honest graft back when Reagan considered Paul someone he owed favors to. I think he is a shitty manager. It’s like women who keep marrying alcoholics that beat them. Ron Paul seems to have a weakness for people who are energetic but unprincipled.

        * Once from his campaign and once from his congressional expense account.

        1. I remember that critique you wrote about him on the old Liberty Papers. I agreed with your assessment…Paul is a well-meaning guy who has terrible judgment on the character of people working for/with him and who is prone to Great Pumpkin moments when he should be saying “No comment” or simply shutting his mouth.

          He also ran an utterly inept campaign organization. Seriously, before I soured on Paul I actually wrote to his campaign to talk about doing work for them in my home state and didn’t get a response back for a year…and received it the day before the primary vote asking me to canvass for him (long after voters had mostly made up their minds already). He’d have been an awful President.

        2. Also, Jesse Benton is a sleaze. An indiscreet sleaze at that…he got caught running his mouth about McConnell while working for McConnell’s reelection campaign. That Paul let Benton anywhere near his granddaughter tells me Paul is clueless about judging people.

    2. Why do you love Democrats, tarran?

  9. Still shamelessly plugging that book, I see.

  10. This is great. From the indictment this is starting to look like one of the laws Tricky Dick Nixon pushed for to keep the libertarian party from publishing a platform and running candidates. Nixon’s subsidy of looter parties only was intended to keep politics dishonest and signal to media vultures that “both” criminally dishonest parties wanted it kept that way. These laws then spread like a virus to other countries saddled with pestilentially corrupt kleptocracies, such as Brazil, where they successfully keep libertarians from forming a party. It would be nice if the higher courts were to strike down this nonsense now that opportunity beckons.

    1. Somewhere in that word salad is a point; I am baffled as to what it is. Could you try again, but using simple sentences?

      1. Campaign finance laws are set up to benefit the ruling parties by making it somewhere between difficult and impossible for small political parties to raise enough money to mount effective campaigns.

        1. True, but how does getting caught paying off a state senator relate to that bit of obviousness?

          1. “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?”

  11. Everyone knows only national parties are allowed to buy broker support from elected officials.

  12. such as Brazil, where they successfully keep libertarians from forming a party

    Brazil has libertarians? Jeez that must be fucking miserable for them.

    1. Shit. re: Hank Phillips

    2. Funny you (or he) should mention it, since Cato’s podcast today features the “Free Brazil Movement.”

      1. Free Brazil Movement (MBL) is a liberal and republican social movement founded in 2014

        Are you guys just trying to make my head explode? Everyone needs to just adopt the U.S. meanings of liberal and conservative and so forth so I don’t have to be confused every time I read about politics abroad.

        1. The American left needs to renounce liberalism in name like they already have in spirit and action.

          1. Are you kidding me? Liberal and Proggressive are still nice sounding words. They aren’t about to give that up. Communism as a term has sort of went to shit and most people view it negatively, or they’d still be going by that.

            1. They aren’t even ideologically sincere enough to call themselves communists. That might require relinquishing some of their material wellbeing for the greater good. Compromise and sacrifice is a burden other people get to bear in bringing about paradise.

              If nothing else, they’re thoroughgoing socialists.

              1. They aren’t even ideologically sincere enough to call themselves communists.

                Or socialists for that matter. They’ll defend socialist ideals, leaders, writers and policies and even defend socialism by name sometimes, but when you actually call a liberal/progressive person a “socialist”, they’ll distance themselves from the term by expressing preference for another term or lecturing you about labels.

    3. Yes, there’s a lot of libertarians in Brazil. I know several of them personally. And they are American style libertarians, not some watered down European version.

      1. Here you go, their official party website:


      2. Damn. And we think we have a long road ahead of us

        1. Ours is likely longer than theirs. They’re mired in the midst of a semi-socialist planned economy, but we’re on our way there.

          1. The difference is that Brazil has a very large population of very poor and uneducated people, compared to the USA. And those people vote, and they vote for free stuff, because they don’t know any better.

            The libertarians I know there are all upper middle class or wealthy and highly educated.

            1. The difference is that Brazil has a very large population of very poor and uneducated people, compared to the USA. And those people vote, and they vote for free stuff, because they don’t know any better.

              But democracy is pure and good and true and just super.

              1. Because wealthy people never vote for free stuff for themselves.

        2. Oh, we are in much better position as libertarians to actually influence politics here in the USA. The Brazilian libertarians are very envious of us in a good way. I mean, they are a tiny, but growing movement. But what they have there to overcome is greater than what we have, for sure.

          USA has by far the largest and most influential libertarian population on the planet. If we can’t do it here, it can’t be done.

          1. Hyperion, are you from Brazil? You mentioned yesterday you watch Brazilian news. j/c

            1. No. My wife is Brazilian.

      3. Brazilians in the early sixties were more like libertarians than DemoGOPs in outlook. They elected rhinoceroses to city council positions and put out movies poking fun at Americans, Russians, Frenchmen and the Cold War generally. But there were, um, thieves in government and the US sparked a revolution that put prohibitionist religious fanatics in power. Just as Nixon made the Weathermen seem not so bad by comparison, those creeps made the commies seem almost harmless. When the yanks finally lightened up on the intervention, everyone hated the “right wing” (Catholic) dictators and elected a bunch of Animal Farm socialists. But folks learned fast from 80% monthly inflation and the only thing holding us back from free and honest elections are Richard Nixon tactics imported during the dictatorship decades–enforced by geriatric judges. Uruguay has an LP, and “red” parties everywhere are scrambling to at least pretend to be libertarian-friendly. But the party is still banned and everyone is forced at gunpoint to subsidize and vote for 32 communist, socialist and prohibitionist parties.

  13. When you detonate so many money bombs, people are going to be hit with money shrapnel.

    Sorenson smoked the maryjane, so you would think he would have been for the Ronster without any palm-greasing.

  14. Ron Paul didn’t run a very professional campaign. Based on the emails I have been inundated with from Rand’s campaign after making the mistake of giving him some money, it doesn’t look like he’s running a very professional campaign either. This does little to dissuade that impression.

    Get your friggin’ shit together, cripes.

    1. It’s rough going when you don’t have a complicit and complacent media treating your trickle of bland nonanswers like profundities from on high.

      1. It’s really not that hard to avoid sending my breathless panicky emails over NOTHING 3 times per day.

        1. Isn’t that fundraising 101 for political campaigns? I think they all do that.

    2. I get his emails too. It’s strange because they really seem to harp on SoCon issues. Now, I understand he sees the SoCon wing as his weakness… But doesn’t he think that the people who already subscribe to his emails are a different breed?

      Oh, and Rand, since we all now know you read the comments, please stop referring to me as “fellow conservative.”

    3. Yeah… Gary Johnson’s folks sent me campaign literature that said nothing about the LP platform planks. Instead they whined about how the “other” candidates were (gasp!) calling each other names. In Austin libertarians learned to tell viewers to “pay close attention to what my opponents are saying about each other and remember it when you go to the polls.” They talk abt cutting taxes and legalizing dope and get really good turnout.

  15. The investigation and potential indictment was something Robert Wenzel was reporting on for a very long time in his Economic Policy Journal blog. He is of the opinion that Dr. Paul had nothing to do with the decision to bribe Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson and that Dr. Paul would have never accepted or approve such a move.

  16. Ron Paul’s management weaknesses go back to before the newsletter episode in the early nineties. I recall his 1988 campaign financial manager embezzled funds and was somewhat quietly dismissed so donors didn’t get upset..

  17. It’s an ironic feature of this fallen world that the ones who commit the small crimes, get punished, while the ones who commit the gigantic crimes get promoted.

    If only they had accepted hundreds of millions in “donations” to their “charitable foundation” in order to buy and sell political influence.

    1. To accept a large number of small payments is asking for trouble. A handful of large ones from equally powerful people are OK.

  18. Benton’s behavior was Benton’s responsibility! No one can tell when someone, in their campaign, will get involved with shady behavior. (that sounds like typical politics in the good old US of A) Lest we forget, Ron Paul was thrown to the wolves at the Republican convention. They did not even allow the mention of his name! That was one of the reasons that the Republican candidate lost the general election! They alienated the Ron Paul Republicans.

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