Former Ron Paul Campaign Aides Found Guilty on Charges Related to Payoff to Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson


A jury in Iowa today convicted three former Ron Paul campaign aides for campaign finance-reporting crimes after a long legal saga.

Back during the 2012 Ron Paul campaign, state Sen. Kent Sorenson made a dramatic switch from support for Michele Bachmann to support for Ron Paul. It turns out he was encouraged to do so by a $73,000 payoff via the campaign. (Ironically, hitting Bachmann at that point in the campaign likely harmed Paul's cause by elevating the previously nowheresville Rick Santorum.)

The payments to Sorenson was not properly reported as required by campaign finance law, and this week three Paul campaign operatives were found guilty on charges related to it, after a long, complicated history of indictments and trials and previous failures to convict. (No one involved believes Paul himself was aware or approved of the payoffs.)

Two of the operatives, Jesse Benton, Paul's top political adviser in 2012 who is married to one of Paul's granddaughters, and John Tate, his campaign manager, were found guilty on four charges, all related to filing false records to the government regarding the expenditure.

Tate had been running a Paul-associated grassroots advocacy group, Campaign for Liberty, between and after Paul's presidential runs, and both he and Benson had been higher-ups with a Rand Paul-supporting SuperPAC, America's Liberty.

The payment was funneled through an audio/visual services company with links to Dimitri Kesari's family. Kesari was found guilty today on three charges.

Full report today from the Des Moines Register. The Register sums up the dogged insistence the feds had on getting these guys convicted:

The trial was a rare second try for the federal government to convict the operatives after an earlier prosecution last year ended with mixed results. A grand jury indicted the three operatives on several charges that were first announced on Aug. 5, including conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reports and false statements scheme.

But U.S. District Judge John Jarvey dismissed the charges entirely against Tate and all but one charge against Benton ahead of a trial that began in October.

The dismissals, which left the door open for new prosecutions using different evidence, came after Jarvey found prosecutors wrongly used evidence gathered in FBI interviews with Benton and Tate to secure indictments from the grand jury. Both operatives participated in the interviews after signing so-called proffer agreements that bar prosecutors from using their statements as evidence against them in a wide variety of charges, according to the Associated Press.

Previous reporting here on the initial Sorenson story breaking back in 2013; the initial indictments; Ron Paul's testimony in first trial and belief it was political opportunism aimed at his people; the initial acquittal for Benton and and the re-indictment which led to today's guilty verdict