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Former Ron Paul Aides Convicted of Campaign Violations

Jesse Benton
Former Ron Paul for President campaign staffer Jesse Benton was among those convicted by a federal jury Thursday for his role in a scheme to pay an Iowa legislator to change his endorsement in 2012. (Video Screenshot Image)

A federal jury at the U.S. District Courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa, returned guilty verdicts against three former staffers who worked on former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's failed 2012 presidential campaign.

Last November, the aides were indicted by prosecutors for allegedly conspiring to pay former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson $73,000 to switch his endorsement from then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to Paul just days before the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus. The operatives were also charged with violating campaign expenditure reporting laws by paying Sorenson through a third-party video production company, shielding the funds invisible to public scrutiny.

Attorneys for Jesse Benton—who is married to Paul's granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt—John Tate and Dimitri Kesari argued that the payment was not illegal because Sorenson did legitimate work for the campaign. They claim bookkeeping errors hid the expense from Federal Election Commission reports.

Benton, in particular, is of interest in the current 2016 campaign because of his earlier role in U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's unsuccessful presidential campaign, as well as a newer job he just took in the past two months. In mid-March, it was announced he would lead a pro-Donald Trump political action committee, Great America PAC.

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Trump, however, has distanced himself from the group from its inception. He has campaigned against the use of Super PACs, and dispatched his attorneys when the Benton-led group was formed under its original name, TrumPAC, saying it did not have his permission to use his name or likeness in its fundraising efforts.

Benton, hailed by many as one of the best political minds in the country, was found guilty Thursday of conspiracy, falsifying records, falsifying campaign expenditure reports, and setting up a "false statements scheme." His wife cried as the verdicts were read. Ron Paul was in attendance, as well.

A date has not yet been set for sentencing in the case. Attorneys have suggested they may appeal the convictions.

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