GOP agents face campaign finance charges after taking notes on criminal conspiracy


Russia, if you listen … send $ 100,000 and you too can have your picture taken with a presidential candidate. Or you could until those intrusive DOJ kids set it on fire. Allegedly!

Yesterday, the Public Integrity Section unveiled a six-count indictment dated September 9, alleging a straw donation scheme by two longtime Republican political operatives to funnel money from a national Russian campaign to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and associated fundraising committees. The charges include disguising the source of campaign funds, authorizing an illegal campaign contribution, filing false FEC reports and conspiring.

The accused Jesse Benton has already danced this dance. After serving as a campaign manager for Rand Paul’s Senate race in 2010, Benton was hired to help with his father Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential candidacy. In 2014, he was accused of paying a bribe of $ 70,000 for an Iowa state senator to change his approval of Michele Bachmann. to Paul, after which he was forced to resign as campaign manager from Mitch McConnell. Benton was convicted in May 2016 and then pardoned by Trump in the last month of his presidency.

Which raises an interesting question about the timing of these new charges, as the government is getting close enough to that 5-year statute of limitations for acts committed in September 2016. How long has this case been in DOJ’s hopper ? And did anyone in the White House know when they punched Benton’s exit ticket for felony?

Benton’s alleged co-conspirator Doug Wead has been walking the Republican establishment since the 1970s, including a failed Congress in Arizona and several books on politics. In 2019, he wrote that the Obama White House had engaged in regular “political correctness” jam sessions, because Wead saw “PC” and did not understand he was referring to the Board of Directors. of the National Security Council.

Unsurprisingly, OPSEC was not a priority for this dream duo. Here’s a fun sample of the breadcrumbs they left for investigators:

28. On or about September 11, 2016, WEAD sent an email to Outlander 2 suggesting that Outlander 1 might meet Political Candidate 1 during Outlander I’s trip to the United States.

29. On or around September 12, 2016, WEAD and BENTON spoke to each other twice on their cell phones for a total of about eight mimics.

30. On or about September 13, 2016, Foreign National 2 emailed WEAD: “Doug, is there any news from [Political Candidate 1]? ”WEAD then replied to Foreign National 2:“ My source says yes it will happen but no details yet. ”

They were also shy about faking a $ 100,000 bill payable to Benton’s company to get their foreign friend to have the coveted photoshoot with Trump on September 22, 2016.

“Maybe I misunderstand you. I thought you said that [Foreign National 1], would not wire money, ”Wead sent to the Russian’s assistant on September 16. “But whoever transfers the money has to have an invoice. So who are they sending the bill to? What is the name of the person, company or bank that needs an invoice? “

Wead and Benton then spoke on the phone for three minutes, after which Wead dutifully produced an email documenting “the plan” for their Russian client to support Benton’s company: “[Foreign National 1] has the vision to make it work … he is willing to hire consultants here who can help him. And he is ready to donate to charities and NGOs’ 5 [sic] in the United States who would participate in such a program there.

So they sent the “invoice,” the Russian client wired the money, and Benton sent the joint fundraising committee $ 25,000, pocketing the $ 75,000 for himself. KA-CHING!

When the committees asked for the source of the funds, Benton claimed he “purchased the tickets and offered them to [WEAD] and [Foreign National 1], so the money comes from me.

Spoiler alert:….

And in case you didn’t get that math, Benton and Wead put this fakakta plan into action. literally four months after Benton was convicted of campaign finance crimes related to the 2012 presidential campaign.


Elizabeth dye lives in Baltimore where she writes on law and politics.