A disgraced campaign operative for Kentucky senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul may have violated his probation by meeting in New York with undercover reporters offering to make illegal donations to Donald Trump.
Jesse Benton, who was sentenced in September to two years of probation for buying a senator’s endorsement while working for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, told the journalists Oct. 13 that he could funnel $2 million toward a pro-Trump PAC through his public affairs company to hide its origins, reported the Associated Press.
The reporters from the Telegraph newspaper were posing as associates of a Chinese benefactor, and foreign nationals are prohibited by law from donating to U.S. federal elections.
Benton, who told the reporters he was a consultant for the Great America PAC, also described a “voter suppression” scheme that used out-of-context quotes from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to suggest Democrats were deceiving black voters.
Federal prosecutors filed a report earlier this month accusing Benton of violating the terms of his probation by traveling to New York City for the meeting.
His probation officer “verbally admonished” Benton for unauthorized travel and reminded him of the terms of his probation, and he recommended that no further action be taken.
But prosecutors disagreed and asked for a court hearing to discuss the violations.
Federal prosecutors had wanted Benton to serve more than two years in prison for his convictions on conspiracy and other charges related to a scheme to pay Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson $73,000 for his endorsement of Paul before the state’s caucus.
Benton and two other operatives used a third-party audiovisual company to hide their payments to Sorenson, who had been a Michele Bachmann supporter before he accepted the payments and switched over to Paul.
Paul is the grandfather of Benton’s wife.
Benton complained at his sentencing that the conviction had ruined his once-promising political career.
“It’s been years of sleepless nights and public humiliation, time and time again,” he said.