Jesse Benton, the general consultant to the main super PAC backing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid, was absolved Thursday of all federal charges against him related to his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme intended to benefit Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for president.
According to multiple reports, a federal jury in Iowa acquitted Jesse Benton – who served as former Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign manager in 2011 and currently runs the pro-Rand Paul super PAC America’s Liberty PAC – of a single count of lying to FBI agents.The charges were related to allegations that three Ron Paul presidential campaign officials bribed an influential Iowa state senator to switch endorsements from then-Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign to Ron Paul’s, helping drive him to an unexpected second-place finish in the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
Two of those Ron Paul advisers, Benton and John Tate, are currently involved in the effort to elect the younger Paul – Benton as general consultant to America’s Liberty PAC and Tate as president of the PAC. Both took a leave of absence from the group in August after the indictment came down.
The federal jury’s decision largely eliminates any outstanding questions hanging over the younger Paul’s campaign for president, as it follows a move earlier this month by a U.S. district judge to toss out the other four charges against Benton and all charges against Tate.
Benton has long and deep ties to the Paul family – he worked as Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign communications director, managed Rand Paul’s campaign for Senate in 2010 before managing the elder Paul’s 2012 bid. He’s also married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter and Rand’s neice, Valori Pyeatt.
Ron Paul was called by the prosecution to testify against his grandson-in-law earlier this month.
Through a spokesman, Rand Paul expressed satisfaction with the verdict.
“I am happy that justice has been served,” he said.
According to Des Moines Register reporter Grant Rodgers, Benton expressed relief leaving the courtroom.
“God is great. It feels good,” he said.
But the Ron Paul operation was not entirely absolved by the jury on Thursday. Former Ron Paul Deputy Campaign Manager Dimitri Kesari was convicted of one charge of causing a false record, while the jury was unable to come to a conclusion on 3 other charges against him. He was found not guilty of obstruction of justice.