GOP operative sentenced in scheme to funnel Russian money to Trump campaign
Jesse Benton, spokesperson for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters on Jan. 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images
A Republican strategist was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in helping funnel illegal foreign campaign contributions from a Russian national into former President Trump's 2016 campaign, per the Department of Justice.
Driving the news: Jessie Benton, a former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP political advisor.
- Benton, 45, was convicted in November of conspiring to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effecting a conduit contribution, and causing false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, per the DOJ.
Background: Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a political campaign fundraising event and take a photo with Trump, federal prosecutors said.
- The Russian national wired $100,000 to Benton's political consulting firm to make an illegal foreign contribution. But Benton allegedly pocketed $75,000 and gave $25,000 to the campaign, falsely identifying himself as the donor.
- The campaign unknowingly filed reports with the FEC that inaccurately reported Benton as the source of the funds instead of the Russian national, per the Justice Department.
Of note: Neither Trump nor his campaign was aware of the Russian person's nationality, the DOJ said.
Flashback: Benton was previously convicted of filing false statements as part of a scheme to funnel money from Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign to an influential Iowa politician who backed Paul in the state's presidential caucus, Axios' Shawna Chen reports.
- Trump pardoned Benton shortly before leaving office.
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