According to recent reports, Ron Paul is likely to be headed to Iowa soon, but the trip is not to campaign for his son, Rand, who is mounting a 2016 presidential campaign. Federal prosecutors may call the elder Paul to testify in a the case involving Jesse Benton, a political operative who served as Paul’s campaign chairman in 2012, and is married to his grand daughter.
Benton was indicted in August on charges of conspiracy, obstructing an investigation, and submitting false reports to the Federal Election Commission. He is also charged with providing the FBI with false information. All of the charges stem from the efforts the Paul campaign used to lure Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson away from Michelle Bachmann’s campaign in the final days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
The campaign paid Sorenson $73,000 in wire transfers through a Maryland business named ICT, Inc. The move was necessary because, under the rules of the Iowa Senate, Sorenson could not be compensated by a presidential campaign. In satisfying Sorenson’s need to not be paid by a campaign committee, the Paul campaign also violated FEC laws for not being forthright in disclosing that it was indeed paying Sorenson for his support and work on the campaign.
Before the indictment, Benton was leading the Super PAC in support of Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign along with John Tate, who has also been indicted for the same violations. Tate served as Ron Paul’s campaign manger in 2012, and before that, he headed the Campaign for Liberty. It was reported that Benton had relinquished his control of the America’s Liberty PAC in order to deal with his legal defense, but the group’s website still lists Tate as it’s founder and president.
Benton’s mother-in-law (and Ron Paul’s daughter), Lori Pyeatt, is also expected to accompany her father to Des Moines when the trial begins in a few weeks. Pyeatt served as the treasurer of her father’s 2012 campaign. Federal prosecutors reportedly have told the judge that they plan to call for the former congressman and presidential candidate and his daughter to testify.
Also expected to make an appearance during Benton and Tate’s trial are Doug Stafford and Mike Rothfeld. Stafford was Rand Paul’s Chief-of-Staff in the U.S. Senate before becoming the chief strategist for his 2016 campaign. Before being part of the Paul political machine, Stafford worked for the National Right to Work committee.
Rothfeld is the founder of Virginia-based Saber Communications, which specializes in mail, phone, and internet communications and fundraising. Like Stafford, Rothfeld has a deep roots with the National Right to Work Committee where he focused on direct mail, phone, and internet marketing. Rothfeld and Stafford are key figures in Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.
Needless to say, anytime members of your campaign team or political machine are in federal court is a bad time for a candidate. The fact that this not only involves some of Rand Paul’s key operatives, but also his family, means things could get pretty messy for Paul who is currently polling at 3.5 percent nationally.
Paul has only campaigned in Iowa for twelve days this calendar year. His campaign’s presence in Iowa is much different from that of his father’s past two presidential bids. While poor poll number and struggles raising money for the campaign are reasons for concern, Paul also has to worry about his re-election bid in his home state of Kentucky. Paul has to be careful that the legal troubles of some of his close associates and family don’t make life difficult for him on the campaign trail. If he’s not careful, he could be the next candidate out the door.
Photo bt Dave Davidson – Prezography.com