Report: Former McConnell campaign head subpoenaed in bribery case

The communications and financial statements of Jesse Benton, an operative with close ties to Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, have been subpoenaed in the grand jury investigation into the alleged bribing on an Iowa state senator in 2012. 

Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets blog on Thursday posted part of the subpoena. It lists Benton, who resigned Friday as campaign manager for McConnell’s Senate reelection bid, as one of the people whose communications are sought. 

Former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty last month to charges that he accepted bribes from the 2012 presidential campaigns of Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in exchange for his endorsement. 

Benton was Paul’s national campaign chairman at the time. He asserts he is innocent and is not tied to the bribery.

The turmoil around his potential role could affect the younger Paul’s likely presidential bid in 2016. Benton ran Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign and was expected to play a major role in a future presidential bid.

A recorded phone conversation leaked earlier this year suggests Benton could have been involved. In it, Sorenson said, “I know Jesse knows.”

McConnell adviser Josh Holmes told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Thursday that the campaign has no knowledge of any subpoenas surrounding the bribery investigation.

The campaign of McConnell’s opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has jumped on the situation, posting questions for McConnell to answer, such as, “What did he know about his campaign manager’s bribery scandal, and when did he know it?”

The Herald-Leader asked Holmes why McConnell is declining to discuss Benton. Holmes replied, McConnell "doesn't believe Kentuckians should be short-changed of the opportunity to hear his views on the issues impacting their lives just because his opponent is falling in the polls and would rather discuss a former staffer who worked on a presidential campaign two years ago in Iowa than basically anything of concern to Kentucky families."

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