Court Battles

GOP political operative sentenced to 18 months over illegal Russian contributions to Trump campaign

A GOP political operative was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday for his involvement in transferring illegal campaign contributions from a Russian national to former President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

A Justice Department release states that Jesse Benton planned with another political adviser to send political contributions from the Russian national, who wanted to meet with and take a picture with Trump, to the campaign. Benton then arranged for the individual to meet with and take a picture with Trump without revealing their nationality to the campaign or Trump, court documents state. 

The release states Benton had the individual send $100,000 to Benton’s political consulting firm to make the contribution so they could meet with Trump. Benton created a fake invoice to claim the funds were payment for consulting work. 

He contributed $25,000 to the campaign and kept the remaining $75,000 for himself, according to the release. 

Benton presented himself as the contributor, according to the department, which it said caused Trump campaign entities to state in their reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that Benton was the source of the contribution instead of the Russian individual. 

Benton was convicted for funneling the illegal contributions to the campaign in November.

He has previously worked for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). He was convicted in May 2016 of campaign finance crimes for paying an Iowa state senator to support Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential election and was sentenced to two years of probation and six months of home confinement. Trump pardoned him in December 2020.

Tags Jesse Benton Mitch McConnell Rand Paul

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