Jesse Benton, 43, of Louisville, Kentucky, previously worked as an aide to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), while Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, of Bonita Springs, Florida, previously served as an adviser to multiple presidential campaigns.
Former President Donald Trump pardoned Benton in 2020 after he was convicted and faced federal campaign finance charges in a case involving $73,000 in payments to Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson so that he would endorse Ron Paul instead of Michelle Bachman in the 2012 presidential GOP primary.
According to an indictment released by the Department of Justice on Sept. 20, both Benton and Wead allegedly conspired together to solicit a political contribution from a wealthy unnamed Russian foreign national during the 2016 presidential election.
As per the indictment, Wead told the Russian national that they could meet the unnamed presidential candidate in exchange for payment, to which they agreed. Under federal law, it is illegal to solicit campaign contributions from foreigners.
Soon after the anonymous Russian had transferred the funds, Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph with the political candidate in exchange for a contribution of $100,000 in donations to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, the indictment says.
Both Benton and Wead allegedly conspired together to disguise the true purpose of both the transfer and funds by creating a fake invoice for “consulting services” and invented a cover story.
Wead and the unnamed Russian attended the political fundraising event for the political candidate, along with a translator, and all three had photos taken with the candidate.
After the event, Benton allegedly told political committees affiliated with with the candidate that he had sent the promised contribution for the event, but instead used a personal credit card to make a $25,000 donation and kept the remaining $75,000.
Because he had allegedly falsely claimed to have given the contribution himself, three political committees filed reports with the Federal Election Commission that wrongly stated that Benton was the source of that donation, rather than the Russian national, the indictment read.
Benton and Wead have both charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution, and cause false records to be filed with the FEC, one count of contribution by a foreign national, one count of contribution in the name of another and three counts of making false entries in an official record.
If convicted, both men face between 5 to 20 years in prison, per count.
While the indictment does not disclose the name of the the specific presidential candidate, in 2016 the two biggest party candidates were Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. There is no indication that the presidential candidate or their aids were aware that the donation came from a Russian national.
September 21, 2021 8:47 am