Benton (right) with Senator Rand Paul at a book signing at Iowa State University in 2011
Jesse Reeves Benton
October 4, 1977
|Alma mater||Mary Washington College|
Jesse Reeves Benton (born October 4, 1977) is an American political operative known for working with conservative and libertarian organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform, the Liberty Coalition, and the American Conservative Union. Benton is strongly associated with the Paul family, serving as a high-ranking staffer for both Ron Paul and Rand Paul. He is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter.
Benton served as the campaign manager of Republican Mitch McConnell, until resigning on August 29, 2014 amid rumors surrounding campaign finance allegations during the 2012 presidential election. On August 5, 2015, Benton was indicted by a federal grand jury for felony charges arising from an alleged coverup Benton and colleagues conducted to conceal their expenditure of campaign money to hire an Iowa politician. He was initially acquitted on all charges.
Benton's political career began in 2000 when he worked with the Republican National Committee. Benton has been involved with various political candidates and organizations, including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Liberty Coalition, the Performance Institute, and Louisiana Senator David Vitter. Benton opened his own political firm, CIC solutions, working mostly in Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 2007, Benton became involved with Ron Paul's 2008 presidential candidacy. Benton started out as a volunteer, being attracted by Paul's message on spending, civil liberties, and foreign policy, but eventually became Paul's communications director. After the end of Ron Paul's 2008 campaign, Benton joined the Campaign for Liberty, a political organization founded by Ron Paul to advocate for his political message.
Rand Paul Campaign
In 2010, Benton served as Rand Paul's campaign manager when Paul was elected Senator of Kentucky. Benton simultaneously served as Ron Paul's political director. Rand Paul had never run for office before, and was seen as an underdog. Benton and Rand Paul became close, with the two speaking nearly every day and Benton moving into Paul's basement. Rand Paul's ultimately victorious campaign was praised for its use of the internet fundraising and recruiting, and Paul's ability to knock off a more established candidate was described by a Republican strategist as establishing a new norm for Republican primaries.
Ron Paul Presidential Campaign
After Rand Paul's election, Benton worked on Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. During the campaign, Benton urged Paul's delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention to act with "decorum and respect."
Benton has been criticized by some Ron Paul supporters who see Benton as being overly concerned with his own career, incompetent, and not truly a "hardcore Paulite." Thomas Woods, an historian, political analyst, and former Ron Paul adviser, criticized Benton for what he saw as downplaying Ron Paul's libertarian ideals in order to earn "GOP respectability," a notion echoed by other Paul supporters.
In August 2012, conservative activist and former fired 2008 Ron Paul staffer Dennis Fusaro released emails and phone conversations that implicated Benton in being involved in an attempt to hire Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson in order to secure Sorenson's support of Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Sorenson initially worked for Michele Bachmann's candidacy, but switched his support to Paul, prompting Bachmann to accuse the Paul campaign of buying Sorenson. Sorenson resigned after a special investigator found it "manifestly clear" he violated Iowa Senate ethics rules by accepting money and then denying he'd done so.
Fusaro then released a phone conversation regarding Benton's employment with the McConnell campaign, in which Benton said he was "sort of holding my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit for Rand in 2016." The incident was referred to on Twitter as "nosegate." In response to Fusaro's actions, Benson stated, ""It is truly sick that someone would record a private phone conversation I had out of kindness and use it to try to hurt me. I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election. Being selected to lead his campaign is one of the great honors of my life and I look forward to victory in November of 2014." The McConnell campaign stated that Benton would "absolutely" keep his job with the campaign.
Although Paul was not nominated, Benton praised Paul's followers for helping to elect Paul supporters to positions of leadership within the GOP.
Mitch McConnell Campaign
After the 2012 presidential election, Benton agreed to serve as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager for his 2014 re-election campaign. In hiring Benton, McConnell hoped to avoid a Republican primary from a conservative challenger, although Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin would ultimately challenge McConnell. The move was notable as McConnell had endorsed Paul's 2010 Republican primary opponent, Trey Grayson, and McConnell represented the "establishment" wing of the Kentucky Republican party while Benton's background was in "grassroots" advocacy.
The move, which was followed by Rand Paul endorsing McConnell's re-election, began a political alliance between the two Republican Senators from Kentucky. Benton was seen as instrumental in securing Paul's endorsement for McConnell. Benton views his working with McConnell as part of a goal to unite different factions of Republicans, saying that "it's a really, really important mission to bring all Republicans and conservatives together." Benton helped Rand Paul gain McConnell's approval of Paul's noted filibuster of future CIA Director John O. Brennan, in which Paul criticized the Obama Administration's use of combat drones.
In March 2016, Benton was hired by the pro-Trump "Great America" super PAC.
Benton has described himself as both a political operative and activist. Benton views his role as helping to bring the "voice" of the Tea Party into a governing coalition. Benton is an adherent of the Austrian School of Economics, believing that "The market can always do better. Ultimately the market is the best way to provide things to society." Benton has contributed money to Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kurt Bills, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Louisville and Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee. In 2013, Benton sent out an email that claimed that Barack Obama wanted to create a national gun registration system; the claim was criticized by The Washington Post's fact-checker.
Benton was indicted for allegedly concealing over $70,000 in payments to Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to convince Sorenson change his employment from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul, a longtime Texas congressman. The indictment charged Benton and two other defendants with conspiracy, causing false records to obstruct a contemplated investigation, causing the submission of false campaign expenditure reports, concealing these payments from the Federal Election Commission and the FBI, and perjury. All but one of the charges against Benton were thrown out by an Iowa judge for proprietorial misconduct, and he was acquitted at trial of the only remaining charge.
The Government was able re-indict Benton on the dismissed charges, and he stood for a second trial. On May 5, 2016, a federal jury in Des Moines found Benton guilty of four federal crimes: conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reports and making false statements. Campaign Managers Jesse Benton, John Tate and Demetrios Kesari were all found guilty of covering up an to hire Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson for $73,000 if he would change his support from Republican primary candidate Michelle Bachman to Ron Paul. Benton was sentenced to two years probation.
Benton is a Philadelphia native and an alumnus of Mary Washington College, where he was an economics major and played rugby. Benton is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt, and they have a daughter, Caroline. The two met when Benton arranged for Pyeatt to do an interview as part of Paul's presidential campaign. In addition to doing interviews for the Paul campaign, Pyeatt has also helped to organize fundraising receptions. Pyeatt is the daughter of Ron Paul's daughter Lori Pyeatt, who has also worked on the Ron Paul campaign.
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-  | 2016-10-27 | Hamilton Councilman Kesari Resigns After Conviction | Renss Greene | 
- "Three former Ron Paul staffers guilty in campaign-bribery case".
-  | 09/20/2016 | 2 ex-Ron Paul aides get probation for paid 2012 endorsement cover-up | JOSH GERSTEIN | 
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