GOP auditor candidate Mike Harmon drops Jesse Benton as campaign manager

08/06/2015 01:42 PM

After spending Wednesday answering questions about his campaign manager’s federal indictment and praying over what to do, Republican candidate for auditor Mike Harmon has dropped Jesse Benton from his campaign staff.

Harmon announced the decision in a lengthy open letter first published on his Twitter feed.

“Jesse has agreed to step completely away from the campaign until such he can fully resolve this issue,” Harmon wrote. “It will take a little time to settle up and transfer some online assets, but hopefully that can be done quickly. I will now be working solely with Gus Herbert.”

Herbert was unavailable for comment when contacted by Pure Politics.

In the letter Harmon said he “did not expect nor was I aware that an indictment was forthcoming for my Campaign Consultant Jesse Benton.”

While Harmon may not have known about the indictment coming from the Department of Justice, he did know that Benton left U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign in late August of that year over allegations of his role in the bribery of former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson.

Sorenson pleaded guilty to receiving thousands for switching his support from Michelle Bachmann to Ron Paul in the early primary state’s 2012 presidential caucus, which the indictment unsealed on Wednesday says Benton offered to pay for via email.

Harmon also answered opponent Auditor Adam Edelen, who in a phone interview on Wednesday with Pure Politics questioned Harmon’s judgement as a candidate and state representative for having to think over his next steps with Benton.

“My opponent has tried to say that I have poor judgement for working with Jesse with knowledge of a past accusation,” Harmon wrote. “However, after Jesse reached out to me initially and we discussed that accusation, I was satisfied that those were just that, accusations and, that the issue was settled.”

Harmon’s letter treads into unconfirmed rumors against Edelen which will not be re-published here.

David Miller, Edelen’s communications director, told Pure Politics Edelen’s campaign was not going to comment on the “incoherent ramblings of a failed candidacy.”

Later in the letter, Harmon treads even further afield, weaving the IRS and Planned Parenthood into Benton’s federal corruption indictment.

“I am thankful that we still live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty. I also had to pause, as this comes from an administration who has failed to prosecute voter intimidation, allowed the IRS to harass and intimidate conservatives, and has allowed a group such as Planned Parenthood to systematically murder and then illegally harvest the parts of innocent unborn children for profit,” he wrote.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am not making light of the seriousness of these charges, but there is an old saying that with the right people you can indict a ham sandwich and sad to say we have seen many a good man (and woman) falsely accused, had their name dragged through the mud, only to find out years later after the damage was done that they were in fact innocent.”

Harmon goes on to write that his “campaign is not over” and that he wants “to discuss the important issues and point out the differences in our campaigns.”

In response to Harmon’s letter, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Hughes said it seemed like Harmon’s campaign was sinking.

“If Mike Harmon’s statement today reads like a candidate whose campaign is imploding, it’s because that’s exactly what is happening,” Hughes said. “His rambling manifesto is full of wild accusations — but fails to answer some simple questions: what did Harmon know about the scandal, and why did he retain Benton as his top campaign official while he was facing this investigation?

“This statement, coupled with the scandal, only underscores that Harmon lacks both the character and judgment to serve as Kentucky’s top taxpayer watchdog.”


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