Jesse Benton stopped consulting for state GOP as he left McConnell campaign, party chairman says
09/16/2014 01:52 PM
Jesse Benton, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former campaign manager, severed ties with the Republican Party of Kentucky around the time he resigned from the McConnell campaign Aug. 29, RPK Chairman Steve Robertson told Pure Politics Tuesday.
Benton had been hired in January 2013 for grassroots political consulting, earning him $90,000 between Jan. 28, 2013, and June 3, 2014, according to federal campaign finance reports.
Robertson said he received an email from Benton as he stepped down as McConnell’s campaign manager. Benton had been linked to a bribery scandal as chairman of Republican Ron Paul’s presidential campaign after an Iowa state senator switched his endorsement from GOP candidate Michelle Bachmann to Paul before the state’s 2012 primary election. Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson admitted in court Aug. 27 to receiving payments from the Paul and Bachmann campaigns and lying to an Iowa panel investigating the matter.
Benton, who did not return phone and email messages seeking comment for this story, has denied any wrongdoing.
“He just indicated that he would obviously be extracting himself from consulting services for the party, and certainly based on press coverage, we understood why he felt he needed to make that decision,” Robertson said in a phone interview.
Benton was the highest-paid consultant for RPK in the time he worked for the party, according to a review of federal and state finance reports. While Benton earned $90,000 with the state GOP, all other consultants combined received $77,580 since January 2013, according to federal finance reports.
Benton’s final tally will be higher, as Robertson said RPK paid Benton’s final invoice once he ended his consulting relationship with the GOP. Benton earned $5,000 and $10,000 payments from RPK, usually on a monthly basis, and he received $425,416 from both McConnell’s campaign and his Bluegrass Committee leadership PAC, finance records show.
“We made our last payment to him when he severed the campaign,” Robertson said. “… We’ve been paying him a monthly fee, but we obviously pay invoices when we receive them.”
Robertson described Benton’s work as “general consulting for our coordinated campaign, our grassroots, volunteer-driven effort that’s been going on since 2013 in our buildup for 2014.”
“We had an agreement for services,” Robertson said. “He performed those services to my satisfaction. Obviously the relationship ended, and that’s the full life of it.”
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon, though, said in a statement Benton’s involvement with RPK “has tainted and poisoned the campaign of every one of their state house candidates.”
“Every single Republican on the ballot needs to explain to Kentucky voters why they feel comfortable placing their campaigns in the soiled hands of a man like Jesse Benton,” Logsdon said.
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