Two conservative supporters were charged by the Justice Department today with attempting to solicit a significant financial contribution from a Russian foreign national for an unspecified presidential candidate during the 2016 election cycle.
Jesse Benton, former campaign chair for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, and Doug Wead, a conservative commentator who ran for Congress from Arizona in 1992, have been charged with soliciting illegal foreign money to a campaign in a scheme that would have funneled the illegal contribution through a US based company to hide the original source of the funds.
Benton also served as campaign chair for presidential runs by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and his father, perennial outsider candidate Ron Paul. Benton is married to one of Ron Paul’s granddaughters, a niece of Rand Paul. He had previously been convicted of filing false FEC reports for the campaigns of Ron Paul and given two years probation. He received a pardon from Donald Trump in December 2020.
The author of at least ten low selling books, including 2019’s Inside Trump’s White House: The Real Story of His Presidency, Wead gained a modicum of infamy by releasing tapes he had made from 1997 to 2000 of then-future president George W. Bush without Bush’s knowledge or approval. In those tapes, Bush acknowledged using drugs, including marijuana.
“According to court documents, Jesse R. Benton, 43, of Louisville, Kentucky, who previously worked as a campaign manager for two campaigns for U.S. Senate and one campaign for president, and Roy Douglas ‘Doug’ Wead, 75, of Bonita Springs, Florida, who previously served as an advisor to multiple presidential campaigns, conspired together to solicit a political contribution from a Russian foreign national (Foreign National 1). As described in the indictment, Wead conveyed to Foreign National 1 that he could meet Political Candidate 1, a candidate for president during the 2016 election cycle, in exchange for a payment. Shortly after Foreign National 1 committed to transfer the funds, Benton reached out to individuals at Political Committee B, the national party committee for Political Candidate 1’s political party. He then arranged for Foreign National 1 to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph with Political Candidate 1, in exchange for a political contribution to Political Committee C, a joint fundraising committee comprised of the campaign committee for Political Candidate 1, Political Committee B, and related state committees. Foreign National 1 ultimately wired $100,000 to Company A, a political consulting firm owned by Benton. To disguise the true purpose of the transfer of funds, Wead and Benton created a fake invoice for ‘consulting services’ and invented a cover story.”