WASHINGTON (AP) – A Republican politician pardoned by President Donald Trump after his conviction in a corruption plot in 2012 has been charged again with campaign-related crimes, this time involving an illegal 2016 campaign contribution program and a Russian national.
Jesse Benton, 43, of Louisville, Ky., Was charged in an unsealed indictment Monday in federal court in Washington.
Trump pardoned Benton in December after his conviction in a case involving false records and campaign reports to the Federal Election Commission. Prosecutors said Benton and two others who worked on Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign attempted to hide $ 73,000 in payments from Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Paul .
The most recent case is similar in nature to the 2012 accusations. Benton, who was the former chief strategist of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, and Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, who has served as an adviser to several presidential campaigns and is a presidential historian and author, were charged with conspiracy to solicit and provoke an illegal electoral contribution from a Russian national in the 2016 presidential election.
The two men appeared in court on Monday. Benton’s attorney did not immediately return the messages seeking comment. Wead’s attorney Jay Sekulow said Wead pleaded not guilty.
According to court documents, Wead, 75, of Bonita Springs, Florida, told a Russian national that he could meet with an anonymous presidential candidate at a political event in return for a contribution. It is illegal to solicit election contributions from foreigners.
The indictment does not specify which presidential candidate, but at the time of the event noted in the indictment on September 22, 2016, there were only two major candidates, Republican Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump held a fundraiser in Pittsburgh on September 22.
Benton has long been involved in Republican politics. Wead is a conservative commentator and author who served in George HW Bush’s White House and wrote a book, “Inside Trump’s White House: The Real Story of His Chairman,” which he described as an authoritative story of the early years. term of office of the president. .
After the anonymous donor pledged to transfer the funds, Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a political fundraising event and get a photo in exchange for $ 100,000 in donations to a political consulting firm. owned by Benton, according to the indictment. The indictment says the men then disguised the funds by creating a fake invoice.
According to the indictment, Benton then told two political committees affiliated with the candidate that he sent the promised contribution, possibly using a personal credit card to donate $ 25,000 and keep the rest. Without knowing it, political committees filed reports with the Election Commission incorrectly claiming Benton was the source of the donation, the indictment says.
Benton and Wead have both been charged with conspiracy to solicit and provoke an illegal election contribution from a foreign national, to make an intermediary contribution and to cause false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Associated Press editors Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.
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