A political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s White House bid.
Jesse Benton, 43, who was previously a top aide to former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, was charged this month, according to a federal indictment in Washington unsealed Monday. Also charged is Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.
According to the indictment, in the months before the 2016 presidential election, Benton and Wead solicited a U.S. campaign donation from a Russian national in violation of federal law, then filed false campaign finance reports to make it seem that the donation was from Benton.
Federal disclosures from that period make clear the donation went to support Trump’s election, though the recipient is not named in the indictment. Authorities allege Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a fundraiser “and get a photograph with” the candidate, “in exchange for a political contribution.”
Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public,” according to the indictment.
The court filing does not name Trump, but details in the indictment match a $25,000 donation that Benton made in the fall of 2016 to a committee that jointly raised money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, campaign finance records show.
The unnamed Russian national, who is described as a business associate of Wead, wired a total of $100,000 from a bank account in Vienna, Austria, to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, authorities allege.