Friday, August 29, 2014

Top Aide to Mitch McConnell Linked to Shady Deal

By Ben Jacobs

Controversial campaign manager Jesse Benton, a Ron Paul protégé, is being edged closer to a bribery scandal from the 2012 Iowa caucuses—and no one knows where the investigation’s going.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and there was no pairing stranger in the 2014 election cycle than when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hired Jesse Benton to be his campaign manager. Benton is closely aligned with Ron and Rand Paul. He worked on both of Ron’s presidential campaigns and ran Rand’s 2010 Senate campaign. The easy line about Benton is that he’s so close to the Pauls that he could be family, except for the fact that he is family: Benton is married to one of Ron Paul’s granddaughters.

The hiring seemed to inaugurate a détente between Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. Paul had won his Senate primary in 2010 by beating Trey Grayson, a McConnell protégé, and by effectively shredding the Kentucky Republican establishment. Mitch McConnell is the Kentucky Republican establishment. But both needed each other: Paul needed to build a strong relationship with McConnell to gain national credibility for a presidential bid and McConnell needed Paul to be able to win his primary in 2014. As a result of this shotgun marriage, Benton became McConnell’s campaign manager.

The relationship has had hiccups since. Most notably in August of 2013, a recording was leaked in which Benton said he was “holdin’ my nose” to run the McConnell campaign “because what we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16, so that’s my long vision.” The campaign blew it off by releasing a picture of Benton holding his nose while standing next to a smiling McConnell. Peter Hamby at CNN later reported that the leak “genuinely hurt” McConnell’s feelings.

Now McConnell could face real harm from his connections with Benton, as

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