Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Should Jesse Benton Do? A Prisoner's Dilemma Analysis

Here's a Youtube video explanation of the Game Theory concept known as Prisoner's Dilemma:

In general, the opportunities to use game theory in real world applications are limited. But the theory may be of significant value for former 2012 Ron Paul Campaign  manager Jesse Benton.

He may be in a pickle where game theory, specifically the concept of Prisoner's Dilemma, will provide him with sound guidance on how to act.

The pickle Benton may find himself in surrounds the developing Ron Paul Inc payoff scandal, where an Iowa Michelle Bachmann operative, Kent Sorenson, was paid under the table to change his support to Ron Paul from Bachmann. Sorenson has already admitted receiving payments and has pled guilty to failing to report them. It appears very likely that Ron Paul camapign operative Dmitri Kesari was the Ron Paul Inc soldier who negotiated with Sorenson and arranged for the payoff to be made.

An audio tape has emerged where Sorenson claims that Benton was aware of the payoffs. On the tape Sorenson says, “Oh, I know Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows.”

If Benton was aware (and if he was involved in the payoff), then he is serious trouble, as the investigation is ongoing. Note well: Benton, when he resigned from his position as Mitch McConnell's camapign manager, issued a statement denying any wrong doing. If that is the case, then Benton has nothing to worry about and he can find this Prisoner's Dilemma discussion as a mildly amusing, off-the-wall, essay.

If on the other hand, Sorenson is correct and Benton did know, then this Prisoner's Dilemma discussion may provide a clearer vision of options for Benton.

First, it is important to recognize that in the classic Prisoner's Dilemma model, there are only two suspects and neither knows what the other is going to do.

If suspect A, for certain, knew that suspect B was talking, then the dilemma is solved and suspect A should start talking.

In the Ron Paul Inc. payoff scandal, the situation is different in that more than two suspects may be involved and we know one suspect is already talking to the FBI, that is, given that Sorenson has entered a guilty plea with sealed documents, he is talking for sure.

This is probably a big problem for Kesari. He is likely in something of a Prisoner's Dilemma situation, but with the knowledge that Sorenson is fingering him. In other words, there is no dilemma for him.Unless he wants to fall on his sword to protect Benton and others at Ron Paul Inc. Prisoner's Dilemma theory says he probably will start talking.

Therefore, Benton is in a situation where he knows Sorenson is talking and where Prisoner's Dilemma models suggest that Kesari will likely talk, which means according to Prisoner's Dilemma theory that Benton should start talking also (if, of course, there is anything else to talk about). Maybe you can tell us what is really going on at Team Mitch, Jesse, and how did why did you end up there? What was Kesari really paid to do for Team Mitch? What else do you know, Jesse?

It's Nash Equilibrium, Jesse. A kaleidoscope of mathematics (and twirling emotions), if you will.



  1. Brilliant analysis. It is unfortunate we don't have the purest prisoner's dilemma. Benton and Kesari are not in custody so Kesari still has confidence, and no doubt assurances, that Ron Paul will reward him for his silence.
    Kesari using counsel close to Benton and the Paul family helps reassure Benton and the Paul family Kesari won't sing. (See:

    However, the reality of a 21st century investigation- there are no secrets from the FBI. If either have committed crimes, there's a digital trail. If the FBI is confident convictions can be procured; believes those convictions can be procured with a net positive public opinion for the agency; and is not corrupted by bribery themselves; then Kesari for sure is in some big trouble.

    While Sorenson got probably the only deal available, I'd look for Kesari to take the next deal. He can look to Kentucky to see how Rand Paul abandoned his first campaign manager, David Adams. Or how Benton ultimately sold out the old man in 2012. The signal that Kesari's coming to his senses is when he fires his current counsel and procures counsel that is not in anyway affiliated with Ron Paul. Counsel that is representing his interests alone.

    While it's true I have a bias for McConnell's demise, I'd like to see Kesari stand up to Paul simply because I hate it when the rich guy always figures out how to win on the back of the little guy. At it's best, that's not how the Republican Party should work.

  2. One last thought: If Rand Paul is serious about running for president, isn't it time we ask him whether he would pardon Benton, Kesari, and/or his father, should any of them be indicted?
    Something tells me the answer is 2 out of 3.