Rand Paul-Linked Super PAC Chair Charged on Iowa Bribe

     (CN) – A super PAC chairman connected to Sen. Rand Paul will appear in court on federal charges released today that accuse him of hiding a payoff in the last election.
     Back in 2012 it was Paul’s Texas congressman father, Ron Paul, who was running for president.
     Three men who worked on Rep. Paul’s unsuccessful presidential campaign – Jesse Benton, John Tate and Dimitrios Kesari – now face a federal indictment that accuses them of paying Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson to support their candidate.
     The complaint, which is dated July 30 but made public only today, takes care not to name the presidential candidate in question.
     Bribery allegations against Sorenson were ubiquitous after the senator jumped from serving as Michele Bachman’s Iowa campaign chair to support Ron Paul in 2011.
     He pleaded guilty last year to hiding campaign expenditures in connection with the money.
     The new indictment says Sorenson agreed to take $73,000 from the committee Benton heads, America’s Liberty PAC, paid in $8,000 installments to a film-production company and then to Sorenson’s Grassroots Strategy Inc. – in exchange for lending his support to Ron Paul.
     Rumblings of the bribe began in December 2011, when Bachmann publicly claimed Sorenson had been paid to shift to Ron Paul’s campaign.
     Benton, Tate and Kesari allegedly tried to get around disclosure rules by listing the money meant for Sorenson as “audio visual expenses” for the production company. Prosecutors say Sorenson later invoiced the production company for the payments.
     On May 2, 2012, Kesari forwarded one such invoice to Benton with the comment “Kent’s Bill. Pay?” Benton approved the payment from the committee to the film company the same day, according to the indictment.
     “When the Republican establishment is going to be coming after him over the next few days I thought it was my duty to come to his aid,” Sorensen said in the December 2011 speech in which he came out in support of Paul. “Just like he came to my aid during my Senate race, which was a very nasty race. It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do because he fights for the values that I hold dear as well.”
     Ron Paul finished third in the 2012 Iowa Caucus.
     Benton and Tate are set to appear before a federal judge in Des Moines on Sept. 3. Kesari appeared in the same court today.
     “Federal campaign finance laws are intended to ensure the integrity and transparency of the federal election process,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a press release. “When political operatives make under-the-table payments to buy an elected official’s political support, it undermines public confidence in our entire political system.”
     Sen. Rand Paul is running eighth in the field of 17 Republican presidential candidates, according to Real Clear Politics. The Kentucky Tea Partier is set to take the stage in the highly anticipated Fox News debate Thursday.
     America’s Liberty PAC boasts on its website it is the “only Super PAC endorsed by Senator Paul.”
     America’s Liberty PAC could not be reached for comment on this story.

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