A Republican consultant was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in conspiring to illegally funnel contributions from a Russian national to former President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Jesse R. Benton, 45, of The Woodlands, Texas, was convicted in November on a series of charges including conspiracy, contribution by a foreign national, and causing false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.
It's the second time Benton, who has advised numerous GOP lawmakers on campaign strategy, has been convicted of charges related to political contributions.
According to court documents, Benton schemed with Roy Douglas, another political adviser, to pass contributions to Trump’s campaign from a Russian national who wanted to meet and take a picture with the candidate.
At the time, Benton was a strategist for the Great America PAC, a super PAC that backed Trump in 2016.
The Russian national allegedly wired $100,000 as part of an arrangement with Benton to attend a Trump campaign fundraiser.
Benton concealed the Russian national's identity from Trump and his campaign and created a fake invoice to disguise the scheme, court documents say. Acting as a straw donor, Benton allegedly contributed $25,000 of the Russian national’s money to the campaign, while pocketing the remaining $75,000.
The Justice Department said the campaign was unaware of the scheme.
Benton had worked on the campaigns of GOP Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Benton resigned as McConnell’s campaign manager in 2014 amid fallout from his work on Ron Paul's presidential campaign two years earlier.
In 2016, Benton was convicted with Ron Paul campaign manager John Tate of concealing $73,000 in payments that went to Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. Both Benton and Tate were sentenced to sentenced to six months of home confinement and probation. Trump pardoned them in December 2020.