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Trump-backed candidate pleads guilty to accepting illegal campaign contribution

Lynda Bennett unsuccessfully ran in 2020 for the congressional seat vacated by Republican Mark Meadows when he became Trump's White House chief of staff.
Former President Donald Trump applauds as he departs after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.
Former President Donald Trump applauds at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, in Oxon Hill, Md., on March 4, 2023.Alex Brandon / AP

A former Trump-endorsed candidate for a North Carolina congressional seat pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting an illegal campaign contribution.

Lynda Bennett of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of accepting contributions in the name of another stemming from her 2020 campaign for the House seat vacated by Mark Meadows when he joined the Trump White House, the Justice Department said.

Bennett, 65, borrowed $25,000 from a family member in December 2019 claiming she needed the money for personal expenses since she was largely self-funding her campaign, according to court documents.

A day after depositing the loaned money into a personal account, Bennett transferred a sum of $80,000, including the $25,000 loaned to her, to the bank account for her federal campaign committee, prosecutors said.

The Federal Election Commission requires that a loan to a campaign, "including a loan to the campaign from a member of the candidate’s family," be reported as a campaign contribution.

Prosecutors argued that Bennett knowingly violated the law by reporting she had loaned herself the deposited money through personal funds, and failed to disclose that $25,000 of the contribution in question was from a third-party.

When reached for comment about the guilty plea, Bennett's lawyer Kearns Davis said in an email that Bennett was "grateful for the support of her family and friends, and glad to move on to the next step in the process."

Bennett secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump during the GOP primary to represent North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in 2020.

She ultimately lost her runoff race to primary opponent Madison Cawthorn, who served a single term in Congress before Republican challenger Chuck Edwards defeated him in the May 2022 primary.

Bennett is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20.