“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…”
On July 7th I referred to an article from the Washington Post that reported a political operative in the State of Virginia had been found guilty of creating a super PAC and then coordinating its activities with the campaign he was working on. He lied about his activity to the FBI. He admitted in court, according to the Post, that he paid $138,000 to his mother for work not performed and used campaign cash for personal expenses. He will serve two years in prison.
The Post described the conviction as the “the first federal criminal case of illegal coordination between a campaign and a purportedly independent ally.” It quotes an assistant Attorney General as warning political staffers to “think twice about circumventing laws that promote transparency in federal elections.” The federal prosecutor in the case asked for a longer sentence in the case to send a message to political operatives that “how you win matters.”
The trial and conviction is interesting because it was somewhat unique. Doing things political has often meant that rules didn’t get followed. And if they were not followed, there might not be any consequences. The man convicted in the Virginia cases, Tyler Harber, said that he “got caught up in what politics has become.”
On Wednesday there was another similar report in Politico about the indictment of a key aide of Senator Rand Paul, Jesse Benton. Benton was indicted by a grand jury in Iowa and accused of bribing an Iowa state senator in 2011 to support Ron Paul, Rand’s father, who was running for president in the 2012 presidential cycle. Benton is charged with conspiracy, obstructing an investigation, submitting false federal campaign financial reports and lying to the FBI.
This case actually follows one from 2014, Politico reports, where the state senator in question was paid $70,000 to shift his allegiance from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. (Side note: how crazy is that?) The money was concealed as legitimate campaign expenditures. The FBI agent in charge said that “the FBI will aggressively investigate those who corrupt the integrity of our democratic process.”
Benton, of course, is innocent until proven guilty. As an aside, Benton was originally hired in 2014 as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager. After Benton was linked to the conviction of the Iowa state senator he resigned from the McConnell campaign.
There seems to be some sort of a trend developing here with the Justice Department and the FBI actively pursuing political corruption. As we wait to see what comes of the searches of local politicos’ homes at the end of May, note that the FBI and the United States Attorney’s office are involved with the Pigeongate investigation, along with the State Attorney General office.
Team Pigeon non-update – no amended financial disclosures from Brown for Family Court and related committees
This blog and others have noted some issues relating to contributions and the receipt of contributions to the Brown for Family Court campaign and others. As of Friday, August 7th, no amended reports have been filed with the State Board of Elections from the Brown for Family Court committee; the committee of Clarence Supervisor David Hartzell; or the Friends of Bove committee. Actually, the Bove campaign still has not filed its required July 15th report. But the good news is that next Tuesday, August 10, the committees can make amends. New financial disclosure statements are due that day.
Quick note on the Republican debates
Many folks seem to think that Donald Trump tanked in the debate and that he will begin to fade from the campaign. That would lead to the cancellation of the potential new reality TV show, “Celebrity Vice President.”