Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for September 29, 2014
Evening Must-Read: Ryan Avent: Monetary Policy: Why Is the Fed Planning to Fail?

Grifters Gotta Grift: Kentucky's Mitch McConnell Campaign Edition: Live from The Roasterie

From earlier this month: the incomparable Doktor Zoom:

Doktor Zoom: Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Manager Quits To Spend More Time With His (Alleged) Bribe Money: "Looks like Senate Minority Leader and Supreme Chelonian Overlord Mitch McConnell... going to have to find himself a new campaign manager after the sudden resignation of Jesse Benton, who will now have more time to hold his nose and wait for Rand Paul to snap him up for 2016.

It might be a long wait, what with the guilty plea last week by Ken Sorenson, a former Iowa state senator who admitted taking bribes to switch his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul shortly before the Iowa caucuses in 2012. What the what? How is bribery in the Iowa caucuses two years ago connected to Yertle’s Senate hopes? Let us connect ye olde dots for you!...

But first, before the dots, McConnell's opponent Alison Londegren Grimes has some questions:

Senator McConnell:

  1. When did you know that Benton was potentially tied to the federal criminal investigation of a bribery scandal?
  2. What did Benton tell you his involvement was in paying off the former state senator in Iowa? Is Benton the subject of a federal investigation?
  3. Are you certain none of your endorsers have been paid off to join your team?
  4. Was Benton involved in dangling "shiny political prizes" to Matt Bevin to stay out of the primary? Did it have anything to do with the jewelry store listed in the ethics report?
  5. Why did you pay nearly $500,000 to two people potentially involved in a federal criminal investigation?
  6. What project did you pay Dimitri Kesari $70,000 to do for your campaign?
  7. Do you own any responsibility for handpicking and keeping Benton on the payroll while he was potentially tied to this criminal federal investigation? Why did you keep Benton on your payroll months after news that he might be tied to this bribery scandal?
  8. Did you discuss the campaign tactics of Ron Paul's campaign with Benton?
  9. Will you use your influence to urge Benton to answer press inquiries on this subject?
  10. Why did you reluctantly accept Benton's resignation, instead of calling for it?

Doktor Zoom continues:

On Wednesday, Sorenson, a bigwig in Iowa Republican circles, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and obstruction of justice stemming from his accepting $73,000 from Paul’s campaign to switch his loyalty from Bachman to Paul. And as Rachel Maddow notes, bribes don’t just get taken without someone giving them. At the time, Jesse Benton was Ron Paul’s campaign manager, and while Benton wasn’t named in any of the court documents in the Sorenson case, the Lexington Herald-Leader notes that “Sorenson’s guilty plea included two sealed documents, which could threaten to involve Benton.” Further, last August, The Iowa Republican blog released a recording of a phone call in which Sorenson discussed the payments with Dennis Fusaro, who had worked on Paul’s 2008 campaign. Fusaro recorded Sorenson acknowledging that he’d received a check from Demitri Kesari, who was working with the Paul 2012 campaign, and also recorded this epic bit of dialogue when Sorensen asked Fusaro if he thought Paul campaign insiders knew about the payments:

Sorenson: Who do you think knows?

Fusaro: All these guys are corrupt. Who do I think knows? Everyone you told. Everyone Dimitri told. And Dimitri.

Sorenson: Do you think the whole Ron Paul, like all of them know? I mean the inside group?

Fusaro: Sure, I’m sure Jesse Benton knows, he’s a scum…

Sorenson: Oh, I know that Jesse knows. I know Jesse knows.

Fusaro: He’s a scumbag.

Fusaro seems nice. Fusaro, of course, is also the cheerful little wrecking-ball who, in a different recording, caught Jesse Benton saying he was mostly working for McConnell’s senate campaign this year as a way of biding his time until he could run Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in 2016. In that memorable recording, Benton said he was just barely putting up with McConnell’s old man stank:

Between you and me, I’m sorta holding my nose for two years… ’cause what we’re doing here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in ’16.

And so late Friday, in the great tradition of pre-holiday-weekend news dumps, Benton was out, with a beautifully self-righteous press release in which he made it absolutely clear that he’d done nothing wrong but was leaving to save Mitch McConnell from the liberal media vultures:

There is no more important cause for both Kentucky, my new home I have come to love, and our country than electing Mitch McConnell Majority Leader of the United States Senate. I believe this deep in my bones, and I would never allow anything or anyone to get in the way.

That includes myself.

Recently, there have been inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue. I hope those who know me recognize that I strive to be a man of integrity.

The press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false.

However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign.

Working for Mitch McConnell is one of the great honors of my life. He is a friend, a mentor and a great man this commonwealth desperately needs. I cannot, and will not, allow any possibility that my circumstances will effect the voters’ ability to hear his message and assess his record....

Benton proved that he is totally innocent by ending his resignation statement with a Bible verse, which is something that a dishonest bribey scumbag could never do, seeing as how an insincere use of Scripture would surely cause his head to burst into flames:

James 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Top o’ the world, ma!

Mitch McConnell is reportedly wondering if he could borrow Barack Obama’s time machine so he could go back to last August and fire Benton’s ass instead of posting a cheerful Facebook photo of himself goofing around with a nose-holding Benton.


Matea Gold: McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton resigns amid federal probe into 2012 endorsement-for-pay deal: "Jesse Benton, the GOP political strategist spearheading Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign...

...resigned from his post Friday amid new details about an ongoing federal investigation into an endorsement-pay-scheme involving a 2012 presidential campaign he oversaw.... Benton’s decision comes two days after former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to two federal charges, admitting that he accepted concealed payments from the 2012 presidential campaigns of Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas to secure his endorsement. A top Paul campaign official, Dimitri Kesari, was involved in efforts to pay Sorenson for his support, according a state independent counsel investigation.

Benton, who is married to Paul’s granddaughter, served as chairman of the campaign. It is unclear if he knew about payments made to Sorenson, but emails published last year indicate he was involved in efforts to get him to defect from the Bachmann campaign....

And from the Doktor Zoom archives:

Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Manager Somehow Keeps His Job After Saying He Can’t Stand McConnell: "On Thursday, a tape surfaced of Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign manager...

...describing his job as an unpleasant way to mark time until he can help Rand Paul run for President. Jesse Benton, who managed Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign, was recorded in January by conservative activist Dennis Fusaro, and said: “Between you and me, I’m sorta holding my nose for two years … ’cause what we’re doing here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in ’16.” You’d think that sort of thing might result in a desk being cleaned out at Yertle’s Command Center For All He Surveys. Instead, it resulted in the photo above going up on the campaign’s Facebook page. See, we’re all friends, just joking, and no big deal that my campaign manager just said he can barely stand me.

Benton was of course very, very upset at being taken out of context or something, and issued a statement that he is in fact the most loyal nose-holder evar:

It is truly sick that someone would record a private phone conversation I had out of kindness and use it to try to hurt me. I believe in Senator McConnell and am 100 percent committed to his re-election. Being selected to lead his campaign is one of the great honors of my life and I look forward to victory in November of 2014.

Poor Mitch McConnell. Stuck between his own loathsomeness and a hard-right place.