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Ron Paul Staffers Get Probation For Campaign Finance Conspiracy

Sarah Boden/IPR
John Tate and his wife enter the federal courthouse in Des Moines on Tuesday, September 20.

Two staffers from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were sentenced Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Des Moines. Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton and Campaign Manger John Tate will each serve two years of probation and pay a $10,000 fine.

In May the men and a third staffer, Deputy Campaign Manger Demitri Kesari, were convicted of conspiring to create and submit false campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission. 

Tate, Benton and their wives appeared emotional and relieved upon hearing the sentences.

Justice Department prosecutors had asked for 27-month prison terms for both men for lying to the FEC and deceiving voters. They argued Tate and Benton “perversely weaponized” expenditure reports, which they said "shatters" the public's confidence in the nation's electoral process. 

The men paid former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson $73,000 to drop his endorsement of GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and endorse her rival Rep. Ron Paul days before the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. To hide Sorenson's payments, checks were logged as audiovisual expenses and funneled through a third party.

Richard Pilger of the DOJ's Election Crimes Branch called Benton a hard-nosed political operative who betrayed the Paul campaign. "It was about winning," he said.

Benton, who is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter Valerie, told the court, "I always worked very, very hard to try to be a good person, a good man and to walk a righteous path." Benton also said the he had suffered sleepless nighs, public humiliation and financial loss. 

John Tate also asked the court for mercy and said he had made a mistake.

"A mistake to me is when my wife asks me to bring home skim milk and I get whole," said Judge John Jarvey.

Jarvey went on to agree that Tate and Benton had committed serious crimes, but called these felonies “regulatory.” He noted that there were not many other cases for him to compare or reference when determining an appropriate sentence for men.

Tate and Benton will likely appeal their convictions. Kesari will be sentenced by Jarvey Wednesday morning.