GOP operatives indicted over illegal contrib. from Russian national in 2016

Source: The Hill | September 20, 2021 | Mychael Schnell

GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016

Two GOP political operatives have been indicted for their involvement in a scheme to solicit an illegal campaign contribution from a Russian national in 2016.

Jesse R. Benton, 43, and Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, were both charged with counts related to illegal campaign contributions by a foreign national and filing false records to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The indictment against Benton, who is from Kentucky, and Wead, who is from Florida, was unsealed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

Benton previously served as the chief strategist of the pro-Trump Great America PAC and worked on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) 2014 campaign. Wead was previously an adviser to a number of presidential campaigns and served in the George H.W. Bush White House.

Former President Trump pardoned Benton in December after Benton was convicted of paying an Iowa state senator to change his endorsement before the state’s caucus to then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who ran for president in 2012, according to the Des Moines Register.

If convicted, the defendants face between five and 20 years in prison, per count. They made their first court appearance on Monday.

Jay Sekulow, who is representing Wead and was previously the lead counsel during Trump’s first impeachment trial, said his client pleaded not guilty, according to The Associated Press.

According to court documents, the two GOP operatives allegedly conspired to receive a campaign contribution from a Russian foreign national.

The indictment says that Wead told the foreign national that he could meet a 2016 presidential candidate — who was not named by the DOJ — if he paid a sum of money.

After the foreign national agreed to transfer funds, Benton allegedly contacted individuals at an unidentified political committee. 

Benton allegedly arranged for the foreign national to attend a political fundraising event and take a photograph with the candidate in exchange for a contribution to another political committee that was involved in joint fundraising.

The foreign national eventually wired $100,000 to a political consulting firm that Benton owned. The payment, according to the DOJ, was through a fake invoice for “consulting services” to hide the purpose of the contribution. They also allegedly created a cover story.

Wead and the foreign national ultimately attended the candidates political fundraising event on Sept. 22, 2016. According to the AP, Trump held a fundraiser in Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.


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