Former Ron Paul aide, Trump super PAC chief convicted in campaign finance trial

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, signs the back of a large copy of the United States Constitution for supporter Walter Zdazinsky as Paul's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, looks on at the Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 17, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Benton is chief strategist of the Great America PAC, the primary PAC backing Trump's presidential bid
  • The charges stem from 2012, when the aides steered payments to a state senator to support Ron Paul

Washington (CNN)A former aide to Ron Paul and current strategist for a pro-Donald Trump super PAC was convicted Thursday of falsifying campaign records in a 2012 scheme to pay for a presidential endorsement.

A federal jury in Iowa found Jesse Benton guilty on all counts, which included conspiracy and false records charges. Benton was convicted along with John Tate and Dimitrios Kesari, also former Paul aides.
    Benton is chief strategist of the Great America PAC, the primary PAC backing Trump's presidential bid.
    The PAC, as well as an attorney for Tate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Benton's attorneys declined to comment.
    Kesari's attorney, Jesse Binall, said they were "disappointed by not disheartened."
    "We remain optimistic that by the time this is all over, Mr. Kesari will be cleared," Benali said, referring to unresolved legal filings and potential appeals.
    The charges stem from 2012, when Benton, Tate and Kesari were working for Paul's presidential campaign. They were charged with conspiring to steer $73,000 to Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson to switch his support to Paul over Michele Bachmann ahead of the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
    Most of the counts of the indictment stem from the falsified campaign reports made to cover up the payments to Sorenson in exchange for the switch in support.
    Benton was acquitted by a jury in October of one count of lying to the FBI and that jury couldn't reach a verdict on several counts against Kesari. The charges against Benton had originally been dismissed by a judge last year with the ability to refile, which the government did in November.
    In addition to Paul's 2012 campaign, Benton served on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's 2014 reelection campaign and a super PAC supporting Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's presidential bid last year.
    Benton joined Great America PAC in March.