McConnell's campaign manager resigns, denies wrongdoing

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 30 at 9:51 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, resigned Friday citing concern that media attention to a scandal involving the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign would harm McConnell's re-election effort.

"With a heavy heart, I offered Sen. McConnell my resignation this afternoon and he reluctantly accepted," Benton wrote in a statement distributed by the campaign.  "Effective Saturday, August 30th, I will no longer be the 'Team Mitch' campaign manager."

Benton's resignation comes after the guilty plea on Wednesday in federal court of former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson, who admitted to accepting illegal payments in 2011 in exchange for his endorsements of both the Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul presidential campaigns.

Benton was the chair of the Paul campaign.  He has not been named or charged in the investigation, which is apparently ongoing.

In an August, 2013 interview with WHAS11 News, Benton said he was not aware of the paid endorsement scheme when it allegedly happened.

Click here to listen to the interview.

"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," Benton said.  "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," Benton continued.

Earlier Friday, the McConnell campaign released a statement that McConnell "obviously has nothing to do with the Iowa presidential caucus or this investigation so it would be inappropriate for his campaign to comment on this situation."

But shortly after 6pm eastern, the campaign released the resignation news release, again without comment from McConnell.

Charly Norton, the press secretary for the campaign of Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes, released a short statement.

"Senator McConnell owes the people of Kentucky a full account of what he knew and when he knew it," Norton said.

"The good news is that most of my work has been done," Benton said.  "We have built a top flight team of incredible people that are working tirelessly to ensure Mitch's re-election. They are a finely oiled machine and will not skip a beat without me."

"This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country," Benton said.

McConnell's former chief-of-staff, Josh Holmes, had already been playing an increased role on the campaign and figures to lead the re-election effort.

Statement from Jesse Benton:

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. This election is far too important and the stakes way too high.

With a heavy heart, I offered Sen. McConnell my resignation this afternoon and he reluctantly accepted. Effective Saturday, August 30th, I will no longer be the “Team Mitch” campaign manager.

The good news is that most of my work has been done. We have built a top flight team of incredible people that are working tirelessly to ensure Mitch's re-election. They are a finely oiled machine and will not skip a beat without me.

This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country.

 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."


 

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