I think it’s safe to assume at this point everything in Kentucky politics is secretly recorded.
Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Sen. Mitch McConnell, said in January he was “holding his nose” through McConnell’s reelection campaign because of the dividends it would pay a 2016 Rand Paul campaign, according to a recording published by the Economic Policy Journal Thursday.
“Between you and me, I’m sort of holding my nose for two years because what we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16,” the recorded voice says. “So, that’s my long vision.”
Benton was a long-time aide to Rep. Ron Paul, serving on his presidential campaigns, and is married to Paul’s granddaughter. When he joined McConnell’s team, it was widely seen as an attempt by the senior senator to shore up support in Tea Party and libertarian circles. McConnell no doubt knew this was a symbiotic relationship, but ’tis politics, and we like illusions preserved.
Benton, who was talking to activist Dennis Fusaro of the Reformed Theological Seminary in the recorded call, released this statement:
“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,” he said. “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.”
Fusaro told The Daily Caller he recorded the phone call—both were in states requiring only one person give consent— because he was upset about alleged unsavory negotiations by the Paul campaign during the 2012 Iowa primary to get Iowa State Sen. Ken Sorenson to change his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Paul. OpenSecrets reports on e-mails about the interaction, also provided by Fusaro:
The Ron Paul presidential campaign may have been involved with negotiations to offer financial compensation to an Iowa state senator in exchange for his endorsement and support in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, according to emails obtained by OpenSecrets.org…
In an Oct. 29, 2011 email, a representative of Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a Republican, asks the Paul campaign to provide Sorenson with $8,000 per month in salary for him, $5,000 per month in salary for a Sorenson ally, as well as $100,000 in contributions for a newly created PAC that Sorenson planned to use to support conservative candidates for Iowa state office.
In exchange, the email, which was allegedly written by Aaron Dorr, executive director of Iowa Gun Owners, says Sorenson would abandon his support for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign, endorse Paul, campaign for him and provide access to an email list of Iowans who support homeschooling.
Fusaro on Benton: “I gave him six months to get to the bottom of it and fix the problem and he didn’t do it.”
McConnell and Benton seem unfazed:
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) August 8, 2013