Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, announced his resignation late Friday, citing potential distractions over renewed attention to a scandal from the Iowa 2012 caucuses.
A longtime associate of Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Benton was the surprise choice to run the McConnell campaign in Sept. 2012 — even before the current election cycle began. Benton’s departure comes days after a former Iowa GOP state lawmaker pleaded guilty to charges of accepting money to change his endorsement in 2012 from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. Benton was the chairman of Paul’s 2012 campaign and has been mentioned in documents surrounding the case. He has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case.
“The press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false,” Benton said. “However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign.”
Benton’s appointment in 2012 was seen as a marriage of convenience between McConnell — seeking to shore up his right flank — and the younger Paul, who was looking to build up his establishment cred ahead of a possible presidential bid. The tension was most clearly on display when Benton was recorded telling a group that he was “holding my nose” working for the Senate minority leader.