With just about two months left before election day, Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, resigned right at the start of the holiday weekend. Benton cited concerns that his connection to an Iowa pay-for-play scandal would hurt the senator's reelection bid, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
In a statement, Benton wrote that "inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue" and "risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign."
That "past campaign"" involves his work with Ron Paul's 2012 presidential bid. As The New York Times reported earlier this week, former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson pled guilty this week to taking bribes to switch his endorsement from Rep. Michele Bachmann to Paul. Benton was the chairman of Paul's campaign, but isn't being accused of breaking any laws.
Benton has been a long-time ally of the Paul family, an alliance that came up last year when video emerged of Benton saying he was “holding my nose for two years" by working with McConnell "‘cause what we’re doing here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand in ’16.” The two later released a photo of Benton holding his nose and McConnell smiling. But an awkward phone conversation is a lot easier to bounce back from than "politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue" rumors of illegal activity.
Here's Benton's full statement, via Roll Call:
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.
“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.”