McConnell Campaign Manager Quits Amid Iowa Probe

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton has quit the campaign with the clock counting down to the Nov. 4 general election against Democratic Attorney General Alison Lundergan Grimes.

According to POLITICO, Benton was involved in the presidential race of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, before becoming McDonnell’s campaign manager.

“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 Huffington Post reported that the indictment that lead to the guilty plea by the Iowa state senator included sealed information, though it is unknown whether that played any role in Benton’s decision to step down as McConnell’s campaign manager.

“Benton has not been accused of wrongdoing. The McConnell campaign issued a terse statement Friday morning dismissing the Iowa probe as unconnected to the senator or his circle, and Benton has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the bribe or efforts to cover it up.

“This is probably not the end of the story. The plea was based in part on two sealed documents, and the U.S. Department of Justice has said that the probe is ongoing.”

Even if the indictment has nothing to do with Benton, the timing of his resignation as McConnell’s campaign manager could not come at a worse time as McConnell is locked in the political fight of his life against Grimes.

The balance of the Senate hangs on just a few key races across the nation, with the Kentucky race among the most watched in the entire nation.

POLITICO explored what impact Benton’s resignation could have on the race:

“Assessing the potential impact of Benton’s exit on the race, Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the aide’s absence might prove less consequential than if this had happened before the primary. (McConnell ended up defeating challenger Matt Bevin easily in May.)

“‘Benton already served his role of helping McConnell appeal to the conservative base during the party primary, and a lot of campaign responsibilities had already passed from his shoulders,’ Voss told the newspaper, which first reported the resignation.

“But, he added, the publicity certainly isn’t helpful to the senator.”

To see some of Benton’s handy work on the campaign, check out this video of an auto-tuned McConnell that many people still have fully figured out. Regardless, you’ll enjoy its weirdness.

[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]