Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, is resigning from the campaign.
Benton, who previously held high-level roles in Ron Paul and Rand Paul’s campaigns, confirmed his resignation Friday evening, explaining that he is stepping down after his name surfaced in news reports about a scandal involving the 2012 presidential campaign.
Earlier this week, a former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty to charges related to receiving money from the Ron Paul presidential campaign in return for his endorsement.
Benton, who was Paul’s political director, denies any wrongdoing but admits it has become a distraction for McConnell.
“The press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false,” Benton said in a statement. “However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign.”
McConnell’s hiring of Benton was widely viewed as smart move to attract Paul’s supporters in the state.
But Benton famously caused trouble for the campaign after audio surfaced of him saying he was just “holding his nose” to get McConnell elected before he could focus on Rand Paul’s 2016 campaign.
“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, so, that’s my long vision,” Benton said in the recording.
McConnell is in a tight race with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Benton ended his statement with a Bible verse. “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.”
Benton cited the verse as James 16:33. It is actually John 16:33.
Here is Benton’s full resignation statement, released by the McConnell campaign Friday evening:
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.”