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Two GOP operatives charged with soliciting foreign campaign contribution

Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A pair of Republican political operatives have been indicted for conspiring to solicit a campaign contribution from a Russian national in 2016, the Justice Department said Monday.

Jesse R. Benton, 43, of Kentucky and Roy Douglas "Doug" Wead, 75, of Florida were charged with counts related to soliciting an illegal campaign contribution and filing false records with the Federal Elections Commission, according to a Department of Justice statement.

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According to the indictment, Wead told a Russian national he would be able pay a sum of money to meet a 2016 presidential candidate, who was not named by the Justice Department.

Once the foreign national agreed, Benton arranged for him to meet the candidate in exchange for a political contribution to an unnamed political committee that was involved in joint fundraising.

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The Russian national ultimately wired $100,000 to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, who used a fake invoice for "consulting services" and fabricated a cover story to disguise the reason behind the transfer of the funds.

Wead and the foreign national attended a fundraising event for the candidate on Sept. 22, 2016, along with a second foreign national who worked as a translator for Wead and all three took photographs with the candidate.

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Benton repeatedly told a consultant working for political action committees that he had sent the agreed-upon contribution for the event, when in reality he delayed sending the money.

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When he ultimately filled out a contributor form, Benton listed himself as the contributor and used his own credit card to pay $25,000 and held onto the remaining $75,000 of the foreign national's money.

Both Benton and Wead face a range of maximum penalties from five years to 20 years in prison per count.

Wead served as an adviser to multiple presidential campaigns and served in George H.W. Bush's White House, while Benton worked as the chief strategist of the Great America PAC in support of former President Donald Trump and worked for the 2014 campaign of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., The Hill reported.

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Benton was convicted of paying an Iowa state senator to change his endorsement in 2012 and was pardoned by Trump in December.

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