Lexington Hearald Leader: Federal complaint filed against Jesse Benton over undercover video


The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center based its complaint on an undercover video recently shot by a British newspaper, The Telegraph, after the center’s general counsel, Larry Noble, was allowed to review the newspaper’s entire recording.

“We have long argued that dark money groups that influence elections but keep their donors secret are dangerous to our democracy. Here is clear evidence as to why,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.

Benton could face civil fines if the FEC opens a case, according to the Campaign Legal Center. In one of its most famous foreign donor investigations, the FEC imposed $719,000 in fines against Democrats involved in that party’s 1996 fundraising from contributors in China and other countries in exchange for meetings with then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

“The solicitation of the contribution in and of itself is illegal, even if money never changes hands,” said Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “So it’s illegal to ask a foreign donor or to help a foreign donor make contributions. If you look at the videotape, I think it clearly falls in the definition of solicitation.”

The Campaign Legal Center also named Beach and Great America PAC, based in Alexandria, Va., in its FEC complaint.

In a statement, an attorney for Great America PAC, Dan Backer, said Benton has not had a role with the PAC since he resigned in May as a “volunteer adviser.” Benton “has had no role with the PAC since, and was at no time acting at our request or on our behalf,” Backer said.

“We’re honored to join the dozens of other organizations that have been harassed for the benefit of the Campaign Legal Center’s fundraising and P.R. scams at the behest of the Clinton campaign and other liberal campaign finance scolds,” Backer said. “The complaint itself is merit-less and entirely based on snippets of video in an intentionally distorted hit piece from (ironically) a foreign source determined to interfere in our elections.”