(CNN) - A little more than two months before Election Day, Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, stepped down Friday, resigning amid a long-brewing controversy involving Benton's ties to Ron Paul's presidential bid in 2012.
"With a heavy heart, I offered Sen. McConnell my resignation this afternoon and he reluctantly accepted," Benton said in a statement issued by McConnell's campaign. "Effective Saturday, August 30th, I will no longer be the 'Team Mitch' campaign manager."
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Benton was chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. This week a former Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting payment from Paul's campaign in exchange for supporting the former Texas congressman ahead of the Iowa GOP presidential caucuses in January 2012.
It's unknown whether Benton was aware of those payments, but according to the Washington Post there have been media reports indicating Benton was involved in the courting of Sorenson.
Sorenson had previously been a supporter of rival Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign - from whom he also accepted money, he admitted - and his departure was considered a controversial move at the time.
Benton did not elaborate on the issue or mention Sorenson by name in his statement, only saying, "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."
"However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign," he added, referring to McConnell's campaign.
The Senate Republican leader is in a tight race against Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky.
Ron Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, is currently laying the groundwork for a presidential bid of his own. Benton served as Rand Paul's campaign manager in his 2010 Senate campaign in Kentucky.
Last year Benton made headlines after a secretly recorded phone call was made public, in which Benton had expressed half-hearted support for McConnell, his boss, and eagerness to move on to Rand Paul's team in 2016.
In his statement Friday, Benton said working for McConnell has been "one of the great honors" of his life and described him as a "friend."
A spokesman for Rand Paul had no comment on the recent news involving Sorenson and Benton.
Benton's full statement:
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."
All crooks!!!! Kentucky, wake up and vote him Out!!!!!
what did mitch know and when did he know it?
the GOP culture of corruption continues.
What would Jesus think?
mitch needs to quit now.
democrats/power$$, don't want anything to do with the gop..union $$ beginning to flow..
Looks like the rats are abandoning the sinking ship
An open and shut case of paying for votes. Who is surprised? It is standard operating procedure for every elected office in the land, expect perhaps dog catcher.
""However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign,"
LOL! Yeah...because that's what risks undermining McConnell's campaign! Not his recent admission on recording that he will fight for the 1% over the middle class; not that his opponent has been hammering him on his conservative "principles" and for shutting down the government; and not that he is so out-of-touch like every other conservative in the world...no, his campaign manager's past improprieties is what risks undermining his chances at re-election!
Follow the Money. The architects of "Citizens United" will be exposed for the toadies of the new robber barons. The old robber barons made their fortunes. Today's robber barons inherited theirs (Koch Brothers' Father made money doing business with STALIN!!!).
Corruption, corruption, corruption–entire Republican trash is full of CORRUPTION. NO MORALITY, NO ETHICS, NO STANDARD. THESE GOP IDIOTS EAT TRASH FOR THE SAKE OF MONEY...I AM SO ASHAMED OF IT.
If there was no illicit deal, wouldn't McConnell have told his campaign manager "You haven't done anything wrong – you stay right where you are, by my side"?
Looks like the wheels are starting to come off this candidate's re-election hopes...
The crooks are being exposed....
No doubt that Benton and Ron Paul both knew, albeit with plausible deniability. You don't make a move like bribing a key person without undocumented approval from the top.
Hahahaha, Imagine that! The next question is How much has Benton paid out in Bribes for McConnell's campaign
Arghh!! Please save me from the freaking bible thumpers.
At the beginning of the investigations Sorenson said he did not accept bribes from Ron Pauls campaign run by Benton. It turns out that Sorenson did accept bribes .
Now Benton is saying he has did not pay out bribes. Hahahahaha.
Oh, good. Let's quote a little bit of scripture which will warm the hearts of fundamentalists regardless of anything else.
Tragic. Next story please!
McConnell is toast and everyone knows it.............
Abbott in Texas just said he won't debate Davis too....... Walker in WI is toast too. People are starting to realize that giving all our money to the rich only does one thing.....make them richer and gets the GOP kickbacks and political money. This is a Government BY THE PEOPLE< FOR THE PEOPLE......not by the Rich, for the Rich.
These guys are the dirt-bags behind slimy American politics. Like their poster-child Karl Rove, they devote their lives to the sleazy politics of character assignations, distortions, and moronic conspiracies. People lap it up.
Davis has cut Abbott lead from 17 to 8% in just a month....and he's now DEFINITELY afraid to debate her....he'd lose even more ground if he did...........Davis has a real good chance of beating him, thanks to this and Perry.
Get the popcorn. This story is only going to get stranger from here. As it stands, Ron Paul's campaign paid a bribe for an endorsement. Did Congressman Paul know? Did he direct it to be done? Does it matter either way? Did Senator McConnell knowingly hire someone who may have been involved in paying a bribe? If he did, Why? If he didn't know, why didn't he know? And so on, and so on, and so on.
What a lying little tool.
What me worry?