Mayor Gray announces goal of making Lexington a Gigabit City

Regular B&P readers will well remember Roy Cornett’s piece from February about the opportunity to transition Lexington to a faster, more efficient internet infrastructure.

Today, Mayor Jim Gray’s office has just sent out the below press release, announcing a “Request for Information” to begin the process of finding the right partner to build an information highway/bridge to the 21st century. Read on (and go back and read Cornett’s piece as well for a bigger picture):

****FULL TEXT****

Gray Driving Lexington to be a Gigabit City

Mayor Jim Gray today announced his plan to make Lexington a Gigabit City, with dramatically improved Internet speeds based on fiber-optic technology for businesses and residents.

As part of this effort, the Mayor committed to issuing within the next six months a Request for Information (RFI) to gather interest in a potential public-private partnership or commercial-only solution.

“Lexington must join the ranks of Chattanooga, Kansas City and Austin to ensure that our people and businesses have access to fast Internet connections – the vital infrastructure of the 21stCentury,” Gray said. “Lexington is well positioned to take advantage of this bandwidth because it is a University City, with extraordinarily high levels of educated talent and entrepreneurship.”

Nearly a year ago, the Mayor put together a fiber team to assess the current state of Internet access in Lexington and explore the various models for becoming a Gigabit City. The group includes citizens plus representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the Urban County Council, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, and the departments of Planning and Public Works.

Gigabit refers to speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second. Under the current national average speed of 10.5 megabits per second, it takes approximately 24 minutes to download an HD movie. With gigabit connectivity, that movie would download in 33 seconds.

“We’re going to be looking for partners who can create competition and who are willing to serve neighborhoods throughout Lexington,” Gray said. “Increasing our Internet speeds is crucial, but so is tackling the digital divide.”

Demands for faster Internet speeds are rising, as businesses shift more services to the cloud, seek off-site backups and move vast amounts of data between locations. Similarly, residential usage is higher, as individuals connect more devices to the Internet and use high-bandwidth streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Schools, medical facilities and other institutions are increasingly in need of faster speeds.

Aldona Valicenti, Lexington,’s Chief Information Officer, said, “Broadband availability will help and serve all of our citizens, businesses, students, entrepreneurs and graduates from our colleges and universities. We have been assessing the situation, it’s time to act.” Today Valicenti gave an update on the fiber team’s work to the City Council’s Planning and Public Works Committee.

Kentucky’s Internet speeds lag the rest of the nation. According to Akamai’s (one of the nation’s largest providers of cloud services) State of the Internet Report earlier this year:

  • Kentucky’s average Internet connection speed of 7.3 megabits per second puts it in second-to-last place in the nation, just above Alaska. The national average is 10.5 megabits per second.
  • Average peak connection speeds in Kentucky are not improving. Among the states, Kentucky ranked last, with its speed improving only 0.8% over the previous year, compared with national improvement of 31%.
  • In terms of “4k readiness” – the ability to stream UltraHD video, which needs a minimum connection speed of at least 15 megabits per second – Kentucky ranks last among the states, with only 6.1% of connections achieving that speed. Nationally, 17% of households are above the threshold of 15 megabits per second.

Lexington’s average Internet speed of 16.2 megabits per second ranks it 38th among Kentucky towns and cities, according to Ookla, the Internet metrics company.

“Think of where Lexington would be without I-64 and I-75,” said Mayor Gray. “That’s what we face if Lexington is not in the fast lane of the information super highway.”

On John Kemper, Phil Moffett’s Temper, Mitch McConnell’s motivations, and Karl Rove’s Banker

Last week, B&P took a deeper look at, among other things, the campaign money that funded Phil Moffett’s victory in the 32nd House district GOP primary. At issue (in part) was whether Moffett, a prominent Tea Party leader, chose to remain neutral in the divisive Republican Senate Primary between Mitch McConnell and Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin because of the money that was funding his campaign.

Moffett was running against the most recent previous head of the Jefferson County GOP, the largest county Republican party in the state, and even though he was out raised and outspent by $8,000, Moffett won. Setting aside the $7,000 he gave himself, a third of Moffett’s campaign haul came from a trio of people who are extraordinarily close to the Mitch McConnell — Terry Forcht & associates, David Jones Sr., Cathy Bailey.

Forcht is the banker for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, Jones is a longtime McConnell backer and funder, and Bailey was head of McConnell’s 2008 campaign and maintains very close ties to McConnell’s current campaign (meaning: her husband, Irv is heading up McConnell’s campaign committee). Together, those three gave a third of Moffett’s money.

There is, of course, more where that came from – including $2,000 from Sharon and William Flowers (Sharon’s already maxed out to McConnell in the Senate race); another $2,000 from Jim and Dorothy Patterson who’ve both heavily funded Mitch McConnell over the years, along with maxing out to Moffett’s Republican gubernatorial opponent in 2011.

There seems to be a very clear tie between top McConnell contributors and Phil Moffett’s Tea Party candidacy against an establishment GOP official in a contested State House primary during a divisive US Senate primary in which, it is obvious, the McConnell campaign was going out of its way to woo, coerce or coddle Tea Party forces within the state and nationally either into their camp or onto the sidelines. In Moffett’s case, he stayed very, very quiet on the sidelines, even as most of the rest of Kentucky’s Tea Partiers sided vocally with Matt Bevin.

On election night, Moffett’s victory over an establishment Republican was one of the only bright spots for the Tea Party in the primary.

There are many explanations, of course, but so far, Moffett never replied to B&P’s request for comment (sent before we published the previous article)… but he did talk to WFPL’s Phillip Bailey — or, more specifically, yelled at him and then hung up the phone. Here’s WFPL’s report from last week:

Kentucky state House candidate Phil Moffett said leading up to the May primary he was approached by both the McConnell and businessman Matt Bevin’s campaign for an endorsement.

Moffett remained neutral in the contest, but would not disclose who from either side approached him at that time. He also bristled at questions if money played a role in staying out of the Bevin-McConnell contest.

“Good lord,” he said. “Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous. You’re above this. You think for some reason I’ve been offered a bribe? That’s silly.”

The liberal-leaning news site, Barefoot and Progressive, focused one of its reports on Moffett for receiving hefty donations from Terry Forcht, the head of the Lexington-based Forcht Group, during his Republican primary race this year.

Forcht is among the top funders of McConnell’s campaigns and the contribution was seen as a big catch for Moffett, who defeated a more establishment candidate in May. He hung up with a reporter before being asked if the Forcht donation encouraged him to remain neutral in the Senate primary.

“Why would anybody care about my race, it’s a House race,” said Moffett. “This is silly, of course not. Who’s putting you on this kind of bull—? This is just crazy and it’s a waste of your time and mine.”

There’s a lot to ponder in that from Moffett, but perhaps the first question is his: “Why would anybody care about my race?”

And yet… some of Mitch McConnell’s heaviest funders, including three who are tied very closely to his campaign, gave big to Phil Moffett. Why did they care about his race?

To put Moffett’s response in a larger perspective, consider what InsiderLouisville’s Joey “Beans” Sonka learned when he spoke with John Kemper:

John Kemper — another Tea Party activist who was the Republican nominee for state auditor in 2011 — also told Insider that offers of future support were made to several in return for supporting McConnell or butting out of the race entirely, but he heard of nothing as “blatant” as the Sorenson payoff.

“There were people on the GOP side who played ball with McConnell not because they wanted to, but so they could do what they wanted to do in the future,” says Kemper.

Asked if he ever was offered anything by people close to McConnell, Kemper answered, “I’ll take the fifth on that.” He later added that because of the titles of those who talked to him, he believed they would have had the power to follow through on promises. Kemper says he chose not to play ball like unnamed others did because he was unwilling to compromise his beliefs for personal gain.

“If you wanted to go down that route, it’s only a matter of time before they take that away from you eventually,” said Kemper. “The more I’m around politics the more I learn about how people use power for their own gain. It’s disheartening that what should be an arena of ideas is all about their own power.”

To be perfectly clear, this type of behavior is not new in politics. It actually is politics. Kemper is correct that if money were given to Tea Party candidates in the form of campaign contributions, either now or in future races, there would be nothing untoward in that and it does not rise to level of what is alleged to have happened between Kent Sorenson and Mitch McConnell’s now-former campaign staff in Iowa in 2012. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it. But if what Kemper describes is what Moffett took part in — and the description is not dissimilar — it does illuminate some of what the McConnell campaign was up to… and it may ultimately play into the 32nd District State House race.

There, Moffett is running against a strong Democrat, Ashley Miller, and the race is expected to be close. With control of the Kentucky state house in the balance, it would be amusing if the presence of Karl Rove’s banker helped to swing the election in Miller’s favor, and more amusing if what appears to be the McConnell campaign’s special interest in this race ended up costing the state Republicans control of the House — but in the end, Republicans in the State of Kentucky already know one overriding truth: the only thing that matters to Mitch McConnell is Mitch McConnell, and if he can win while they lose… he won’t be shedding any tears for them.

Kentucky Moms: Elisabeth Jensen’s playful 2nd ad hits Andy Barr on health care, minimum wage, equal pay, more

Just days after the first one, the Jensen for Congress campaign is out with their 2nd ad, a playful, even sweet, hit that pulls no punches as a group of moms come together (after getting their kids out the door, taking care of their households and generally doing all the things moms have to do) to tell 6th District Congressman Andy Barr it’s time to go:

The message is simple: Kentucky Moms get more done before noon than Congress gets done in a week. It’s a simple ad, powerful, positive and active. Unlike the Barr ads (or most political ads) it takes a moment to sink in that it is a political ad and by the time it ends you don’t feel that same icky dread most other ads leave you with — even saccharine tinged ones with gauzy family shots set in plantation-like gardens.

In the case of Andy Barr, Jensen’s ad could just as easily have said “Kentucky moms get more done before noon than Congress gets done in two years” but we’ll get to that…

$70,000 here, $70,000 there: Why’d McConnell hire Kesari to do same thing he did for Paul?

The Jesse Benton/Rand Paul/Ron Paul/Mitch McConnell/Iowa Bribery scandal continues to fascinate as it unfolds and grows. The McConnell campaigns most recent explanation for why they paid $71,000 to a political operative who appears to have funneled $73,000 as a bribe to an Iowa State Senator is that in their case, McConnell hired Dimitri Kesari to do “field work” and “voter history research” — which is strange since the Paul campaign hired Dimitri Kesari to do something very similar (“voter file lists”) for what turns out to be a very different purpose.

The Grimes campaign is asking the $70,000 Question: What did the McConnell campaign get from the guy at the center of the Iowa bribery scandal?

Here’s the email from the Grimes camp:


LOUISVILLE – New information raises new questions of why Mitch McConnell paid Jesse Benton’s former deputy Dimitri Kesari – a central figure in the federal criminal investigation – over $70,000 to the same P.O. Box that funneled bribe money in Benton’s past campaign.

Additionally, the McConnell campaign’s explanation of the work Kesari did matches the project description used to cover up potentially illegal activity in Iowa:

McConnell senior advisor Josh Holmes claims Kesari’s firm was “contracted to consult and work on a specific field project involving … voter history research.”

And the Paul campaign stated bribery payment to the shared P.O. Box was for “voter file lists”:

McConnell campaign said payments to Kesari’s P.O. Box were for “voter history research.”

Kentuckians deserve an explanation as to why Mitch McConnell is funneling money for what appears to be the same type of “project” through the same post office box used in the federal bribery scandal.

Despite the questions swirling about his own campaign manager’s potential involvement in the growing federal bribery scandal, Sen. McConnell refuses to give Kentuckians straight answers.

Barr vs. Jensen Heats Up: Elisabeth Jensen’s first ad gets absurd Andy Barr response

The 6th District Congressional race is heating up. With under two months to go, both campaigns debuted their first ads last week and the Elisabeth Jensen spot, in particular, drew blood. Here it is:

That ad ruffled feathers over at Garland H. Barr IV Headquarter which released a response claiming that it was “misleading” and “distorting” of Andy’s record. Unsurprisingly, it is Andy Barr’s response itself which is both misleading and distorting — and the Jensen campaign wasted no time hitting back at Andy Barr’s campaign of deception.

The Jensen statement is below and is worth reading in full for a couple of reasons. First, it is refreshing to see a campaign that’s not only not afraid to fight back against Andy Barr’s misleading tactics, but is also willing to take the time to clearly, succinctly and powerfully refute in specifics Andy Barr’s misleading claims.

Second, if you’re one of those “smart” Democrats who thought this race was over, you should now recognize that between that ad and this tooth-and-nail response, you may have misunderestimated the Jensen campaign and it may be time you got on board, ’cause it doesn’t look like this lady’s gonna shy away from Andy Barr or his Nixonian stubble.


This week Elisabeth Jensen released an advertisement called “Kentucky Jobs” that really got Andy Barr’s attention. He released a response ad saying Elisabeth Jensen is “distorting the facts.”

Does Elisabeth Jensen take Andy Barr’s quote “Washington doesn’t create jobs, Government doesn’t create jobs” out of context? Of course not. Andy Barr said what he firmly believes — but he’s wrong.

Here are the facts: In the 2012 debate Andy Barr was asked by the moderator Bill Goodman: “Can the federal government, should the federal government be available to assist states and local government in creating jobs?” (The exchange starts at the 7 minute mark.)

Barr answers with the talking points many Republicans were using at the time.

Barr: “Well, Washington doesn’t create jobs, government doesn’t create jobs.”

Goodman repeats his question: “Can they assist states and local governments?” [Andy Barr distorts the record by editing this part out.]

Barr responds that: “The government can create an environment in which the private sector creates jobs” and then goes on with the Republican talking points about cutting taxes on the rich and cutting taxes and regulations on corporations.

Andy Barr is a lawyer who never answers a “yes” or “no” question, but it is hard to argue his answer to the question, “Can the federal government, should the federal government be available to assist states and local government in creating jobs?” was “Yes.” When his answer started out, “Washington doesn’t create jobs, government doesn’t create jobs.”

Barr didn’t just say this twice; he is continuing to say it again in his response ad.

Barr’s fundamental view is: Government doesn’t create jobs — the private sector does. And that is exactly why government has not done anything to create jobs while he has been in Washington.

Elisabeth Jensen believes there is a lot we could be doing to create jobs if we could get the “It’s not my job to create jobs” crowd out of Congress.

There are unsafe bridges that need to be repaired, aging schools that must be modernized. Kentucky is behind other states in access to high speed data networks, and this impedes our ability to get high-tech, manufacturing, and service sector jobs that pay higher wages.

Investing in bridges, schools and data networks creates good jobs today and paves the way (literally) for better, higher paying jobs tomorrow. And this is not just about government creating jobs – it is also about government and business working together to create better jobs. Businesses need to invest in things like worker skills training and improving data speeds. But government isn’t leading, or even able to be a partner with business when things grind to a halt in Congress.

Dysfunction in Washington is costing Kentucky jobs. When Washington isn’t working, Kentucky isn’t working. To get Kentucky working we need to get Washington working together.

Andy’s defense of his jobs record on his Facebook page brags about 40 bills “which have passed the House and are sitting on Harry Reid’s desk gathering dust in the Senate.” What a pathetic example of exactly what is wrong with Washington today!

Andy Barr doesn’t know what to do, but he always knows who’s to blame. Not one of those 40 bills ever had a chance to become law because they all reflect the trickle-down economics theory that “government doesn’t create jobs” the private sector does so we need to cut taxes on the wealthy “job creators.”

This theory is wrong. This confrontational blame-game politics isn’t getting anything done. And Kentucky families are still waiting for better jobs and higher wages — and tax reform that closes loopholes so the wealthy are really paying their fair share.

On Benton/Kesari, McConnell Campaign Plays Dumb… but Why?

To paraphrase a man wiser than you or I, “The first chapter of the You Know You’re Losing When… book is about a political campaign rocked by scandal and trying desperately to play dumb.

That’s where the McConnell campaign is today, six days after a bribery scandal that for months has been simmering just below the surface finally bubbled over. Last week, former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson admitted his role in taking the bribe and last Friday, Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, quit over what appears to be his role in delivering the bribe.

In the two years Jesse Benton served as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, McConnell paid Benton over $450,000. To put that in some perspective:

  • The median household income in Kentucky is $48,000.
  • 18.6% of Mitch McConnell’s constituents live below the poverty line (which is about $24,000 for a family of 4)
  • A person working a minimum wage job, earning $7.25/hr, would need to work 63,000 hours to make as much money as Jesse Benton made in two years.
    • That’s 7,896 eight hour work days.
    • If a person worked those 7,896 days consecutively without ever taking a day off for weekends, holidays or sickness, it would only take them 21 years to make as much money as Jesse Benton did in just under two years working for Mitch McConnell.

To put Jesse Benton’s salary in even clearer perspective — the salary Mitch McConnell paid Benton, $458,000, is more than Mitt Romney and Barack Obama paid their campaign managers in 2012 combined

Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Campaign Manager = $183,000

Jim Messina, Barack Obama’s 2012 Campaign Manager = $172,000

Jesse Benton, Mitch McConnell’s part time 2014 Campaign Manager: $458,000

What exactly was Mitch McConnell paying all that money for? What does one get from a campaign manager for an extra $300,000? And perhaps now, more to the point, where did all that extra money go?

In the days since his abrupt Friday-night-before-Labor-Day-weekend resignation, the McConnell campaign has largely sought to dodge those questions and many, many others. A McConnell spokeswoman hung up the phone on a TV reporter, another campaign official insisted the Senator didn’t have any time to talk before an appearance at a watermelon festival, and when McConnell did get near the press he ran away from them when they tried to ask about the Jesse Benton scandal.

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell finally addressed the topic only to say that it wasn’t actually a topic in need of discussion because it happened four days ago on a Friday night right before a long holiday weekend.

But behind McConnell’s evasions have been a creeping, and creepy, set of talking points put out at times anonymously and always evasively.

Let’s take a look at the McConnell campaign’s explanations for what has happened (and is happening) and then look at what the actual, factual record shows.

Saturday, August 30th, 11:57AM

As the McConnell campaign worked studiously to block the local Kentucky press, they leaked their first story to the most insidery of insider outlets, Mike Allen’s Playbook at Politico. The message for Allen — and the high powered DC mediaratti — was that Benton hadn’t really been running the campaign for at least six months, and that the campaign’s actually been run by McConnell’s long time political director Josh Holmes since April.

An official close to the McConnell campaign tells Playbook: “The truth is that Josh Holmes has been doing the top job on McConnell’s campaign since April.

Saturday, August 30th, 8:07PM

Once that story was seeded to the national press with an air of authority, the McConnell campaign moved on to local media — in the first major local airing that pulled the rest of the pieces together, the story of the secret Benton/Holmes switcheroo was told largely the same: McConnell had replaced Benton with Josh Holmes six months ago because of a series of “mistakes”:

Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff who is much closer to the senator than Benton, has really had as much, if not more say for the past six months over how the campaign is run than Benton, who had made some mistakes.

One error was being recorded telling Dennis Fusaro, a former aide to Ron Paul, that he was holding his nose while working for McConnell. Fusaro also leaked the recordings and emails involving Sorenson.

Another error was when the campaign garnered negative media attention after Benton, a mixture of Philadelphia brash and Texas swagger, had police block then-LEO Weekly news editor Joe Sonka from entering a press conference in Louisville.

The anonymous McConnell sources were in agreement — Benton had been out for about six months, since at least April. Officially, McConnell was mum, dodging reporters at a Watermelon festival. Meanwhile, a McConnell campaign spokeswoman hung up the phone on a reporter when asked to speak on the record about the Benton scandal.


Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014, 12:13PM

For some reason, after Saturday, August 30th, the anonymous meme that Benton had been secretly ousted six months ago and had just stuck around for show was pushed to the background in favor of a new timeline. Six months from August 30th is roughly March/April — but by Tuesday morning the McConnell campaign’s timeline had been halved… Benton had served as campaign manager through the end of May and then he was done.

That’s what the Washington Examiner reported — and you can trust them because they’re a conservative news outlet based in DC that frequently debunks stories critical of Mitch McConnell with conveniently placed anonymous sources. Why look, here’s their trustworthy and not entirely certain-of-itself headline:


On the Tuesday morning after the long Labor Day weekend as Washington journalists and DC insiders were returning to work and shaking sand out of their shoes and barbecue sauce off their brains, they got this as the most official explanation:

After guiding the Kentucky Republican through a contentious primary, Jesse Benton was essentially replaced by McConnell’s former chief of staff on Capitol Hill, Josh Holmes.

Last week, Benton resigned amid questions over his involvement in a payoff scandal associated with Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

But two Republican operatives close to the campaign said his work was already done at that point. McConnell had hired Benton to fend off well-funded Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in the May 20 primary, which McConnell won easily.

After that, the political and day-to-day leadership of the operation shifted to Holmes, who was viewed inside McConnell world as better positioned to captain the re-election campaign in a general election against competitive Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state.

On Saturday, anonymous sources within the McConnell campaign claimed Benton had been out of the picture for six months. By Tuesday, he’d just been out since June.

Here’s an instagram of Benton, standing right next to McConnell, his right hand man, on the stage at McConnell’s awkwardly delivered TelePrompTer victory speech:


Usually when you secretly fire your campaign manager and replace him with some other dude, you don’t let Fired Guy stand next to you on what could be the only victory speech of your whole campaign.

But then, nothing about Mitch McConnell’s relationship with Jesse Benton appears usual.

Later in the afternoon, faced with mounting pressure to make at least some statement about the departure of his $458,000 campaign manager under a cloud of secrecy and bribe-making scandal, Mitch McConnell finally addressed the topic… by claiming no one was interested anymore:

“Yeah, we’re moving on. We’ve got 60-some odd days left in the campaign. We’re talking about the future and not the past,” McConnell said.

Asked if there had been concern that having Benton stay on would cause a problem for the campaign, McConnell made clear he had nothing more to say about the issue.

“I think everything relating to that issue has already been discussed. It was all out there several days ago,” McConnell said. “We’re moving on …”

When it was noted the public hadn’t heard directly from him about Benton, McConnell said, “You’re hearing from me now.”

The Joe Sonka analysis on that is perfection:

Essentially, McConnell is saying that if you announce your campaign manager is resigning amidst controversy late Friday on Labor Day weekend and you don’t comment on it, your no comment is sufficient comment by Tuesday because it is old news by then.


Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014, 6:30PM

On Wednesday, McConnell again dodged questions about the Benton scandal, but this time referred questions to his super double top secret campaign manager, Josh Holmes.

“We know the same amount about all of this as you do,” said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff.

“When it first became revealed, I had a conversation with Jesse,” Holmes recalled when the Iowa story broke in August, 2013. Holmes said Benton told him that people who were linking Benton to the paid endorsement scheme were making “absolutely, totally unfounded accusations.”

In this instance, Holmes contradicts McConnell and offers the groundwork for a new timeline. On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell said “everything relating to this issue has already been discussed” as though the book was closed, but on Wednesday, Josh Holmes make it sound like they’re just as in-the-dark on the full picture as everyone else: “We know the same amount about all of this as you do.”

Holmes clearly suggests that there is more to be uncovered. Further, Holmes claims that he spoke with Benton about the bribery scandal in August 2013 after the “holdin’ my nose” secret recording was released and that Benton said, “I got this, Bro!” and as far as the Campaign was concerned that had been the end of it… until now.


Thursday, September 4th, 6:00PM

After the Center for Responsive Politics reports that one of the two grand juries investigating the bribery scandal sent subpoenas to 17 people at the end of July for email and financial information, and that Jesse Benton received one of those subpoenas, the McConnell campaign again changed their story, revealing some more info and raising still more questions.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top adviser said Thursday that the campaign has no knowledge of subpoenas reportedly issued in an Iowa bribery investigation that seek information about McConnell’s former campaign manager.

McConnell adviser Josh Holmes also said the campaign has no information that indicates its former manager, Jesse Benton, did anything wrong as political director for then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Holmes said he had a “very candid” conversation with Benton in August 2013, and “Jesse denied any involvement in what was being alleged of the Ron Paul 2012 campaign.”

The McConnell campaign’s latest and, for now, current story is that Holmes and Benton had a “very candid” conversation in August of 2013 and that they have literally no knowledge of the subpoenas.

First of all, depending on how “candid” that conversation was, investigators may want to now speak with Josh Holmes to triangulate whatever Benton’s own story is and second of all… Holmes isn’t just pleading Mitch McConnell’s ignorance, he’s pleading Mitch McConnell’s incompetence.

Holmes had his “very candid” conversation with Benton in August 2013, a claim similar in timeline to the one made on Wednesday. The McConnell campaign wishes the public and the press to believe that an allegation of bribery made on tape in August of 2013 (“Jesse knew!”) was debunked by Benton that month and that the campaign asked no more question, sought no more information and was taken totally off guard when the guilty plea came down last week and was even more dumbfounded when it turned out that the Campaign Manager Who Wasn’t had received a subpoena from one of two grand juries investigating the bribery scandal over a month ago but apparently he failed to tell anyone.

That explanation is laughable. Here’s why.

In the first week of August 2013, recordings surface alleging a bribe-for-endorsement scheme in the 2012 Ron Paul campaign involving Paul’s Deputy Campaign Manager Dimitri Kesari and with the apparent knowledge of Jesse Benton, Kesari’s boss.

At this time, Benton tells Holmes it’s all a bunch of bullshit, they crack a cold one and never speak of it again. #BroCode.

Except that…

Around Thanksgiving of 2013, the Center for Responsive Politics most excellent Russ Choma reports that the McConnell campaign and his leadership PAC, the Bluegrass Committee, paid Dimitri Kesari over $72,000 for research and consulting.

Now… the entire population of Kentucky may be simple cavemen, but it certainly seems as though this piece of news would have raised red flags over at Team Mitch. They hired a guy who used to work for their campaign manager and paid him over $72,000 and that same guy, and Benton!, appear to be at the center of a political bribery scandal.

Unless they are totally incompetent, Mitch McConnell and Josh Holmes would have at this time had another conversation with Benton — but from what Holmes has so far admitted, that didn’t happen. If it’s not incompetence, it’s ignorance… or something worse.

Today Holmes gavelittle bit more detail about what, exactly, the McConnell campaign paid Kesari to do, but his explanation still rings empty:

Kesari’s company, Hyllus Corp, was paid more than $72,000 by the McConnell campaign in 2013.

Holmes said Hyllus was “contracted to consult and work on a specific field project involving initial field organization, regional mapping, voter history research, walk maps and voter canvass technology testing.”

“The project was accomplished in the spring of 2013, well before the campaign was made aware of any alleged previous impropriety,” Holmes said. “The campaign has had no further dealings with Hyllus since the completion of the project.”

The McConnell campaign claims they had no further dealings with Hyllus since the completion of the project which was accomplished in the spring of 2013, “well before the campaign was made aware of any alleged previous impropriety.” But the FEC records show that the last payment from the McConnell campaign to Hyllus Corp. took place in mid July, just two and a half weeks before the secret recordings came to light and the bribery story broke.

Given that Holmes was aware in early August 2013 that Benton and Kesari were mixed up in this mess, and given that by November 2013 it was public knowledge that the McConnell campaign had paid Kesari’s company $72,000 over just a few months time… why did Mitch McConnell and Holmes not then follow up on that “very candid” conversation in August?

Because while McConnell and Holmes supposedly ignored this growing scandal that appears to reach well into their own campaign, plenty of other people were taking notice. This was not under the radar and certainly, unless the McConnell campaign is incompetent to a degree that makes their candidate unfit for office, Team Mitch was aware of what was unfolding.




That’s a lot of news to simply ignore, but the McConnell campaign would have you believe they did just that.

Hardest to ignore of all that is the report on February 23rd from EPJ that reveals there is a grand jury investigating the activities surrounding Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, and the subsequent report on March 31st that there’s a second FEC investigation. Both reports mention Kesari and Benton.

But Holmes, speaking for McConnell, claims that the campaign had no knowledge of subpoenas being handed down and, further, that he discussed all this with Benton a year ago and that had satisfied him and McConnell. Even though there was clearly a mounting scandal and not one but two ongoing investigations.

Holmes and McConnell never asked any questions, they know nothing else, all of this is just news to them.

Which gets us back to the McConnell campaign’s shifting timeline. They first claimed that Jesse Benton had ceased to be the campaign manager six months ago, then said Benton was the campaign manager through the end of the Primary and then he was made redundant.

The first timeline would at least make some sense — it would line up with the news that there were two investigations into the Benton/Kesari/Paul/Sorenson bribe situation. But the McConnell camp never stated that timeline on the record, all they’ve now claimed is that Benton was in charge until sometime after May 20th.

And even that is ridiculous. Jesse Benton was the out front face of the McConnell campaign all summer, identified the entire time as the Campaign Manager… and collecting paychecks for that job all the while. Throughout June, Benton was firing aggressive one liners to the press about the two campaigns’ neverending debate-about-debates.

And into late July, when he was receiving subpoenas for emails and financial transactions from one of two grand juries investigating the bribe scandal in Iowa, Benton was the public face of the McConnell campaign as they complained about the opposing campaign’s use of a bus that they by all accounts paid for.

In August, Benton was seen on hand at Fancy Farm.

If he wasn’t the campaign manager, why was he still around? Why was McConnell still paying him? What was he being paid to do? In fact, what was he paid for over the entirety of his employment… where did that $458,000 go? That seems like a lot of money to pay a guy who, for a full year of his employment, appears to have been something of a headache — or, does Mitch McConnell truly expect people to believe that his campaign looked into in August 2013 and never looked back?

The McConnell campaign’s shifting timeline for when Benton was no longer running the show is one thing, the explanation that they knew nothing of what was unfolding around them even though it was publicly available and reported information is another.

McConnell and Holmes may have a good explanation for what actually happened, but so far, they’re just telling tales out of school. And that raises another question: Why can’t they be honest now? What, exactly, are they trying to hide?

If it’s nothing, wouldn’t they offer an explanation that made sense?