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Did tech leaders know about impending campaign fraud indictments when they backed Rand Paul Super PAC?

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on August 7, 2015

From The Facepalm Desk

As Rand Paul’s Silicon Valley charm offensive continues, a few tech leaders have started to take the bait, contributing millions of dollars across several pro-Paul super PACs.

Some news this week might give them pause, though. The two heads of one of the major pro-Paul super PACs — boasting tens of thousands in recent contributions from Valley insiders — have just been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and falsifying campaign records.

The America's Liberty PAC (current slogan: “Stand With Rand”) was originally created during the 2012 election to support Rand Paul’s father, Ron Paul. John Tate, who is listed as the PAC’s Founder and President, and Jesse Benton, who is responsible for running the PAC, are both accused in this weeks indictment of:

"[C]onspiracy, causing false records to obstruct a contemplated investigation, causing the submission of false campaign expenditure reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and engaging in a scheme to make false statements to the FEC."

The indictment follows claims that Tate, Benton and one other man — Dimitrios Kesari — paid Iowa lawmaker Kent Sorenson to switch his support in 2012 to Ron Paul, away from Michele Bachmann. Sorenson admitted his involvement in the scheme back in 2014.

Today, despite the fact that the alleged fraud has been making headlines for years, numerous wealthy Silicon Valley players continue to write checks for Tate and Benton’s America’s Liberty PAC. In fact, since pivoting from Ron Paul to supporting Rand Paul’s presidential bid, the PAC has raised almost $3.1m, according to the latest FEC filings.

According to those filings, recent backers include Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne who contributed $60k in May, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant who contributed $25k in June and PayPal mafia member Scott Banister who has made multiple contributions, so far totaling $10k. Banister is a major supporter of Rand Paul’s other Super PAC, Concerned American Voters, having given a total of $1.2m. Other well known backers of America’s Liberty PAC include Whole Foods CEO John Mackey who has contributed $50k.

I reached out to Ravikant to ask if he was aware of the indictment. He responded by email:

Fantastic - my one and only political donation blows up in my face :-) Serves me right for getting involved in politics.

I support Rand's anti-war and anti-surveillance stance. I wanted to donate to his campaign and was directed to this vehicle. I obviously didn't know about this or wouldn't have done it.