Politics

  The e-mails and financial statements of Republican Mitch McConnell’s former campaign manager were subpoenaed a month before he quit as the senator’s top aide.

That’s according a grand jury document posted Thursday by The Center for Responsive Politics in a report about an ongoing federal investigation stemming from an alleged bribery of an Iowa legislator in 2012.

The news comes as Democrats continue to pummel McConnell for avoiding questions about his knowledge of and Jesse Benton’s connection to the scandal, which remains a hot topic in Kentucky’s tight U.S. Senate contest.

In late July, subpoenas were issued for over a dozen individuals connected to the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign, including Benton, who served as Paul’s campaign chairman.

Benton resigned abruptly at the end of August just two days after former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to receiving payments from the Paul campaign for his endorsement.

Sorenson, who has said Benton was aware of the bribes, has reportedly taken a plea deal and is cooperating with federal investigators. Benton did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but in a released statement last Friday he maintained his innocence.

“The press accounts and rumors are particularly hurtful because they are false,” he said.

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has seized on the controversy, releasing a web ad and issuing nearly a dozen questions her campaign said McConnell needs to answer before “moving on,” as the senator said he plans to do.

The Kentucky Democratic Party also jumped in on the controversy Thursday, describing Benton as McConnell’s “handpicked choice and right-hand man” who departed amid scandal in the final stretch of an important race.

“Mitch McConnell can try to ignore the press and tell the people of Kentucky to just ‘move on’ from the fact that he paid Benton over $450,000 for his work, but voters deserve straight answers to simple questions,” Democrats said in a released statement. “After all, his own campaign employed someone with reported connections to an ongoing federal criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign has yet to respond to WFPL’s request for comment, but senior adviser Josh Holmes dismissed many of those attacks in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader on Thursday.

Holmes also said their team had no knowledge of the subpoenas, which were issued when Benton was still the McConnell campaign’s top aide.

Those subpoenas show the federal probe is focusing on the activities and businesses of Dimitri Kesari, a former Paul campaign official who was paid around $73,000 as a consultant for McConnell’s campaign.