From Open Secrets:
The Ron Paul presidential campaign of 2012 is not over. In fact, the legal entity that controlled the campaign had $576,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 — a substantial sum for a White House bid that effectively ended two-and-a-half years ago.
Leftover campaign cash can be used for a variety of purposes, but since August, the Paul campaign has been deploying much of it to pay legal bills. In fact, since Aug. 1, the Ron Paul presidential campaign has paid $237,997 to lawyers. In the previous 19 months, the campaign spent just $190,000 on all expenses.
Why the sudden need for attorneys? Nobody from the Ron Paul organization — or the Ron Paul Institute — responded to requests for comment, but there were significant happenings in the Paul’s network at the beginning of August.
According to a copy of a subpoena obtained by OpenSecrets Blog in September, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Iowa moved to seize email records linked to dozens of people — including, it appears, a number of Ron Paul presidential campaign staffers and possibly Paul himself. The subpoena was to be carried out by Aug. 7. At the time, no one in the Paul camp would confirm their emails had been seized.
The subpoena came in connection with an investigation into a payola scandal in late 2011 having to do with attempts to pay off then-Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Ron Paul in the late 2011 Iowa presidential caucuses. On Aug. 27, 2014, Sorenson pleaded guilty to federal charges that in early 2012 he caused an unnamed presidential campaign to file misleading expenditure reports and that he then lied to investigators about it. Sorenson’s sentencing date has not yet been set, but his plea agreement suggests he will be asked to testify against someone before sentencing. He has failed three drug tests since pleading guilty.
In the wake of Sorenson’s guilty plea, Jesse R. Benton, Paul’s grandson-in-law, who had been a high-ranking campaign operative on the 2012 presidential campaign, resigned his post as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager.
In early September, OpenSecrets Blog published the subpoena for emails and detailed a number of large, suspicious financial transactions between Paul’s campaign and a video production company in Maryland with close ties to the presidential campaign’s deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari. According to Sorenson’s plea agreement and his statements to Iowa state investigators, Kesari was involved with negotiations to buy his endorsement and at one point gave him a $25,000 check (which he never cashed) written from the bank account of Kesari’s wife’s jewelry shop. OpenSecrets Blog found that the campaign paid a nearly identical amount to the jewelry store.
The payments from the Paul campaign to various lawyers increased on a trajectory paralleling the disclosure of events involving Sorenson.
In Dec. 2013, the campaign made it’s first large payment to a law firm — $22,955 to LeClair Ryan, a high-powered Washington law and lobbying firm that had previously represented the campaign. Then, in March, the campaign paid LeClair Ryan $46,182. The campaign had paid the firm roughly every three months throughout the cycle, but never more than $4,600 at one time. Since March, however, the campaign has made six more payments to the firm — five since Aug. 11, including an Aug. 21 payment of $70,992 and one on Sept. 30 of $26,742.
Other elite law firms also were billing the campaign. In early March, Andrews Kurth LLP, an international shop with offices from Beijing to Houston to Dubai, was paid just over $2,900. Then, following the same pattern as the sudden large payments to LeClair Ryan, the campaign paid Andrews Kurth $77,329 on Aug. 21 and another $54,693 on Sept. 30.
Sorenson’s case is on hold, with no word on a possible sentencing. Sorenson’s attorney declined to comment on the case.
Two other legal firms are also in the mix. Arent Fox, yet another major Washington legal and lobbying firm that had been retained by the campaign previously, has been paid $16,327 since Jan. 1, 2013. The fourth firm, however, is slightly more mysterious. On May 8, the campaign sent $19,048 to Virginia law firm Bronley & Binnall for “legal consulting,” according to FEC filings. However, one of the firm’s partners, Jesse R. Binnall, was identified by several media outlets as the attorney for Kesari.
Binnall did not return multiple requests for comment and no longer works for Bronley & Binnall.