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I noted last week that rumor (all packaged nice and neat in a Politico article) had it Rand Paul’s languishing poll numbers and unimpressive fundraising totals reflected all sort of internal issues, from staff infighting to a candidate who didn’t much care for call time. My guess was that the dirt was the product of a disgruntled former employee or supporter. But today’s news involving the Paul campaign is all too real and tangible, per the U.S. Department of Justice:

Three members of a 2012 presidential campaign committee were charged with offenses relating to the concealment of payments made to a former Iowa State Senator….

Jesse R. Benton, 37, of Louisville, Kentucky; John M. Tate, 53, of Warrenton, Virginia; and Dimitrios N. Kesari, 49, of Leesburg, Virginia, are charged by indictment with conspiracy, 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. Benton is additionally charged with making false statements to the FBI, and Kesari is also charged with obstruction of justice.

This story has been a shoe waiting to drop ever since last August, when the “Iowa state senator” in question, Kent Sorenson, pleaded guilty to charges related to the alleged bribe to get him to switch his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in 2011. In fact, the heat was enough to cause Benton to drop out of the Mitch McConnell re-election campaign he was managing last year (part of the Paul/McConnell truce, it was widely assumed).

Presently Benton is running one of the Super-PACs backing Rand, but his role is most defined by the fact that he’s family, married to Rand’s niece, and the closest of confidantes. So yeah, morale at Team Paul is going to take another hit.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.