WASHINGTON — Ron Paul cast suspicion over the timing of indictments of three of his 2012 campaign staffers on Wednesday, speculating that the government's announcement of charges might be timed to interfere with the first Republican primary debate.
"I am extremely disappointed in the government's decision," Paul said in a statement, through a spokesperson. "I think the timing of this indictment is highly suspicious given the fact that the first primary debate is tomorrow."
"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved," Paul said. "I will not be commenting further on this matter at this time."
Three former Ron Paul campaign staffers — Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimitri Kesari — were indicted for conspiracy, and falsifying records and campaign finance reports on Wednesday. The three are accused of having concealed payments to Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson, to whom they allegedly offered money in exchange for switching his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul before the 2012 Iowa caucus.
Benton is the head of America's Liberty PAC, the main super PAC supporting the presidential bid of Ron Paul's son, Rand Paul. Tate is the head of Campaign for Liberty, one of the main groups in the network of libertarian organizations that supports the Paul family's political endeavors, and is the founder of America's Liberty PAC.
Benton's lawyer Roscoe Howard also alleged in a statement on Wednesday that the timing of the announcement is politically motivated.
"We are deeply disappointed to learn of today’s indictment by the Department of Justice," Howard said in the statement. "Jesse Benton, a prominent conservative Republican, has cooperated with the government during its multi-year investigation. That this indictment is now suddenly announced on the eve of the first Republican Presidential debate strongly supports our belief that this is a politically motivated prosecution designed to serve a political agenda, not to achieve justice. Mr. Benton is eager to get before an impartial judge and jury who will quickly recognize this for what he believes it is: Character assassination for political gain."
Kesari and Tate did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The first Republican presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday in Cleveland. Rand Paul will be taking part in the main debate at 9 p.m. that is reserved for the top 10 highest polling candidates, though his campaign has struggled in the polls and lagged in fundraising lately.
A spokesman for Rand Paul's presidential campaign also suggested the timing of the indictments are politically motivated on Wednesday afternoon.
"Senator Rand Paul is disappointed that the Obama justice department [sic] chose to release this just prior to the highly anticipated first Republican presidential debate; it certainly appears suspiciously timed and possibly, politically motivated," the spokesman wrote. "Additionally, these actions are from 2012 and have nothing to do with our campaign."