Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), indicted on multiple charges of federal campaign finance laws, proclaimed Monday that he’s innocent and the target of a political witch hunt.
Kelsey held a brief Zoom conference with the press Monday.
“The Biden Administration is trying to take me out because I’m conservative, and I’m the number one target of the Tennessee Democratic Party. I won my seat only 51 percent to 49 percent last time, and the Democrats think this will make the difference. They’re wrong,” Kelsey said.
“These five-year-old, unfounded allegations have been reviewed and re-reviewed. They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now. I’m totally innocent, and I look forward to being cleared at trial.”
Another man who appeared on the Zoom conference, who did not appear to identify himself, said that Kelsey “very much looks forward to his day in court.” He also said he and Kelsey would take no questions and that they would make no further public comments “during the pendency of this matter.”
David Boling, speaking for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, said he could not comment beyond the allegations contained in the indictment. Boling would not say if anyone had complained about Kelsey to the Federal Election Commission before the U.S. Justice Department got involved.
Kelsey was indicted by a federal grand jury in Nashville Friday on a five-count indictment charging him and another man with violating multiple campaign finance laws.
Kelsey and Nashville social club owner Joshua Smith, 44, allegedly violated multiple campaign finance laws as part of a conspiracy to benefit Kelsey’s 2016 campaign for Congress.
“According to the indictment, beginning in February 2016 and continuing through mid-October 2016, Kelsey and Smith conspired with others to violate federal campaign finance laws to secretly and unlawfully funnel ‘soft money,’ funds not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act [FECA]) from Kelsey’s Tennessee State Senate campaign committee to his authorized federal campaign committee,” according to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department.
“Kelsey and others also caused a national political organization to make illegal, excessive contributions to Kelsey’s federal campaign committee by secretly coordinating with the organization on advertisements supporting Kelsey’s federal candidacy and to cause false reports of contributions and expenditures to be filed with the Federal Election Commission. In 2016, the FECA limited campaign contributions to $2,700 from any one individual or organization to any one candidate in each election.”
The press release and the attached indictment did not identify the national political organization. When asked Monday, Boling would name the organization.
“The indictment alleges that Kelsey, Smith, and other unindicted co-conspirators orchestrated the concealed movement of $91,000 to a national political organization for the purpose of funding advertisements that urged voters to support Kelsey in the August 2016 primary election, and that the conspirators caused the political organization to make $80,000 worth of contributions to Kelsey’s federal campaign committee in the form of coordinated expenditures,” according to the press release.
“The indictment alleges other meetings and communications between the conspirators, resulting in the illegal transfers, contributions, and expenditures associated with Kelsey’s federal campaign.”
Federal officials have charged Kelsey and Smith with conspiracy, illegally transferring soft money as a federal candidate and his agent, and illegally transferring soft money as a state officeholder and his agent. Federal officials have also charged Kelsey with making excessive contributions to a federal campaign and accepting excessive contributions.
If convicted, Kelsey and Smith face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
A court summons has directed Kelsey and Smith to surrender to U.S. Marshals in the Middle District of Tennessee on or before November 5. Both men are scheduled to make an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge, the press release said.
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