A Tennessee senator is indicted for campaign cash scheme charges

Federal investigators announced Monday that a Tennessee senator and a Nashville owner of a social club were indicted for violating campaign finance laws. They illegally concealed transferring $91,000 to the Republican lawmaker during his 2016 unsuccessful congressional campaign.

A Tennessee senator is indicted for campaign cash scheme charges

The five-count indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Nashville against state senator Brian Kelsey, and Joshua Smith. This was according to the acting U.S. Attorneys for the state's western and middle districts as well as an assistant attorney general of the federal Justice Department in a press release.

Kelsey retorted defiantly, calling these charges a "political witch-hunt."

He said, "I am completely innocent and I look forward being cleared at trial."

According to Monday's indictment, Smith and Kelsey "unlawfully and covertly" funneled funds from Smith's state Senate campaign Committee to his federal congressional campaign board.

Prosecutors claim that Kelsey, along with others, caused a national non-profit political organization to make illegal and large campaign contributions to Kelsey through coordination on ads and caused the organization's false reports to be filed to the Federal Election Commission. The national organization was not named by authorities.

Two alleged co-conspirators are mentioned in the indictment, but they are not charged. One of them is described as an attorney who was a former member of Tennessee's House of Representatives expelled in 2016. The only lawmaker to be expelled in 2016 was Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham from Franklin.

According to the indictment, Kelsey and Smith facilitated the transfer of tens of thousands to the political group in 2016.

The indictment stated that "it was a purpose to illegally and secretly funnel soft cash from state committee 1 (the political organisation) to support Kelsey’s federal campaign."

Indictment further alleges that the political group filed multiple reports claiming it made "independent expenses" for Kelsey when in reality, the expenditures were coordinated with Kelsey as well as his agents.

As he responded, Kelsey took aim on Democrats.

The administration of President Joe Biden "is trying to get me out because I am conservative and I'm No. Kelsey stated that the Tennessee Democratic Party is the No. 1 target during an online statement to reporters. They were not allowed to ask any questions. "I won my seat 51 to 49 last year and the Democrats believe this will make a difference." They are wrong.

Kelsey is a Republican from Germantown who was elected to the General Assembly as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee in 2009. In 2022, he is up for reelection.

Smith is also the owner of The Standard, a private restaurant and club located near the state Capitol. It is frequented often by legislators. Hal Hardin, Smith's attorney, stated Monday that he and his client look forward to presenting their proof to an impartial jury.

The indictment is similar to a complaint filed against Kelsey's Campaign Legal Center in 2017 with the Federal Election Commission. It was filed against Kelsey and the Department of Justice by Campaign Legal Center. This non-profit focuses on issues such as campaign finance laws and voting protections. The complaint claimed that independent expenditures by the American Conservative Union during the 2016 election were coordinated with Kelsey’s congressional campaign. A spokesperson for the conservative nonprofit organization claimed Monday that they have been "fully cooperating" with the investigation since 2018.

Regina Bratton wrote, "We take compliance seriously and are proud of the work that we continue to do for conservatism." "Neither ACU nor any board member is the subject of this investigation."

Brendan Fischer, Director of the Campaign Legal Center’s Federal Reform Program, praised federal authorities Monday for the charges.

"We are very happy that the DOJ took our complaint seriously. He said that it was a grave, serious violation. Kelsey devised a scheme to hide the illegal transfer prohibited state money to his federal race.

Republican Lt. Governor Randy McNally, the leader in the state Senate, stated that he will reserve judgment until then.

McNally released a statement saying that he was "clearly saddened" by the news. "It's important to remember that Senator Kelsey, under our laws is innocent until proven guilty. In the next days, he will be able to answer the indictment.

Kelsey Smith's first court appearance is set for Nov. 5. They could spend up to five years prison if convicted on each charge.

This is the second indictment in less than a year for a Tennessee lawmaker.

Last month, Democratic state senator Katrina Robinson was convicted in Memphis of four out of five wire fraud charges stemming from allegations that she misappropriated federal grant money for a Memphis-based health care school. On 15 of the 20 charges, a judge had acquitted Robinson. Robinson was originally indicted in July 2020. She is now seeking an acquittal and a new trial. Robinson has not resigned as Republican Lt. Governor. Randy McNally asked Robinson what she would do following her conviction.

Federal agents searched the homes and offices of several Republican state House legislators, including Glen Casada (ex-GOP House Speaker), Robin Smith (ex-State Rep.), and Todd Warner (rep.). Warner stated earlier this year to state regulators that all files and documents related his campaign were taken by federal agents. The federal authorities have not released any details on what they were searching for.