Trump, Meadows-backed ex-WNC House candidate, to plead guilty to illegal political cash
A former Western North Carolina congressional candidate backed by then-President Donald Trump and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will plead guilty to accepting illegal campaign money.
Lynda Bennett, who lost the 2020 Republican 11th District primary runoff against eventual general election winner Madison Cawthorn, is awaiting a federal hearing at which she will admit taking from a relative $25,000 in donations, more than eight times the $2,800 allowed per person for a primary, according to a Jan. 30 court filing first reported by Politico.
Bennett, 65, a Maggie Valley real estate agent and broker and ex-GOP Haywood County chair, did not respond to a message seeking comment. She was a family friend of Meadows, who since leaving his White House job was named as a central actor in the hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection and as Trump staffer involved in the president's attempts to overturn the election.
Patty Hartman, District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson, declined to comment about Bennett's case beyond referring to the recent filings. Those were signed by U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and Justice Department Public Integrity Section Chief Corey Amundson.
The charging document, filed in D.C.'s U.S. District Court, did not name the family member. It said the money was given in the name of person different than the relative.
Bennett on Dec. 31, 2019 "in the Western District of North Carolina and elsewhere .. .did knowingly and willfully accept a contribution made by one person, Individual A, which aggregated $25,000 in the calendar year 2019, in the name of another person," the prosecutors said in the filing.
That violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 which limited donations for the 2019-2020 campaign cycle to $2,800 per election, or $5,600 for the primary and general election combined.
Meadows, after being elected four times to represent WNC in the House, announced a day before the filing deadline he would not run, instead accepting the position as chief of staff. He backed Bennett, as did Trump.
"She is strong on Crime, Borders, Military, our Great Vets & 2A," Trump tweeted, referring to the Second Amendment. "She will be a great help to me in DC."
"I'm proud of the race we are running," Bennett said in a statement thanking Trump for his endorsement and mentioning hot-button Republican issues like abortion, gun rights and building a U.S.-Mexico border wall. She added: "I'm defending America's history, heritage and culture from those who seek to tear it down – and standing up for law, order and justice for all."
But she faced a crowded field with 12 candidates. The primary drew nearly $1 million in Super PAC money, with more than half of it used to help Bennett, most coming from funds controlled by Meadows.
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After the primary Bennett and Cawthorn entered a runoff. Cawthorn, a young far-right candidate who used a wheelchair after a car accident, won that with 65.8% of the vote, then beat Democrat Moe Davis in the general election.
Following a tumultuous term marked by scandal and missteps Cawthorn lost his bid for reelection to fellow Henderson County Republican Chuck Edwards.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government, and other news. He's written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at email@example.com, 828-713-1095, or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Trump-backed ex-Haywood GOP chair to plead guilty to illegal donation