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Mitch McConnell's campaign manager steps down

By By Ashley Killough CNN
Published On: Aug 29 2014 06:36:41 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 30 2014 02:04:46 AM CDT
Mitch McConnell walking in Capitol

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(CNN) -

A little more than two months before Election Day, Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, stepped down Friday, resigning amid a long-brewing controversy involving Benton's ties to Ron Paul's presidential bid in 2012.

"With a heavy heart, I offered Sen. McConnell my resignation this afternoon and he reluctantly accepted," Benton said in a statement issued by McConnell's campaign. "Effective Saturday, August 30th, I will no longer be the 'Team Mitch' campaign manager."

Benton was chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. This week a former Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting payment from Paul's campaign in exchange for supporting the former Texas congressman ahead of the Iowa GOP presidential caucuses in January 2012.

It's unknown whether Benton was aware of those payments, but according to the Washington Post there have been media reports indicating Benton was involved in the courting of Sorenson.

Sorenson had previously been a supporter of rival Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign - from whom he also accepted money, he admitted - and his departure was considered a controversial move at the time.

Benton did not elaborate on the issue or mention Sorenson by name in his statement, only saying, "there have been inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue."

"However, what is most troubling to me is that they risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this reelection campaign," he added, referring to McConnell's campaign.

The Senate Republican leader is in a tight race against Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky.

Ron Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, is currently laying the groundwork for a presidential bid of his own. Benton served as Rand Paul's campaign manager in his 2010 Senate campaign in Kentucky.

Last year Benton made headlines after a secretly recorded phone call was made public, in which Benton had expressed half-hearted support for McConnell, his boss, and eagerness to move on to Rand Paul's team in 2016.

In his statement Friday, Benton said working for McConnell has been "one of the great honors" of his life and described him as a "friend."

A spokesman for Rand Paul had no comment on the recent news involving Sorenson and Benton.