We are deeply disappointed to learn of today’s indictment by the Department of Justice. 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.

Lawyers for Tate and Kesari could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s public integrity section is prosecuting the case. Richard Pilger, who heads the section’s election crimes branch, and trial attorney Jonathan Kravis are leading the prosecution.

“Federal campaign finance laws are intended to ensure the integrity and transparency of the federal election process,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. “When political operatives make under-the-table payments to buy an elected official’s political support, it undermines public confidence in our entire political system.”

Kesari appeared in court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. An arraignment for Benton and Tate is scheduled for September 3.

Updated with a statement from Roscoe Howard Jr.

The indictment in United States v. Benton is posted below.