Former State Senator Sentenced for Campaign Finance Violations

Former State Senator Sentenced for Campaign Finance Violations

( – The United States government has strict campaign finance laws in place for politicians running for public office. The idea is that the laws will keep them from being corruptly influenced. Unfortunately, not everyone who runs for office abides by the law. Such was the case of a former Tennessee state senator, and now, he’s headed to prison.

The Crime

In 2022, State Senator Brian Kelsey (R) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Federal Election Committee (FEC) and violating campaign finance laws. According to court documents, he admitted that he conspired to and then carried out a plan to unlawfully and secretly funnel money from multiple sources into his federal campaign committee. One of the sources he took money from was his state campaign committee.

Kelsey and his co-conspirators moved at least $91,000, including $66,000 from his state Senate campaign committee. Another $25,000 came from a nonprofit corporation that advocated for legal justice issues. That money was given to a national political organization that was paying for ads to ask voters to cast their ballots for him in the 2016 primary. The group also forced the political organization to contribute a total of $80,000 to the Republican’s federal campaign committee.

When the allegations first broke, Kelsey claimed he was the target of a “witch hunt.” That claim fell away when he pleaded guilty.


On August 11, the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs announced Kelsey was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Henry C. Leventis, the US attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, issued a statement saying the politician “intentionally violated federal campaign finance laws and his oath as a state senator” in an attempt to deny voters their “right to make informed decisions” about who they want to vote for. The prosecutor said the sentence is a “strong reminder” of the DOJ’s “commitment to root out public corruption” and uphold the integrity of elections.

Kelsey made a statement at the sentencing, apologizing to his constituents for letting them down. He said, “I will always regret it.”

Joshua Smith, Kelsey’s co-conspirator, also pleaded guilty to a slew of charges in 2022. He was sentenced to five years of probation for his involvement. His attorney, Phillip Georges, told the media that he believed the sentence was fair. He explained that Smith came forward and admitted that “he was a substantial cooperator.”

Luis Quesada, the assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said the sentence proved “no one is above the law.”

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