Ex-Tennessee lawmaker pleads guilty to campaign cash scheme
By JONATHAN MATTISE
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A former Tennessee state senator accused of violating federal campaign finance laws has pleaded guilty to two charges after initially calling the case against him a political witch hunt.
Former Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey previously pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea Tuesday in front of a federal judge in the case related to his failed 2016 congressional campaign.
The move came after his co-defendant, Nashville social club owner Joshua Smith, pleaded guilty last month to one count under a deal that requires him to “cooperate fully and truthfully” with federal authorities.
In October 2021, a federal grand jury in Nashville indicted Kelsey and Smith, who owns The Standard club, on several counts each.
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TNDP Statement on Brian Kelsey’s Guilty Plea
“After spending his career attempting to ruin the lives of others through heinous legislation, disgraced Republican State Senator Brian Kelsey has pleaded guilty to committing two federal crimes. Brian Kelsey should not be given a slap on the wrist but should face the maximum penalty for his crimes, especially after vehemently lying about his innocence. His actions are a reminder of the dangerous hypocrisy and mistruth that the Republican Party is willing to uphold for the sake of power and corruption.
We are calling on Kelsey to resign effective immediately.”
NOTE: Sen. Kelsey is leaving office this year anyway, after deciding not to run for re-election. But he hinted last spring that he wanted to run for higher office. However, this plea would bar him from serving in any elected political role in Tennessee. However, it does not bar him from holding a federal office.