Nashville club owner pleads guilty in campaign finance case against Sen. Brian Kelsey

The seal of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The seal of the U.S. Department of Justice.(AP GraphicsBank)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:18 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Nashville social club owner pleaded guilty on Wednesday to violating campaign finance laws to benefit Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey’s 2016 campaign for U.S. Congress.

According to court documents, Joshua Smith, 45, of Nashville, Tennessee, secretly and unlawfully funneled $67,000 of what is commonly referred to as “soft money” from Kelsey’s Tennessee State Senate campaign committee to a national political organization that funded advertisements urging voters to support Kelsey in the August 2016 primary election.

On Oct. 7, Smith took a plea deal changing his not-guilty plea to guilty for one of the charges.

On Wednesday, Smith pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the solicitation, receipt, direction, transfer, and spending of at least $25,000 in “soft money” in connection with a federal election.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

In connection with this scheme, Kelsey was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2021 and charged with conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission, illegally transferring “soft money” as a federal candidate, illegally transferring “soft money” as a state officeholder and making and accepting excessive contributions to a federal campaign.

The case is scheduled for trial in January 2023.

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