On August 11, the Department of Justice announced that former Tennessee State Senator and practicing attorney Brian Kelsey has been sentenced to one year and nine months in prison for violating campaign finance laws and conspiring to defraud the Federal Election Commission (FEC). These actions were tied to his 2016 campaign for U.S. Congress.
According to court documents, Kelsey diverted funds from various sources, including his Tennessee State Senate campaign committee, to his federal campaign committee. Working with others, including Joshua Smith, owner of a Nashville-based members-only social club linked to a Tennessee political action committee, Kelsey coordinated with a national political organization to funnel illegal contributions to his federal campaign, leading to inaccurate FEC filings.
The alleged scheme involved the covert transfer of $91,000, with $66,000 from Kelsey’s State Senate campaign committee and $25,000 from a nonprofit advocating for legal justice. These funds were funneled through a national political organization to support Kelsey’s candidacy. Additionally, Kelsey’s co-conspirators directed $80,000 to his federal campaign committee through coordinated expenditures.
Joshua Smith was also sentenced to five years of probation for aiding and abetting the solicitation, receipt, direction, transfer, and spending of soft money linked to a federal election.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri emphasized Kelsey’s intent to conceal campaign funds. She stressed the importance of transparent campaign finance processes and the Department’s commitment to exposing and prosecuting such schemes to maintain election integrity.