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Campaign manager for Kentucky's McConnell resigns, denies wrongdoing

(Reuters) - The campaign manager for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican locked in a tough re-election battle, resigned late Friday in fallout from a scandal stemming from his time with the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign.

McConnell is facing Kentucky's Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in a race Republicans view as important if they are to secure control of the Senate.

While denying any wrongdoing during his time working for Paul, Jesse Benton said in a statement that he would not "allow any possibility that my circumstances will effect the voters’ ability to hear (McConnell's) message and assess his record."

Benton was the spokesman for the libertarian Paul's unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign when, during the Republican primary season, a supporter of a rival candidate was secretly paid by a Paul staffer to publicly switch sides.

Former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty this week to concealing $73,000 he was paid to endorse Paul over U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann.

Benton denied any knowledge of the payment.

McConnell, who has served as Senate minority leader since 2007, would be in line to become majority leader if he holds his seat and Republicans retake the Senate.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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