Nashville Social Club Owner Pleads Guilty To Crime Involving Campaign Finance Scheme

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NASHVILLE – A Nashville, Tennessee man pleaded guilty today 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, 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.

Smith pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the solicitation, receipt, direction, transfer, and spending of 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. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Smith and Kelsey were indicted in October 2021 by a federal grand jury in Nashville. Kelsey is scheduled for trial on January 23, 2023 and is presumed innocent.

U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Klopf of the Middle District of Tennessee and David Pritchard of the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney John Taddei of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice are prosecuting the case.

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