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Tennessee Republican with Anti-LGBTQ+ History Sentenced in Campaign Finance Case

Tennessee Republican with Anti-LGBTQ+ History Sentenced in Campaign Finance Case

<p>Tennessee Republican with Anti-LGBTQ+ History Sentenced in Campaign Finance Case</p>

He once sponsored a bill that would have allowed people to discriminate based on “sincerely held” beliefs.

An ex-Tennessee state senator who once introduced a bill to “turn away the gays” was sentenced to nearly two years in prison Friday. The Republican was found guilty of violating campaign finance laws while running for Congress.

In the Middle District of Tennessee, Brian Kelsey was sentenced to 21 months in prison after unsuccessfully pursuing to withdraw his guilty plea in March, the Associated Press reports. He'd called the investigation a "political witchh unt."

As part of Kelsey’s 2016 congressional campaign, he concealed a $91,000 contribution to a political organization supporting him.

The 45-year-old’s attorney says he cannot run for state office anymore.

“I do think there’s a need to sentence you that sends a message for general deterrence,” U.S. Judge Waverly Crenshaw said during the hearing.

A second conviction was handed down last week for Joshua Smith, 46, who owns a Nashville social club that Kelsey belonged to and was charged with conspiring with Kelsey. After pleading guilty to soliciting funds for Kelsey’s campaign in October, Smith was sentenced to five years probation.

A lawyer by trade, Kelsey was first elected to the General Assembly in 2004. His election to the state Senate in 2009 followed.

In addition to being barred from running for office in Tennessee, he has lost his law license. He must also surrender any firearms he owns.

According to the federal grand jury indictment, Kelsey funneled so-called” soft money” — i.e., funds not subject to federal limits or mandatory reporting — to a national campaign committee to benefit his election campaign.

He was accused of transferring $25,000 from a nonprofit that fought for legal justice and $66,000 from a state senatorial campaign to an organization that ran ads supporting him in 2016. According to the indictment, Kelsey’s campaign received $80,000 from the American Conservative Union.

“I’m truly sorry for the actions that led me here today,” Kelsey said in court, according to the AP. “I knew I was taking a risk and yet I did it anyway and in doing so, I broke the law.”

In 2014, Kelsey sponsored a bill that allowed discrimination against gay people based on “sincerely held” beliefs. After receiving criticism for the measure, he withdrew his support, ABC News reported.

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