Monday, April 28, 2008

The other shoe finally drops.

Now and then I do really strange things like read Federal Election Campaign reports from candidates. These reports show how much money a candidate has raised and how he is spending it. After the first report from Ron Paul, the conservative Republican, I posted to a libertarian discussion group (where many people thought Paul a libertarian) that Paul’s spending was problematic.

His finances were problematic because his spending and fund raising didn’t match. I argued he was raising funds for his alleged campaign but that his spending indicated he was trying to save money for other ventures. I thought it was a form of bait and switch My first message was meet with a credulous response from the Rondroids on the list. They assured me that as time went by we’d see Paul mounting a serious campaign. I never saw it.

In early February I wrote here:

The real question for Paul’s supporters, but one they will no doubt ignore, is what is going to happen to the millions they showered on their candidate. He spent very frugally in his race -- almost as if he wasn’t intending to give it a serious run. His financial clout could have been put to good use in the early primary states, where a few big showings would have pushed up in the pack. Instead, he spent relatively little while his surplus keep growing -- it was almost as if Paul were campaigning for president in order to raise funds for something else.

I summarized my position: “[Paul’s] donors expected [their donations] to go into the presidential campaign and I think there is a chance that a good amount of their money will end up elsewhere.”

Rondroids are a fanatically loyal bunch and they absolutely refused to believe this would happen. Some were fanatical enough that they really thought Paul would be president. I’m not religious so I don’t believe in “miracles”. But I am cynical enough to think that people often have ulterior motives very different from the ones they announce -- and this is particularly true in politics. And whatever else he be, Ron Paul is a politician.

The media pundits who watched New Hampshire were surprised. They said that the state was good territory for Paul but couldn’t understand why he never mounted a serious campaign there. They noted that he built up a substantial war chest from the Paulist congregation but he simply wasn’t spending it in a manner that would count for anything. They figured the smartest move he could make would be to spend heavily there and use that to propel himself into the top tier of candidates so he’d be taken seriously in the other states. But Paul sat on his funds and did worse in New Hampshire than he had done in Iowa. He was going backward.

Of course they thought he was running for president. I never thought that. I always suspected that Paul was running a fund raising operation for something else. I wasn’t sure what the something else was, I suspected he’d put it into his own “foundation” or that run by the author of Ron Paul’s newsletters, Lew Rockwell. You will remember the Rockwell edited newsletters caused some major embarrassment for Paul when their flagrantly racist and antigay comments were made public. Both Rockwell and Paul have “non-profit” organizations and I suspected Paul was fund-raising for them or perhaps for a new non-profit he will set up.

The Rondroids said I was wrong and that time will show how St. Paul will march into the White House in some divine miracle and that there simply won’t be millions of unspent campaign funds diverted to non-election related expenses. Now the other shoe has dropped. Paul himself has announced that he intends to channel the funds into other ventures.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Paul “may end up hitting pay dirt” from his campaign. They report that Paul is “exploring a novel way to use the millions in leftover donations: setting up a for-profit publishing company...”

A spokesman for the FEC told the paper that Paul “can use the funds for any lawful purpose, so long as it’s not personal use for the candidate.” A Paul campaign official said they are considering options including giving the money to Paul’s shell foundation, setting up a new 501(c)4 organization or something like a “for-profit corporation to produce publications.” Hopefully they won’t let Lew Rockwell ghost write those publications as well.

My view was that the Paul campaign was a carefully orchestrated fund raiser for some other venture which Paul was not revealing at the time. People thought I was just being unfair. I told them that when it came time for important primary elections we would see how Paul was spending his funds. I told them that time will tell. I admitted I could be wrong but that I didn’t think so. Now Paul’s own staff is talking about the very kind of projects which I contended were the real reason for Paul’s campaign.

As for Paul's possible publishing venture I would make the following guesses based on his actual politics. If the publishing house comes to be it will publish items that, for the most part, could be supported by Far Right types like Pat Buchanan. It won't be explicitly libertarian because Paul is not really a libertarian. He is what is known as a paleo-conservative. It will be anti-immigration, will support "state's rights" over individual rights', will expound on eccentric conspriacy theories, will have a tinge of nativist, racist, thinking. Paul's campaign was not a repeat of his 1988 Libertarian campaign. It was a repeat of Pat Buchanan's run instead. Uninformed "libertarians" might have trouble telling the difference but anyone who knows Buchanan's fringe views would know that Paul had embraced almost all of them. And that was actually a substantial rejection of libertarianism. But they don't know and they don't care. And the true believers, who said Paul wasn't raising funds for another venture will now say they approved of this all along.