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28 January 2012

the Ron Paul newsletters / using racism, homophobia and antisemitism as money-making tools

Well, this is where I say farewell to Ron Paul.

As I wave goodbye, I can't do it without repeating my admiration for his promise -- if elected president of the United States -- immediately to end both the US war in Afghanistan and the US war in Iraq. In 2008, only Paul and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Democrat from Ohio) made that promise. In this campaign, Paul is the only candidate to make that promise.

But as Paul has shown surprising strength and popularity in his presidential campaign, the media has, very naturally and appropriately, looked deeper into the life and career of the Congressman from Texas -- nominally a Republican, but perhaps the most famous and most politically successful Libertarian in the USA.

Is he an anti-black racist? Is he antisemitic? Is he a homophobic gay-basher?

This very interesting and detailed history by The Washington Post suggests he's something else, something even more distasteful and more troubling.

Ron Paul is a guy who uses anti-black hatred, fear and bigotry, and antisemitism, and homophobia as resources, as tools to make money.

There was never a snowball's chance in hell that Ron Paul would win the Republican presidential nomination, and never a snowball's chance in hell that Ron Paul would become president of the United States.

But he has effectively stirred passions -- backed by an astonishing success at fund-raising, all of it
in small donations from ordinary citizens -- and forced his presence into a high position in the 2012 presidential race.

If The Post account is to be believed, Ron Paul seems to think that honesty and truth are less important than campaign success and whipping up a fear- and bigotry-driven environment to make his endeavors flourish.

African-Americans, homosexuals, Jews -- well, Ron Paul certainly didn't invent using them as
political scapegoats.

But his actions and his words put decent Americans (of any political party) on one side of a clear line, and Ron Paul very sadly and shamefully on the other side of the decency boundary.

As his nature and beliefs become clearer to the public, what should Ron Paul do?

That's not the question. 

The question is: What should American voters do?

They should dump Ron Paul like radioactive slime. They should stop sending him money. They should stop voting for him.

Me, I'm not sorry I've praised his Stop The Wars Now promise. The wars suck, they're foot-shooting and hopeless, they're catastrophically expensive, they've killed thousands of our neighbors' children and maimed many thousands more. But almost no mainstream politicians with any national stature have had the courage to say it.

We need someone with character, with courage, with scrupulous honesty to help America shut down the Afghanistan War.

Someone with decency and character, someone with honesty -- so that lets Ron Paul out.


The Washington Post
(USA daily broadsheet, Washington DC)
Friday 27 January 2012

Paul pursued strategy
of publishing controversial
newsletters, associates say

by Jerry Markon and Alice Crites

Ron Paul, well known as a physician, congressman and libertarian, has also been a businessman who pursued a marketing strategy that included publishing provocative, racially charged newsletters to make money and spread his ideas, said three people with direct knowledge of Paul’s businesses.

The Republican presidential candidate has denied writing inflammatory passages in the pamphlets from the 1990s and said recently that he did not read them at the time or for years afterward. Numerous colleagues said he does not hold racist views.

But people close to Paul’s operations said he was deeply involved in the company that produced the newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, and closely monitored its operations, signing off on articles and speaking to staff members virtually every day.

“It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product ... He would proof it," said Renae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company and a supporter of the Texas congressman’s.

The newsletters point to a rarely seen and somewhat opaque side of Paul, who has surprised the political community by becoming an important factor in the Republican race. The candidate, who has presented himself as a kindly doctor and political truth teller, declined in a recent debate to release his tax returns, joking that he would be “embarrassed” about his income compared with that of his richer GOP rivals.

Yet a review of his enterprises reveals a sharp-eyed businessman who for nearly two decades oversaw the company and a nonprofit foundation, intertwining them with his political career. The newsletters, which were launched in the mid-1980s and bore such names as the Ron Paul Survival Report, were produced by a company Paul dissolved in 2001.

The company shared offices with his campaigns and foundation at various points, said those familiar with the operation. Public records show Paul’s wife and daughter were officers of the newsletter company and foundation; his daughter also served as his campaign treasurer.

Jesse Benton, a presidential campaign spokesman, said that the accounts of Paul’s involvement were untrue and that Paul was practicing medicine full time when “the offensive material appeared under his name.” Paul “abhors it, rejects it and has taken responsibility for it as he should have better policed the work being done under his masthead,” Benton said. He did not comment on Paul’s business strategy.

‘I’ve never read that stuff’

Mark Elam, a longtime Paul associate whose company printed the newsletters, said Paul “was a busy man” at the time. “He was in demand as a speaker; he was traveling around the country," Elam said in an interview coordinated by Paul’s campaign. “I just do not believe he was either writing or regularly editing this stuff."

In the past, Paul has taken responsibility for the passages because they were published under his name.

But last month, he told CNN that he was unaware at the time of the controversial passages. “I’ve never read that stuff. I’ve never read — I came — was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written,"  Paul said.

A person involved in Paul’s businesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing a former employer, said Paul and his associates decided in the late 1980s to try to increase sales by making the newsletters more provocative. They discussed adding controversial material, including racial statements, to help the business, the person said.

“It was playing on a growing racial tension, economic tension, fear of government," said the person, who supports Paul’s economic policies but is not backing him for president. “I’m not saying Ron believed this stuff. It was good copy. Ron Paul is a shrewd businessman."

The articles included racial, anti-Semitic and anti-gay content. They claimed, for example, that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “seduced underage girls and boys"; they ridiculed black activists by suggesting that New York be named “Zooville” or “Lazyopolis”; and they said the 1992 Los Angeles riots ended “when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks." 

The June 1990 edition of the Ron Paul Political Report included the statement: “Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”

It is unclear precisely how much money Paul made from his newsletters, but during the years he was publishing them, he reduced his debts and substantially increased his net worth, according to his congressional and presidential disclosure reports.

In 1984, he reported debt of up to $765,000, most of which was gone by 1995, when he reported a net worth of up to $3,300,000 . Last year, he reported a net worth of up to $5,200,000 .

The newsletters bore his name in large print and featured articles on topics ranging from investment advice to political commentary. Frequently written in first person, they contained personalized notes, such as holiday greetings from Paul and his wife, Carol.

The Washington Post obtained dozens of copies of the newsletters from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Texas news outlets wrote about them in 1996, and the New Republic published extensive excerpts in 2008.

The issue resurfaced late last year, when Paul’s presidential campaign picked up momentum. The extent of Paul’s involvement and his business strategy had not been known.

Paul’s publishing operation began through a nonprofit organization he created in 1976, the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, which advocates for limited government and a free market. The group, founded the year Paul entered Congress, published Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, mostly a collection of his congressional speeches and commentaries.

Direct-mail, extreme views

In 1984, just before losing a Senate bid and leaving Congress, Paul formed Ron Paul & Associates. He soon began publishing the Ron Paul Investment Letter, initially offering mostly economic and monetary information. Texas tax records listed Paul as president of the business; his wife as secretary; his daughter, Lori Paul Pyeatt, as treasurer; and a longtime Paul associate, Lew Rockwell, as vice president.

Ed Crane, the longtime president of the libertarian Cato Institute, said he met Paul for lunch during this period and the two discussed direct-mail solicitations, which Paul was sending out to interest people in his newsletters. They agreed that “people who have extreme views” were more likely than others to respond.

Crane said Paul reported getting his best response when he used a mailing list from the now-defunct newspaper Spotlight, which was widely considered anti-Semitic and racist.

Benton, Paul’s spokesman, said that Crane’s account “sounds odd” and that Paul did not recall the conversation.

At the time, Paul’s investment letter was languishing. According to the person involved with his businesses, Paul and others hit upon a solution: to “morph” the content to capitalize on a growing fear among some on the political right about the nation’s changing demographics and threats to economic liberty.

The investment letter became the Ron Paul Survival Report -- a name designed to intrigue readers, the company secretary said. It cost subscribers about $100 a year. The tone of that and other Paul publications changed, becoming increasingly controversial. In 1992, for example, the Ron Paul Political Report defended chess champion Bobby Fischer, who had become known as an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier, for his stance on “Jewish questions."

Paul has said he wrote portions of the economic sections. The people familiar with his business said there was no indication that he wrote the controversial material.

Rockwell was the main writer of the racial passages, according to two people with direct knowledge of the business and a third close to Paul’s presidential campaign. Rockwell, founder of a libertarian think tank in Alabama, did not respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment. In 2008, he denied in an interview with the New Republic that he was Paul’s ghostwriter.

Paul “had to walk a very fine line," said Eric Dondero Rittberg, a former longtime Paul aide who says Paul allowed the controversial material in his newsletter as a way to make money. Dondero Rittberg said he witnessed Paul proofing, editing and signing off on his newsletters in the mid-1990s.

“The real big money came from some of that racially tinged stuff, but he also had to keep his libertarian supporters, and they weren’t at all comfortable with that," he said.

Dondero Rittberg is no longer a Paul supporter, and officials with Paul’s presidential campaign have said he was fired. Dondero Rittberg disputed that, saying he resigned in 2003 because he opposed Paul’s views on Iraq.

The 15 July 1994 issue of Survival Report exemplified how the newsletters merged material about race with a pitch for business. It contained a passage criticizing the rate of black-on-white crime when “blacks are only 12 percent of the population." That was accompanied by two pages of ads from Ron Paul Precious Metals & Rare Coins, a business Paul used to sell gold and silver coins.

“The explosion you hear may not be the Fourth of July fireworks but the price of silver shooting up," said one of the ads.

Hathway, the former Ron Paul & Associates secretary, said: “We had tons of subscribers, from all over the world ... I never had one complaint" about the content.

Paul a ‘hands-on boss’

Hathway described Paul as a “hands-on boss” who would come in to the company’s Houston office, about 50 miles from his home, about once a week. And he would call frequently. “He’d ask, ‘How are you doing? Do you need any more money in the account?’" she said.

The company also had an office in Clute, Texas, near Paul’s home, which it shared with Paul’s foundation and his campaigns at various points, Hathway and Dondero Rittberg said.

In 1996, as Paul ran for Congress again, his business success turned into a potential political liability when his newsletters surfaced in the Texas news media. Paul was quoted in the Dallas Morning News that year as defending a newsletter line from 1992 that said 95 percent of black men in the District are “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and that black teenagers can be “unbelievably fleet of foot.”

“If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them,” the newspaper quoted Paul as saying.

Paul won reelection, then dissolved Ron Paul & Associates in 2001. His nonprofit foundation is still in operation.

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
© The Washington Post Company
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from Wikipedia:

Ron Paul newsletter controversy

On January 8, the day of the New Hampshire primary, The New Republic published a story by James Kirchick quoting from selected newsletters published under Paul's name.[67] The publications had various names bannering "Ron Paul" prominently in the title, such as The Ron Paul Survival Report. Kirchick said that the writings showed "an obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry", and were "saturated in racism", charges echoed by Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog.[68] Kirchick noted that one article referred to African-American rioters as "barbarians" and suggested that the Los Angeles riots of 1992 only stopped when it came time for "blacks to pick up their welfare checks". Other issues gave tactical advice to local militia groups and advanced various conspiracy theories.[69]

In 1996 the media inquired into these passages, having been brought to light by Paul's congressional opponent Charles "Lefty" Morris; Paul's congressional campaign countered the statements were taken out of context, and Paul responded by adding "If someone challenges your character and takes the interpretation of the NAACP as proof of a man's character, what kind of a world do you live in?" [70].[71] The newsletters, attributed to Paul, made statements such as "opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions," "if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be", and referring to Martin Luther King as a "pro-communist philanderer" and to Martin Luther King Day as "hate Whitey day."[72][73] An issue from 1992 refers to carjacking as the "hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos."[74] In an article title "The Pink House" the newsletter wrote that "Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."[73]

In 2001 Paul gave his own account of the newsletters, stating the documents were authored by ghostwriters, and that while he did not author the challenged passages, he bore "some moral responsibility" for their publication.[75] Paul's 2008 presidential campaign repeated these assertions when the challenged passages resurfaced again in Kirchick's January 2008 article.[76] Paul "never uttered such words and denounced such small-minded thoughts," saying Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks were personal heroes because they stood for individual rights, and that he had spoken highly about Parks in a 1999 floor speech in the House of Representatives.[77] Paul took the position that the Kirchick story was a "rehash" of a political attack received during his 1996 campaign.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Paul asserted that racism is incompatible with his beliefs and that he sees people as individuals, not as part of collectives. He also dismissed the attack as an attempt to accuse him of racism by proxy, claiming that he has collected more money among African-Americans than any other Republican candidate. Blitzer stated that he was "shocked" by the newsletters, as they did not seem to reflect "the Ron Paul that I've come to know, and the viewers have come to know" over the course of several interviews during the campaign.[78]

Nelson Linder
, president of the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), also defended Paul, though not in his official capacity under the NAACP: "Knowing Ron Paul's intent, I think he is trying to improve this country but I think also, when you talk about the Constitution and you constantly criticize the federal government versus state I think a lot of folks are going to misconstrue that ... so I think it's very easy for folks who want to take his position out of context, and that's what I'm hearing."[79]

Reason magazine contributing editor Matt Welch found numerous references to the newsletters in news coverage of the 1996 race, many showing a defense of the newsletters by Paul and his campaign.[71] But in 2001 Paul claimed he only said otherwise in 1996 because it was too confusing to explain in the fervor of a campaign.[75]

In 2011 Ron Paul again ran as a GOP presidential candidate, placing third in the Iowa caucuses and 2nd in the New Hampshire primary. Before the Iowa caucuses a variety of government officials, including Bush speech writers Michael Gerson and Marc Thiessen, Clinton advisor Dick Morris, and Bush United Nations ambassador John Bolton all appeared on FOX News or wrote op ed pieces for the Washington Post decrying Ron Paul as dangerous and crazy. James Kirchick, still affilated with The New Republic but now primarily employed by Radio Free Europe and also a fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which was also affiliated with a competing GOP presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, revisited the Ron Paul newsletter controversy in articles in The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, and the New York Times. Kirchick's associate at The New Republic, Jonathan Chait, also wrote articles critical of Paul based on the original newsletter story published in The New Republic and New York magazine. One of the original contentions was that the newsletters contained no bylines other than the collective mast head of "Ron Paul Newsletter." In January 2012, a television reporter, Cincinnati FOX19's Ben Swann, looked into the newsletters in a regular fact checking series called "Reality Check." Swann discovered that of the over 240 newsletters published, only 9 had racially inflected offensive language, and much of that was in one newsletter. That newsletter had been posted online by The New Republic via internet links for readers to peruse, but with half a page cut off. When Swann investigated it turned out that the omitted half page contained a byline by another author, James B. Powell. Attempts by Swann to contact Kirchick were initially ignored. It appears that Kirchick and The New Republic have not contacted or interviewed James B. Powell.[80]

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