Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters?

Libertarian movement veterans, and a Paul campaign staffer, say it was "paleolibertarian" strategist Lew Rockwell

Julian Sanchez and David Weigel January 16, 2008

Ron Paul doesn't seem to know much about his own newsletters. The libertarian-leaning presidential candidate says he was unaware, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of the bigoted rhetoric about African Americans and gays that was appearing under his name. He told CNN last week that he still has "no idea" who might have written inflammatory comments such as "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks"—statements he now repudiates. Yet in interviews with reason, a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul—all named the same man as Paul's chief ghostwriter: Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.

Financial records from 1985 and 2001 show that Rockwell, Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, was a vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, the corporation that published the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. The company was dissolved in 2001. During the period when the most incendiary items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist "paleoconservatives," producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic. To this day Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul—accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman's recent writings and audio recordings.

Rockwell has denied responsibility for the newsletters' contents to The New Republic's Jamie Kirchick. Rockwell twice declined to discuss the matter with reason, maintaining this week that he had "nothing to say." He has characterized discussion of the newsletters as "hysterical smears aimed at political enemies" of The New Republic. Paul himself called the controversy "old news" and "ancient history" when we reached him last week, and he has not responded to further request for comment.

But a source close to the Paul presidential campaign told reason that Rockwell authored much of the content of the Political Report and Survival Report. "If Rockwell had any honor he'd come out and I say, ‘I wrote this stuff,'" said the source, who asked not to be named because Paul remains friendly with Rockwell and is reluctant to assign responsibility for the letters. "He should have done it 10 years ago."

Rockwell was publicly named as Paul's ghostwriter as far back as a 1988 issue of the now-defunct movement monthly American Libertarian. "This was based on my understanding at the time that Lew would write things that appeared in Ron's various newsletters," former AL editor Mike Holmes told reason. "Neither Ron nor Lew ever told me that, but other people close to them such as Murray Rothbard suggested that Lew was involved, and it was a common belief in libertarian circles."

Individualist-feminist Wendy McElroy, who on her blog characterized the author as an associate of hers for many years, called the ghostwriter's identity "an open secret within the circles in which I run." Though she declined to name names either on her blog or when contacted by reason, she later approvingly cited a post naming Rockwell at the anonymous blog RightWatch.

Timothy Wirkman Virkkala, formerly the managing editor of the libertarian magazine Liberty, told reason that the names behind the Political Report were widely known in his magazine's offices as well, because Liberty's late editor-in-chief, Bill Bradford, had discussed the newsletters with the principals, and then with his staff. "I understood that Burton S. Blumert was the moneybags that got all this started, that he was the publisher," Virkkala said. "Lew Rockwell, editor and chief writer; Jeff Tucker, assistant, probably a writer; Murray Rothbard, cheering from the sidelines, probably ghosting now and then." (Virkkala has offered his own reaction to the controversy at his Web site.) Blumert, Paul's 1988 campaign chairman and a private supporter this year, did not respond to a request for an interview; Rothbard died in 1995. We reached Tucker, now editorial vice president of Rockwell's, at his office, and were told: "I just really am not going to make a statement, I'm sorry. I'll take all responsibility for being the editor of, OK?"

The early 1990s writings became liabilities for Paul long before last week's New Republic story. Back in 1996, Paul narrowly eked out a congressional victory over Democrat Lefty Morris, who made the newsletters one of his main campaign issues, damning them both for their racial content and for their advocacy of drug legalization. At the time, Paul defended the statements that appeared under his name, claiming that they expressed his "philosophical differences" with Democrats and had been "taken out of context." He finally disavowed them in a 2001 interview with Texas Monthly, explaining that his campaign staff had convinced him at the time that it would be too "confusing" to attribute them to a ghostwriter.

Besides Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell, the officers of Ron Paul & Associates included Paul's wife Carol, Paul's daughter Lori Pyeatt, Paul staffer Penny Langford-Freeman, and longtime campaign manager Mark Elam (who has managed every Paul congressional campaign since 1996 and is currently the Texas coordinator for the presidential run), according to tax records from 1993 and 2001. Langford-Freeman did not respond to interview requests as of press time. Elam, president of M&M Graphics and Advertising, confirmed to reason that his company printed the newsletters, but said that the texts reached him as finished products.

The publishing operation was lucrative. A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the "welfare checks" comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul's family and Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn't know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

The tenor of Paul's newsletters changed over the years. The ones published between Paul's return to private life after three full terms in congress (1985) and his Libertarian presidential bid (1988) notably lack inflammatory racial or anti-gay comments. The letters published between Paul's first run for president and his return to Congress in 1996 are another story—replete with claims that Martin Luther King "seduced underage girls and boys," that black protesters should gather "at a food stamp bureau or a crack house" rather than the Statue of Liberty, and that AIDS sufferers "enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."

Eric Dondero, Paul's estranged former volunteer and personal aide, worked for Paul on and off between 1987 and 2004 (back when he was named "Eric Rittberg"), and since the Iraq war has become one of the congressman's most vociferous and notorious critics. By Dondero's account, Paul's inner circle learned between his congressional stints that "the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period." Cato Institute President Ed Crane told reason he recalls a conversation from some time in the late 1980s in which Paul claimed that his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for The Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto until it folded in 2001.

The newsletters' obsession with blacks and gays was of a piece with a conscious political strategy adopted at that same time by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. After breaking with the Libertarian Party following the 1988 presidential election, Rockwell and Rothbard formed a schismatic "paleolibertarian" movement, which rejected what they saw as the social libertinism and leftist tendencies of mainstream libertarians. In 1990, they launched the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, where they crafted a plan they hoped would midwife a broad new "paleo" coalition.

Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism." To Rockwell, the LP was a "party of the stoned," a halfway house for libertines that had to be "de-loused." To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. "State-enforced segregation," Rockwell wrote, "was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one's own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse."

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an "unholy alliance of 'corporate liberal' Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America."

Anyone with doubts about the composition of the "parasitic Underclass" could look to the regular "PC Watch" feature of the Report, in which Rockwell compiled tale after tale of thuggish black men terrifying petite white and Asian women. (Think Birth of a Nation crossed with News of the Weird.) The list of PC outrages in the February 1993 issue, for example, cited a Washington Post column on films that feature "plenty of interracial sex, and nobody noticing," a news article about black members of the Southern Methodist University marching band "engaged in mass shoplifting while in Japan," and a sob story about a Korean shop-owner who shot a black shoplifter and assailant in the head: The travesty is that Mrs. Du got five years probation, and must cancel a trip to Korea.

The populist outreach program centered on tax reduction, abolition of welfare, elimination of "the entire 'civil rights' structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American," and a police crackdown on "street criminals." "Cops must be unleashed," Rothbard wrote, "and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error." While they're at it, they should "clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares?" To seal the deal with social conservatives, Rothbard urged a federalist compromise in their direction on "pornography, prostitution, or abortion." And because grassroots organizing is "plodding and boring," this new paleo coalition would need to be kick-started by "high-level, preferably presidential, political campaigns."

The presidential campaign Rothbard and Rockwell supported in 1988 was Ron Paul's run on the Libertarian Party ticket. In 1992, they were again ready to back Paul, until Pat Buchanan convinced the obstetrician to withdraw and back his conservative challenge to then-president Bush. "We have a dream," Rockwell wrote in that same January 1992 edition of RRR, "and perhaps someday it will come to pass. (Hell, if 'Dr.' King can have a dream, why can't we?) Our dream is that, one day, we Buchananites can present Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the liberal and conservative and centrist elites, with a dramatic choice....We can say: 'Look, gang: you have a choice, it's either Pat Buchanan or David Duke.'"

Carol Moore, a left-libertarian activist who opposed Rothbard, Rockwell, and Paul at the late 1980s Libertarian conventions that led to the paleo split, theorizes that the defeat made them bitter. "They had a tendency to be anti-PC," Moore told reason, "and it was really stepped up after they lost. They were really angry and not that funny."

They are less angry these days. Visitors to or since 2001 are less likely to feel the need for a shower. One can almost detect what sounds like mellowing in Rockwell's reflections on the high and heady paleo days, unburdened by ominous warnings of the looming race war. Nowadays the fiery rhetoric is directed at the "pimply-faced" Kirchick, "Benito" Giuliani, and the "so-called 'libertarians'" at reason and Cato.

But perhaps the best refutation of the old approach is not the absence of race-baiting rhetoric from its progenitors, but the success of the 2008 Ron Paul phenomenon. The man who was once the Great Paleolibertarian Hope has built a broad base of enthusiastic supporters without resorting to venomous rhetoric or coded racism. He has stuck stubbornly to the issues of sound money, "humble foreign policy," and shrinking the state. He wraps up his speeches with a three-part paean to individualism: "I don't want to run your life," "I don't want to run the economy," and "I don't want to run the world." He talks about the disproportionate effect of the drug war on African-Americans, and appeared at a September 2007 Republican debate on black issues that was boycotted by the then-frontrunners. All this and more have brought him $30 million-plus from more than 100,000 donors; thousands of campaign volunteers; and the largest rallies he's ever spoken to, including a crowd of almost 5,000 in Philadelphia.

Yet those new supporters, many of whom are first encountering libertarian ideas through the Ron Paul Revolution, deserve a far more frank explanation than the campaign has as yet provided of how their candidate's name ended up atop so many ugly words. Ron Paul may not be a racist, but he became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists—and taking "moral responsibility" for that now means more than just uttering the phrase. It means openly grappling with his own past—acknowledging who said what, and why. Otherwise he risks damaging not only his own reputation, but that of the philosophy to which he has committed his life.

Julian Sanchez is a contributing editor and David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.


Ron Paul claims 100,000 subscribers at $50 a pop that is $5 million dollars - we are suppose to believe he has no idea who wrote the racist garbage published under his name? Sure - and the tooth fairy will put money under your pillow.


EvilPoet said...

Sure he didn't know and it's safe to let a fox guard a chicken house.

Gerald said...


Bill Moyers' guest, David Cay Johnston, January 18, 2008

capt said...

Bill Moyers' guest, David Cay Johnston, January 18, 2008

It is effin scary excellent!!!!


capt said...

Ron Paul’s Newsletters Authored By Lew Rockwell


When this means, in short, is that Ron Paul is lying to you. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. He is lying to you.

Here’s what we now know:

He and the author (Lew Rockwell) have been friends for years. In fact, Paul lists Rockwell on his endorsement page.

Paul and his family received compensation for years from the subscriptions to the newsletters. Tax records prove this.

When originally confronted about the newsletters, he did not disavow them nor did he say he didn’t write them. It was only later that he said they had been ghost written.

Again, the conclusion is simple. The person who wrote these newsletters was not some insane staff member. It was Lew Rockwell. And if the Reason story I’ve linked to is to be believed, and there’s no reason not to, it appears as if the Paul campaign was about to confirm exactly that. But you know what happened then? Kent Snyder realized what that admission would do to Ron Paul’s credibility, given the many pieces of evidence I’ve cited here, and he backed off. It’s an understandable move, but woefully transparent.

Folks, this is a guy who has built his campaign and support around the idea of speaking truth to power. And yet it’s becoming apparent that his way to speak truth to power back in the 90s was by appealing to our society’s racist, bigoted tendencies. And by the way, I don’t care that the President of the Austin chapter of the NAACP said he didn’t think Paul was a racist. Again, whether or not he is racist isn’t the point. Paul profited from the publication of those newsletters and then lied about it. That’s inexcusable.


Making millions off this racist crap is an insult to any thinking person.

Racism lives and all types of hate has to be exposed and resisted. All hate is born of fear and self-loathing. It is sad for those that hate and we all have to fight hate - always.

Gerald said...

capt, after listening to Mr. Johnston I have come to realize that everyday is BOHICA day for the posters and me.

Gerald said...

I have removed Lew Rockwell from my favorite column list.

EvilPoet said...

NAACP - They were against Ron Paul before they were for him.

David B. Benson said...

Why I am a Progressive

Quite a few in that boat. Milton Friedmanism has been the ruin of the American Dream...

capt said...

Why I am a Progressive -a great piece. Especially the deathbed Atwater at the end.

Add to the piece the announcement that the top 4 financial companies are giving out $30 billion (yes with a B) in bonuses!

Makes the point of the piece even more pertinent.

capt said...


Kewl pic!


Gerald said...

Rather than a stimulus package that comes across as a bribe to keep the people's mouths shut, let us have universal health care.

Gerald said...


Gerald said...

No Sunshine For Bush In Mideast


January 17, 2008

Some U.S. presidents facing political and economic problems at home seemed to have embraced the political dictum, "If it rains in the Midwest, seek the sunshine in the Middle East." Hence in June 1974, as he was drowning politically and personally in scandals that would lead eventually to a humiliating resignation from office, President Richard Nixon took a triumphant seven-day trip to four Arab states and Israel where, as Time put it, "the huzzas and the hosannas fell like sweet rain."

President Bill Clinton, who was also beset by scandals in the last years of his term, was eager to salvage his legacy as a statesman by inviting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David in July 2000 to negotiate a historic peace accord.

But neither Nixon nor Clinton could warm the political weather in Washington.

President George W. Bush seems to dismiss the lessons learned by his predecessors, fulfilling Santayana's prophecy that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Bush continues to suffer low approval ratings, and there's little hope that the televised images of his weeklong trip to the Middle East will rescue his legacy.

Bush's Mideast tour is dominated by the grand geopolitical design du jour for the region now that the U.S. March to Freedom has been halted by free elections that brought radical Islamic movements to power in Iraq and Palestine: The threat of the rising power of radical Shiite Iran would supposedly make possible a "strategic consensus" between Israel and the moderate Arab-Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and create incentives for Israel and Palestine to make peace.

Not unlike the earlier Bush administration's fantasy of establishing a liberated Iraq as a democratic model for the rest of the Middle East, the current strategy is based on illusions. The Arab-Sunni regimes recognize that it was the U.S. ousting of Saddam Hussein and the ensuing mess in Iraq that helped shift the balance of power in the Persian Gulf toward Iran, and that Washington lacks the means to reverse the situation. That explains the recent moves by Arab Gulf states and Egypt toward detente with Iran, demonstrated by the surprising visit of Iran's top national security adviser, Ali Larijani, to Egypt and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attendance at the 28th annual summit of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council.

At the same time, it's the accepted wisdom in the Middle East that the gap between the Israelis and the Palestinians over core existential issues (Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Arab refugees) is not bridgeable at this time, and that much of what the Bush administration continues to spin as the re-energized "peace process" is nothing more than a series of photo-ops staged in Annapolis, Jerusalem and Ramallah.

In a way, although the Mideast excursions by Nixon and Clinton may not have improved their political standing at home, they were hailed in the Middle East for their diplomacy. Nixon helped negotiate the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Egypt after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and bring Cairo from the Soviet into the American fold. And Clinton has remained a popular figure in both Israel and the Arab world, where he is recalled as an "honest broker" of Mideast peace.

But President Bush's failed policies in the region — in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine — have turned him into one of the most despised figures in the Middle East and brought American prestige in the Arab and Muslim worlds to an all-time low. And in fact, the outcomes of Bush's Middle East policies are responsible in part for his unpopularity among Americans.

It's doubtful that the sun will shine again on Bush any time soon — in either Mideast or Midwest.

Gerald said...

Afghanistan war is just beginning

Mookie said...

Thank you for the links, Capt. I always knew Rothbard was a jerk, but I didn't know it was this bad. Seems like anyone even remotely involved with Ayn Rand is a shithead.