Obituaries

Aaron Russo, R.I.P.

|

Aaron Russo died today of cancer. Russo sought (but did not win, after coming in first on the first two ballots) the 2004 Libertarian Party presidential nomination. He was writer and director of the controversial, conspiratorial movie America: From Freedom to Fascism, aiming at the income tax system and the Federal Reserve.

Details at Steve Gordon's blog.

IMDB results detailing Russo's career as a Hollywood film producer.

My account of the 2004 LP convention and Russo's efforts there.

NEXT: The Guns of Britain

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Aaron Russo was a great guy. Freedom to Fascism is a must see.
    He’ll be missed.

  2. R.I.P. Aarom, you did alot for the libertarian movement.

  3. God bless you Aaron.

  4. I had just watched his documentary on the Federal Reserve System when I was shocked to discover he was on the “Recent Deaths” in Wikipedia. I guess it was confirmed. My condolences to family and friends of Russo.

  5. Cancer,right. The Illuminati killed him, duh.

  6. I just watched “Freedom to Fascism”, it is a must see for every Libertarian. God bless you Mr. Russo, you have reinforced my love of liberty.

  7. Aaron Russo was a good family friend my kids loved him dearly and my husband worked on his campaign staff he will be missed very much.

  8. My your next journey be even more rewarding….

  9. xyz,
    Fuck off and/or go join the Phelps crew. I’m sure they are looking for funeral hecklers.

    No matter your opinion of Mr. Russo, this post thread is not the place.

  10. If the Russo family is reading, I’m sorry about my tone @ 1:23. My heart is with you, and I hope that you find some comfort in knowing that Aaron was a center point for many in the libertarian movement. He was bigger than life, and he will remain so.

  11. Such sad news. I hope that the fact that Aaron was such a champion of liberty helps bring comfort to his family and friends.

    A fitting way to tribute this hero is to watch his America: From Freedom to Fascism. It’s shocking, frightening, and maddening. But it’s also solid, well argued, and compelling.

    I met Aaron when he was here in Denver for the screenings of the movie. After the film, I asked him what I could do to help. He answered that I should work to bring an end to the Federal Reserve, and to the income tax. Those are both worthy goals. He also implored me and everyone else, for the sake of our liberty, to refuse a National ID card. You have my word, Aaron.

    RIP

  12. I just bought “Freedom to Fascism.” This is very tragic news.

    Requiscat en Pace, Aaron!

  13. How odd. Today I had the chance to meet Bernard “Liberty Dollar” von Nothaus at a lunchtime gathering that was going on near my work. At one point in the conversation, Aaron Russo’s name was mentioned — the first time I had heard that name or thought about the man in months. We talked for a few minutes about what a great movie Trading Places was. And just a few hours later I learned of Russo’s passing this very day.

    Now I’ll finally have to see AFTF, I guess. It’s the least I can do.

  14. I got no idea who the guy was. Rest in peace, man.

  15. I met Aaron Russo twice; once at the WTP Conference in D.C. where he brought the crowd to their feet, and later in Tucson, AZ at a showing of AFTF. He was always smiling and was an ebullient advocate of Liberty. Godspeed, Aaron Russo. Thank you for bringing us closer to our goal of Freedom.

  16. That’s requiescat.

  17. Met him once, briefly. I got no dog in the intra-LP squabbling but he seemed like a committed, sincere guy. RIP.

  18. No quotes from “The Rose” yet?

    Someday I should write up the faintly weird tale of Liberty‘s interview with Russo. Weird more for Bill Bradford’s role in it than for Russo’s.

    Way back when, Russo was a Kennedy Democrat; I think it was Waco that radicalized him. He was wrong about a lot of things, but he was a sincere believer in individual liberty. RIP.

  19. For the record, I don’t know who xyz is. It’s not another handle of mine (I don’t have any others).

  20. Aaron had a special relationship with Nevada, in that he tried to win the 1998 Republican Gubernatorial primary.

    He fought the Republican state machine, which was backing a University Regent, and lifetime political operative named Kenny Guinn. Aaron fought hard, running a Ron Paul type grassroots campaign. He almost pulled it off. He promised to be a very federalist governor, and confront the Feds over the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site on 10th Amendment grounds, and on medical marijuana, and federal title to the Nevada public lands. Unfortunately, the Republicans nominated Guin, who in his second term raised taxes in Nevada with an end run around the Nevada Constitution.

    I led the Nevada Delegation to the 2000 LP convention, and we supported Aaron all the way. Even then, however, there were questions about his health.

    Whatever you think about his politics, or his sometimes abrasive Brooklyn NY persona, deep down he was a warm human being and a friend of liberty and to all those who support liberty. RIP. Aaron. We will miss you.

  21. This is very sad news. I just received America:From Freedom to Fascism in the mail today, and am looking forward to watching it. In a world where lovers of individual liberty seem to be shrinking, Aaron was unapologetic about his beliefs. Whether right or wrong about everything he was willing to stand up and fight. We need more men like Aaron and less Obamas, Clintons, Bushes and Giulianis. I’m not holding my breath. My sincere condolences go out to Aaron’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

  22. We loved you man, your a true patriot and a friend to everyone who loves freedom.

    Sincerely
    Keith Crawford
    Dr Ron Paul for President in 2008

  23. Aaron woke me up. May he rest well.

  24. He was wrong about a lot of things, but he was a sincere believer in individual liberty.

    Yeah, faith, not facts is what counts.

  25. Facts Refute Filmmaker’s Assertions on Income Tax in ‘America’

    By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON
    Published: July 31, 2006 (NY Times)

    The film was not on the program at Cannes, however, not even for screenings made under the festival’s aegis without being in the awards competition. Mr. Russo, the film’s director, writer and producer, just set up an inflatable screen on a beach. Photographs posted at one of Mr. Russo’s Web sites depict an audience of fewer than 50 people spread out on a platform on the sand.

    Hyping films with fanciful claims is nothing new in Hollywood. But examination of the assertions in Mr. Russo’s documentary, which purports to expose “two frauds” perpetrated by the federal government, taxing wages and creating the Federal Reserve to coin money, shows that they too collapse under the weight of fact.

    Still, at free showings the film has drawn long lines of people eager to watch a documentary that feeds on the estrangement many Americans feel from their government, especially those who believe they played by the rules and yet see their finances strained or broken. Many of the reviews in major newspapers have accepted as having some factual basis the film’s main contention, that the government illegally extracts income taxes, even though every court that has ever ruled on these issues has upheld the constitutionality of the income tax.

    The film’s appeal, Mr. Russo said during a phone interview last week, is not left or right, but concentrated among those who see the United States evolving into a police state ruled by an oligarchy that has tricked Americans into paying taxes.

    Not mentioned in the film is that Mr. Russo has more than $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, California and New York for unpaid federal and state taxes. Mr. Russo declined to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film.

    Early in the film Mr. Russo, the narrator, asserts that every president since Woodrow Wilson and every member of Congress has perpetrated a hoax to tax people’s wages and issue them dubious currency. All of the federal income tax revenue, the film says, goes to these bankers to pay interest on the national debt, even though by the broadest measure the federal government’s interest payments are less than 40 percent of the individual income taxes, according to an examination of every federal budget since 1995.

    The film opens by calling the 16th Amendment and its subsequent income tax and the Federal Reserve the product of a “silent coup d’?tat” in 1913 by “international bankers.” In the style of low-budget television documentaries, photographs appear on screen of J. P. Morgan, Paul Warburg and John D. Rockefeller.

    The documentary includes interviews with a host of people who are presented as experts, scholars and whistle-blowers. All deny the legitimacy of the income-tax laws, including Irwin Schiff, now serving his third prison term for tax crimes.

    The cornerstone of Mr. Russo’s case is whether any law requires Americans to pay income taxes on wages.

    Near the film’s beginning Mr. Russo says, and others appear on screen asserting, that the Internal Revenue Service has refused every request to show any law making Americans liable for an income tax on their wages.

    Yet among those thanked in the credits for their help in making the film is Anthony Burke, an I.R.S. spokesman. Mr. Burke said that when Mr. Russo called him asking what law required the payment of income taxes on wages, he sent Mr. Russo a link to documents, including Title 26 of the United States Code, citing the specific sections that require income taxes be paid on wages. Title 26 says on its face that it is law enacted by Congress, but Mr. Russo denied this fact.

    “Title 26,” Mr. Russo said in an interview last week, “is not the law, it is I.R.S. regulations and to be a law it has to be passed by Congress.” Mr. Russo added that he had studied the matter closely and was confident that he had the facts.

    Arguments made in court that the income tax is invalid are so baseless that Congress has authorized fines of $25,000 for anyone who makes them. But even though the penalty was quintupled, from $5,000, it has not deterred those who assert this and other claims that Congress and the courts deemed “frivolous arguments.”

    The film also states repeatedly that people are tricked into paying income taxes because no law makes them liable for taxes. The tax code uses the word impose, whose definition includes the concept of liability, courts have held in published decisions.

    The film includes the voice of this reporter, off camera, asking the I.R.S. commissioner, Mark W. Everson, to answer protesters outside the Treasury building who wanted to know what law makes them liable for taxes. Mr. Everson then makes rambling comments without, as the film notes, answering the question.

    Mr. Russo also said that “Congress has no authority to tax people’s labor.” Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution begins with the phrase “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes.”

    Only three limitations are placed on that power, none of which bars a tax on wages. One limitation, however, was a requirement that taxes be “apportioned among the several states.”

    The 16th Amendment repealed apportionment, but Mr. Russo says in the film that the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified and thus a tax on wages is unconstitutional. This claim has been made in various forms by thousands of tax protesters since 1913, and so far their batting average with the courts is .000.

    To buttress the claim that the 16th Amendment is invalid, the film displays a quotation from a federal district judge, James C. Fox. But the transcript from which the judge’s words were taken shows that while he spoke those words, they were in the context of laying out issues and that the conclusion he reached was the opposite of the words quoted.

    Judge Fox, the transcript shows, concluded that no court would accept any argument that the 16th Amendment was not properly ratified and therefore invalid.

    The film includes a brief interview with Sheldon Cohen, who was I.R.S. commissioner in the Johnson administration. Mr. Cohen said Mr. Russo used editing that ” twists my views” to create a false impression. Mr. Russo said he considered the assertion laughable.

    Mr. Russo was Bette Midler’s manager for seven years early in his career and has produced music as well as films. He also sought the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 2004 but dropped out because of ill health.

    Despite hundreds and perhaps thousands of tax protesters going to prison, and many more losing their homes and life savings, the movement appears today to be more widespread than ever.

    “The tax protest movement is like a cult,” said J J MacNab, a Maryland insurance analyst who is writing a book about protesters and who has sat through six trials of people prosecuted for refusing to pay taxes under the theories espoused by Mr. Russo’s film.

    One tax protester featured in the film, Irwin Schiff of Las Vegas, is now serving his third prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion crimes. Mr. Schiff introduced into his criminal case the notes of his psychiatrist, who wrote that Mr. Schiff was a successful tax shelter salesman until a con artist ripped him and his clients off. The psychiatrist concluded that Mr. Schiff became delusional, believing he alone could properly interpret the tax code, as a way to avoid acknowledging reality.

    Later, one of Mr. Schiff’s confederates, who was also later convicted and sent to prison, sent e-mail messages to supporters saying that the psychiatrist’s notes were introduced as part of a ruse to help Mr. Schiff escape prosecution.

    Ms. MacNab, who has testified before Congress, said that at each of the trials prosecutors showed how the accused took out of context sections of the law and court decisions while ignoring other sections, including those shown to them by I.R.S. agents.

    “People who are drawn into this movement just refuse to acknowledge facts that show their beliefs have no basis in fact,” she said. “Most of them have failed, their business has failed, their marriage has failed, and instead of taking responsibility for it they want to blame the government.”

    Correction: Aug. 3, 2006

    An article in The Arts on Monday about assertions regarding the income tax made in the documentary “America: From Freedom to Fascism” misstated the political experience of the film’s director, Aaron Russo, who ran for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in 2004. He finished second in the voting at the party’s national convention; he did not drop out for health reasons.

  26. “Arguments made in court that the income tax is invalid are so baseless that Congress has authorized fines of $25,000 for anyone who makes them.”

    Of course Congress would want to pass such a law like that whether or not the arguments are “baseless”. Members of congress want to get paid.

  27. Why are people still going for that stuff instead of concentrating on the acknowledged legal ways that are available for everybody to reduce their tax liabilities?

  28. Arguments made in court that the income tax is invalid are so baseless that Congress has authorized fines of $25,000 for anyone who makes them.

    Wow, that’s a sign of confidence.

    There was a time when my church found the arguments that the Earth moved around the Sun, and not vice versa, so ill-founded that it forbade Galileo from publicly making them.

  29. Yeah, faith, not facts is what counts.

    Russo was wrong about certain environmental issues, the constitutionality of the income tax, and alternative health, among other topics. And the facts of those issues certainly do count. But this isn’t really the proper place to get into that. If you ever grow up, Edward, you might understand why.

  30. But this is the place to praise Russo’s goofy conspiracy theories? I’m just responding to the dimwits who post nonsense here. If you ever grow up, Jesse, you might find a different line of work. The demands of a propagandist and apologist are obviously at variance with your inflated self image.

  31. One final comment–this wouldn’t be appropriate at Russo’s memorial service–the cause of liberty is never served by fanatical devotion to falsehood and half-truths.

  32. dimwits…post nonsense…inflated self image

    Pot, meet kettle.

  33. Reverend Walker,

    What page are we on in the hymnal? Is there a lunch after the burial?

  34. Jesse,

    I stand by “dimwits” and “nonsense,” terms that are hardly out of keeping with the general tone of the discourse here. But “inflated self image” is off the mark. It is rather a kind of disingenuousness in promoting a figure like Russo to the masses, as it were, while hastening to make it clear that you know Russo was a crackpot. You, sir, lack the courage of your pretend convictions.

  35. Please continue to follow the brilliantly evil money trail directly to the Rothschilds, The Bank of England, Kuhn & Loeb and the other war profiteers that hate real patriots like Aaron Russo. Now that we’ve taken the Red pill what’s next?

  36. Thanks, Ben, for providing an example of a dmiwit posting nonsense. Russo’s legacy. I rest my case.

  37. As a committed 3rd party person- love the spirit and patriotism of Aaron Russo and just so happens “trading places” one of family favorites.

    Question to readers- Now that Karl Rove has some time on his hands – is it possible he goes around the “net” planting hateful comments to distract us from purpose?

  38. Just to look in your eyes again….Thank you, Aaron for the opportunities you gave me, the faith you had in me when I did not have it myself; the love you gave to me and to my family. You always made me want to be a better person. For that I will always be grateful. Kindred spirit, until we meet again….

  39. We lost a great man.

    Being a part of the NWO, and very familiar with their operations, I told my husband recently that Aaron will be probably assassinated soon. I did not expect it so soon.
    Can someone post more details, as to how Aaron died?
    WE HAVE SO MANY TRAITORS IN OUR GOVERNMENT
    THERE IS NOTHING TO DO
    JUST WAIT FOR BUSH TO ATTACK IRAN
    AND WW3

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murder is less to fear.”

  40. Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article
    http://www.mirei.com

  41. Just to look in your eyes again….Thank you, Aaron for the opportunities you gave me, the faith you had in me when I did not have it myself; the love you gave to me and to my family. You always made me want to be a better person. For that I will always be grateful. Kindred spirit, until we meet again Thanks.
    Dripping Springs Remodeling Contractor

  42. I think you are overlooking a more important issue here, I would like to hear more about the Digital Dealer curse.
    Round Rock Door Contractor

  43. Really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us.Great site and a great topic as well i really get amazed to read this.
    State Divorce

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.