Ron Paul Roundup: The Romney "Alliance," the Billionaire Backer, Winning Washington?, Beating Obama, and Flight Reimbursement Scandal


As Rick Santorum lives out all our nightmares by becoming our frontrunner of the moment, and Ron Paul's campaign (as he has been for a long time for some obvious reasons) attacks him, the old stories of the secret Paul/Romney alliance resurface.

The headline on this Dave Weigel entry from Slate takes a huge interpretive leap from a fact with multiple interpretations. It's headed "The Ron Paul-Mitt Romney Alliance is Strong." The fact contained in it is that Paul is running anti-Santorum ads–as he's done since Santorum's first sign of unexpected strength in Iowa in January–and that a Washington Post reporter said a few weeks back that the two campaigns have cooperated on things such as timing their public appearances post-New Hampshire vote to maximize TV time for them.

While I cannot prove that Paul running anti-Santorum ads isn't at the sole insistence of Romney-the-puppetmaster, certainly this entry does not support the weight of its headline. (Which may have been cheeky, but certainly reflects an idea–of a secret Paul-Romney treaty–that many are taking quite seriously. OMG, Rand Paul has said he'd consider it if offered the vice presidency!) 

Here's that latest Paul anti-Santorum ad:

First, we should get rid of the often-repeated but never-true statement that "Paul never attacks Romney." See this early ad from the summer comparing Romney and Obama (via images) as just two smooth-talking politicians, this June Moneybomb hooked off attacking Romneycare, Paul slamming Romney's wishy-washyness on Afghanistan in this June debate, and jabbing at his NDAA pusillanimity in this January one.

We should also remember that Paul's campaign has for a long time seen a race that's all about just Romney and Paul as providing the best chance for Paul to pick up the widest range of GOP insurgents, Tea Partiers, social cons looking for a traditionalist anti-abortion guy they can trust, and everyone wanting to tell the Establishment to shove it. While alas that Paul/Romney race is seeming less and less likely with every passing vote and Santorum's relentless rise, it's still something for Paul's campaign to bank on, and it continues to make perfect sense outside a narrative of "Paul is Romney's li'l buddy."

NBC in this oft-cited little piece is making a common mistake in Paul coverage: taking something that's been done and hashed over and treating it like new news or something extraordinary and requiring extraordinary explanation. They are trying to claim that Paul campaign attempts to spread oppo ideas about Santorum in the press and to voters–something that's been going on ever since Iowa–is new, and giving it a not-well-supported interpretation–that Paul running against the current frontrunner is merely a sign of Paul trying to help out the falling frontrunner, Romney. No, it's a sign of Paul trying to carve off whatever portion of that insurgent vote might want someone serious about low spending and limited government.

Yes, it is true that Paul's official paid campaign ads entirely dedicated to attacking other candidates (it's not something Paul-the-speaker tends to do much of, if at all) have been aimed at Gingrich and Santorum, but again that's part of an understandable strategy of path-clearing and an intelligent sense of whose voters might be up for grabs by Paul. It need not be explained by secret alliances, even if, as the New York Times reported last week, the two men have no personal hostility between each other, can speak friendlily, and their wives like each other.

Still, as even the Times concluded:

Mr. Paul has already provided some tactical help: When Mr. Romney began to flounder in South Carolina and was under attack over his career in leveraged buyouts, Mr. Paul came to his defense, suggesting that his critics were anticapitalist. His campaign even issued a press release assailing other rivals for, in Mr. Paul's view, taking Mr. Romney's quote about firing people out of context.

What is not clear is how much, and under what circumstances, Mr. Paul might ever provide any more tangible help to Mr. Romney. His aides say publicly that Mr. Paul is committed to winning the nomination. And the two camps are at odds right now over the outcome of last weekend's Maine caucuses, in which state Republican Party officials declared Mr. Romney the winner by a relatively small margin over Mr. Paul even though some places have yet to cast ballots.

That first graf is the usual sort of thinking involved in this whole "Paul-Romney alliance" idea–taking something that is absolutely and legitimately in Paul's interest, in this case speaking his mind accurately, leaping in to get his voice heard on the issue that was dominating the news that day (that's why you issue press releases) and refusing to jump on an anti-business bandwagon when asked about it and interpreting it as "tactical help" for Romney. Maybe it was, in effect; but that was clearly not why Paul said what he said. The second paragraph I think is a more accurate summation of what, at this point, any intelligent observer should be making of this whole alliance thing based on the actual evidence at hand: not much.

*In other Pauliana, is Paul really the frontrunner in the (barely polled) state of Washington? Says Kelley Haughton writing from Tacoma at Examiner.com:

His mostly volunteer campaign workers have a larger presence in Washington than any other Presidential candidate. They have been out doing nuts and bolts politics by identifying Ron Paul supporters, teaching them how to participate in the caucus process and encouraging them to get out on March 3. In this process, they have been reaching out to independent voters who previously have not thought of themselves as Republicans. The Ron Paul campaign is growing the Republican Party in the state of Washington. 

In 2008, Paul took 21% of the caucus vote in a four man race in the state of Washington. This year, the Paul campaign seems far more organized and to have far more supporters preparing for participation in the caucus process. In 2008, only 12,320 people participated in the caucus. If that many participate this year, given the turnout for these recent rallies, Ron Paul should win the state of Washington.

None of the other Republican Presidential candidates have near the presence in the state and no where near the enthusiasm for their candidate. It appears as if Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are focused on Super Tuesday and are leaving Washington to Paul.

*Press is noting the big SuperPAC money that eccentric libertarian-leaning rich man Peter Thiel is giving to Paul. From the Houston Chronicle's site:

when Thiel gave $900,000 in December and $1.7 million in January, he wasn't strictly endorsing Ron Paul — he donated in support of Paul's libertarian ideals…..

In an Endorse Liberty press release, Thiel explains why these principles of liberty and small-government are so important.

"Too often in this country we learn things the hard way – whether it's putting your nest egg in overvalued stocks, borrowing more than your house is worth, or amassing a mountain of student debt to pay for a degree with no real job prospects," he said. "With its unsustainable deficits, government spending is heading down the same path. Men and women who want freedom and growth should take action. A good place to start is voting for Ron Paul."

Endorse Liberty is a group of entrepreneurs and inventors who call for "open, unhampered creativity," citing innovation as an economic engine. …

The Atlantic notes Thiel's attraction to the eccentric in his giving:

That the Paul campaign, well-financed but not well-received by voters, would be bankrolled by Thiel makes perfect sense. Thiel, who is openly gay and Christian, has spent his considerable wealth on a number of mainstream and unorthodox causes including the Methuselah Foundation, a research organization that seeks to extend the human lifespan to 1,000 years; the Committee to Protect Journalists; gay-rights groups such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud; the Seasteading Institute, an organization set on building small floating countries in the middle of the sea for a "vivid, wilde-eyed dream" of a Libertarian island; and the Thiel Fellowship, which give grants of $100,000 to people under the age of 20 who drop out of school to pursue entrepreneurial projects. 

*Paul doesn't only have a billionaire backer, he has polls in a couple of states showing him beating Obama in a one-on-one: Iowa (where he's the only GOPer beating the margin of error against Obama) and Arizona.

*Roll Call has been hitting Paul with their findings of at least 26 flights the congressman took where he seems to have been reimbursed both by Congress and by private groups backing Paul:

In March 2005, David James called Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) Congressional office for some documentation.

James's nonprofit group, the Liberty Committee, had paid for one of Paul's flights, and James needed a receipt or boarding pass to document the expense…

The office manager said Paul's Congressional office no longer had documentation for that flight; Paul had sent it in to the House Finance Office for reimbursement. But Liberty Committee had already sent a check to American Express to cover the charge on Paul's credit card.

"I don't care what flights the Liberty Committee pays for," James said, "because Ron never took enough in expenses to come anywhere near his value to us. And this was piddly. But it's just what it was." James first thought it was 

accidental and faxed a letter to Paul's office, requesting that its money be returned for the flight. Paul did repay the $403.70, but the episode strained their relationship and led to a falling out a year later…..

Spokesman Jesse Benton said then it was "possible that wholly inadvertent errors were made in a handful of instances" in which flights were reimbursed twice, but he maintained that "absolutely zero taxpayer funds were ever misused."….

Paul recently told James that his office is investigating the payments and will return money to Liberty Committee if duplicate payments are found….

James told Roll Call that he and the Liberty Committee now want about $10,000 in reimbursements from Paul. Paul returned over $141,000 of taxpayer money to the Treasury last year from his congressional budget, an increase over the $100,000 he'd returned the year before, and about 9 percent of his office budget.

My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.