Tampa – At one point during the Ron Paul Revolution there was no bigger advocate for the advancement of the Texas congressman than Adam Kokesh. He was the poster boy for disaffected military veterans and agitated twenty-somethings who gravitated to Paul's unique blend of paleoconservativism and libertarianism. Kokesh organized Veterans for Ron Paul, donated an estimated $1,000 to the campaign, led marches, and even ran for Congress in New Mexico in 2010. He was Mr. Ron Paul for President.
Sitting backstage at the unofficial Ron Paul Festival at the Florida State Fairgounds in a tight "Liberty" t-shirt Kokesh tells me that's all over.
"I am not a Ron Paul supporter anymore," said Kokesh while waiting for a band to go on.
"I support his message, love the man but there was a point that turned for me back in January and if anything I should have been more upfront about it sooner. I used to be able to say no matter how much money or support you invested in him he would use it as effectively as you would to forward the message, advance the cause. I can't say that anymore," he said.
Kokesh referred to the Paul political organization as "Ron Paul Inc." and said he was attempting to transition over to "Rand Paul Inc.," something he is not thrilled about.
"I like Rand but he's not one of us. He's not a voluntaryist like his father. He's an ally and a principled conservative."
Is Rand a libertarian?
"No, absolutely not," said Kokesh.
Ron is though, right?
"Absolutely," he answered.
What about Gary Johnson?
"In the intellectual sense but not in the philosophical sense," he said.
According to various Paul fan sites Kokesh was banned from the official Paul campaign event at the Sun Dome. Kokesh poo-pooed the rally, noting all the empty seats at a venue that was smaller than the one used for a similar rally in 2008. When reached by phone, Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton declined to comment on these claims but did say, "We respect Adam's service but he's a very troubled young man. We just hope he can get his life together."
Kokesh didn't want to talk about his relationship with the campaign but had harsh words for Benton. "If [Benton] wants a career as a political operative, that's fine," he said, "but nobody that donated to Ron Paul for the right reasons, because they believe in the message, is going to give money to anything that Jesse Benton has his name on."
Though disaffected with the Paul campaign, Kokesh said he plans to stay active in electoral politics.
"I feel like I am behind the curve of the movement. I had an unhealthy emotional attachment to the campaign, to the idea of the Ron Paul presidency and what he represented. I let it affect my decisions in a negative way," he said.
*Author's note: An earlier version of this post said that Kokesh was having a beer during this interview. He was not.