Rand Paul

Are Ron Paul's Fundraisers a Shadowy Threat to Rand Paul's Political Future?

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David Weigel at Slate wrote a somewhat dizzyingly detailed piece today that asks the subtitular question: "Could the shadowy network of Rand Paul's old fundraising machine sink his presidential ambitions?"

Answer: probably not. If you wanted to know a whole lot about the various different companies and campaigns that Paul family fundraiser Mike Rothfeld and his company Saber Communications do work for—all of them within the general unsurprising bailiwick of right-wing politics—this will give you some names and facts.

If you want to be reminded that Ron Paul campaign worker Dimitri Kesari likely paid off an Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, to abandon a Michele Bachmann endorsement and give a Ron Paul endorsement (see my blogging about that back last August), this will remind you. Neither the bribed senator nor the Paul campaign worker Dennis Fusaro who taped the phone conversations that led to the public revelation of the scandal think that Ron Paul himself knew about it.

Weigel talks a lot about how various workers in the Paul fundraising and campaign machine used to work for right-wing mail, fundraising, and lobbying house the National Right to Work Committee (NRTW). Weigel sees some of NRTW's activities in the 2010 Iowa Senate race as potentially campaign finance law violations.

Interesting from a more ideological standpoint (but not discussed much in Weigel's article, which has other fish to fry, though Weigel does mention the Rothfeld crowd "are mistrusted by some in the 'liberty movement'") is how the more hardcore libertarian anti-interventionist types in the larger Paul fan movement back in 2011-12 always mistrusted and even hated the NRTW elements in the campaign, especially Rothfeld.

Rothfeld's comedic-serious personal aggressiveness and desire to keep the campaign and the movement firmly ensconsed in the world of right-wing ideas and practices he knew he could raise money on made him a personal devil to many who went through his political activist training boot camps. Rothfeld is the sort of fellow who clearly accepted every ounce of hate and drank it like the delicious tears of his enemies. (I once had the pleasure of being kicked out of a meeting I had driven an hour or more to cover when Rothfeld learned that I was present and a reporter.)

Complaints about how this or that faction was messing up or ruining the Paul campaign could be heard from all sides constantly. It's always at best an arguable point rather than something the complainer could prove. But certainly Kesari, when I interviewed him back in September 2012, was very happy to distance Paul from any connotations of being some kind of anti-Empire peacenik.

Kesari averred that "some people think [Ron Paul's] just a peacknik and hates Israel and wants to let people do whatever they want and have bombs and that's not really the case. If Ron were president and someone did something against us, Ron would be the first one to push the button, not the last one." While admitting the paid ad messaging for the Paul campaign didn't talk foreign policy much, Kesari denied the NRTW pros were trying to quash that message. Regardless, from having seen Paul do his stump speech many, many times in that 2011-12 campaign, there is no way to quash his foreign policy message. Paul never failed to make it central in his speeches and at least once in my presence told a group of donors that it was his key reason for running.

If Rand Paul does end up squeezing out the Rothfeld fundraising machine because of associations with political sleaze (even of an abstruse type that will likely not have much national media play), that may please some of those types. Then again, Rand Paul might have his own reasons for not coming across as a full-on Ron Paul anti-imperial warrior. But no one is apt to score serious political points against a surging Paul for President '16 campaign—if we come to that point—over Mike Rothfeld. Although the article did a great job of casting shadows. I got an email today from a relative who'd read the story asking "is this true?" though he wasn't exactly sure what dark thing in it we should be concerned with being true.