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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Libertarians React To Paul Newsletter Scandal

The mainstream libertarian world is reacting to the Ron Paul newsletter controversy by denouncing the kookiness that the leading paleolibertarians around Paul seem to attract and even encourage. David Boaz at the Cato Institute gives the most perceptive take on it so far:

Assuming Ron Paul in fact did not write those letters, people close to him did. His associates conceived, wrote, edited, and mailed those words. His closest associates over many years know who created those publications. If they truly admire Ron Paul, if they think he is being unfairly tarnished with words he did not write, they should come forward, take responsibility for their words, and explain how they kept Ron Paul in the dark for years about the words that appeared every month in newsletters with “Ron Paul” in the title.

Paul says he didn’t write the letters, that he denounces the words that appeared in them, that he was unaware for decades of what 100,000 people were receiving every month from him. That’s an odd claim on which to run for president: I didn’t know what my closest associates were doing over my signature, so give me responsibility for the federal government.

Reason's Radley Balko's take is a close second in perceptiveness. The Free Liberal calls on the newsletters' "contributing editor" Lew Rockwell to identify who wrote the decades' worth of damning material. In a very effective defense of his role in the scandal, Ron Paul told CNN that he was merely the "publisher" and that "the editor is responsible for the daily activities." Wendy McElroy says the identity of the author is an "open secret" in her circle, and calls on the author to not "further sully the libertarian movement by your silence". She approvingly quotes someone speculating that the author is someone "equally as prominent to Paul and remains a close confidant of the Paul campaign" and says Paul was a "mentor" to the author -- again, this sure sounds like Lew Rockwell. However, Reason editor Matt Welch opens the Nexis kimono and quotes extensively from articles in the mid-1990s, in which Paul repeatedly declined to deny authorship of the milder quasi-racist newsletter comments that were questioned during his 1996 congressional campaign.

The most bizarre thing about this whole sorry episode is the deafening silence coming from Ron Paul gadfly and disgruntled ex-aide Eric Dondero, whose extensive archive of movement literature would presumably have included some of these newsletters. Is he just sulking that he got scooped by Kirchik?

Noon update: Dondero has indeed named names; see the comments below.


Anonymous said...

What? Dondero has been all over the Internet detailing what he knew about the production of the newsletter. Google him.

Brian Holtz said...

Anonymous is right: Dondero has indeed commented on this, despite his silence on his blog and Yahoo group devoted to LP history. He wrote Thursday evening at

Here are the cold hard facts:

Who wrote the Newsletters?

Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell. From what I witnessed in my 12 years working for Ron, I’d say maybe 40% came from him in the way of scribbles (and I literally do mean scribbles) on a yellow pad, that was then faxed to his office staff in South Houston for editing and publication.

I’d estimate that the rest – 50 to 60% was written by Lew. But when I say Lew I also mean his staff of Interns, which during that period included most prominently Jeff Tucker and Mark Thornton of Auburn Univ. in Alabama.

It was my general impression that Thornton wrote the bulk of the heavy economic stuff, Tucker the political stuff, Lew crime and race relations, Ron Paul anti-Israel/foreign policy.

As to the Production Team:

In the 1980s Nadia Hayes was Newsletter Publisher. Her assistant was Jean McCiver. Both lived in South Houston/Clear Lake area. The office was located on 1120 Nasa Rd. 1, Suite 1 (catty-corner from the NASA Space Center.)

The Newsletter itself was produced and printed by Marc Elam, Ron’s longtime Campaign Manager, out of Elam’s office on Fuqua, South Houston, very close to Hobby Airport.

Hayes was forced to resign in an Embezzlement scandal in late 1988 involving the Investment Newsletter and Ron Paul’s other business and political enterprises.

McIver then took over. She was assisted by David Mertz, better known as David James, a close friend and associate of current Ron Paul Campaign Co-Campaign Manager Kent Snyder. Both Snyder and James currently live in Northern, VA, Falls Church area.

For the period in question, early 1990s, post Nadia Hayes, David James, Jean McIver and Marc Elam were the entire Production Team and Editors of the Newsletters.

Lew Rockwell was more of a Contributing writer, and less Editor. But his writing, as I said before, constituted approx. 50 to 60% of the Newsletters.

All of this is general knowledge known by all Ron Paul campaign and Congressional staffers. There are numerous individuals who can be contacted to confirm these facts, both present and employees of Ron Paul.

They can also be confirmed by Houston-area libertarians and Ron Paul activists.

Brian Holtz said...

And Tom Knapp wrote perceptively there Thursday night:

The question of who actually wrote the stuff isn’t as relevant to Paul’s presidential campaign as it is to the libertarian movement. The credibility of LewRockwell.Com and the Ludwig von Mises Institute are VERY much at stake here.

As to why it doesn’t really matter from a campaign perspective who wrote the stuff, Jim Henley connects the dots—there’s a bright red line running directly from those newsletters to this campaign, and that red line is PAUL’S FUNDRAISING LISTS.

When Paul runs for office the lists come out and the money comes in. And how did he build those lists? By hawking newsletters, telling the readers of those newsletters EXACTLY the kinds of things they wanted to hear, and then hitting them up for money to elect SOMEONE WHO THINKS LIKE THEM to office.

Without those lists, no campaign. Without those newsletters, no lists, or at least not as many.

Yes, he has other lists. For example, he has the list of donors to his 1988 Libertarian Party presidential campaign … a campaign he was able to run in the first place because he had been publishing his newsletters for at least ten years and had established a donor base with them.

Ron Paul’s post-1978-or-so political career, right up until the “money bombs” took off on their own last November has pretty much been made possible by those newsletters. And that’s because the readers of those newsletters supported what they read in those newsletters. That’s not “old news.”