Ron Paul’s Unusual Nonprofit Support Structure

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December 24, 2011; Source: Washington Post (Associated Press) | Congressman Ron Paul is an idea man of sorts.  His passionate libertarian supporters probably don’t think that the septuagenarian congressman is going to make it to the Republican nomination, though for open primaries, his collection of Republicans, libertarians, and anti-war Democrats could keep him hovering at the 25 percent level in the polls for some time. 

Idea men typically have nonprofits promoting their ideas, and so does Paul. Back in 2008, we described Ron Paul’s Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE), with its front page reading “Ron Paul Presents” and content headers such as “Ron Paul’s ‘Freedom Report,’” “Ron Paul’s video television series,” and the “Ron Paul Freedom Library”.  It looked more than a little partisan to us at that time.

The Associated Press has picked up on this storyline profiling other nonprofits that appear close to Congressman Paul’s electoral campaign, including Campaign for Liberty (C4L) and Young Americans for Liberty.  AP suggests that “these nonprofits…blur the line between his presidential campaign and issue advocacy in a way experts say runs afoul of the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of federal tax and campaign finance law.”  As Paul left his 2008 campaign, he encouraged supporters to continue their activism on libertarian issues by joining his new C4L nonprofit.  As he put it, C4L was sort of a continuation of his campaign apparatus, converted to nonprofit status as a “legal formality”—the formality of a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.   

No surprise, these two nonprofits served as holding pens for Ron Paul’s campaign staff between 2008 and the current presidential campaign, much as we have seen other nonprofits used by political candidates, notably the Reform Institute which served as a place for John McCain’s campaign staff to park between the Arizona senator’s 2004 and 2008 campaigns  and the various high-minded sounding charities created by the serially disingenuous John Edwards.  These nonprofit vehicles also serve to keep the non-candidate’s names in front of the electorate until they decide to reveal themselves as candidates again. 

Presumably, Paul’s big idea nonprofits do not include the virulently racist notions published in the Congressman’s various newsletters over the years, including Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Political Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and the Ron Paul Investment Letter.  Paul recently disavowed the newsletters, claiming that they were written by people he failed to monitor closely enough.  Maybe Paul’s nonprofits will disavow the libertarian’s support from members of the white supremacist group Stormfront who like Paul because, according to one Stormfront spokesperson, “he wins many fans because his monetary policy would hurt Jews.” –Rick Cohen