Obsessed as he is with Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul comments almost constantly on her family finances, often snarking about the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation — as he did to Politico‘s Mike Allen within minutes of announcing his own presidential candidacy on Tuesday. Suggesting dishonesty or worse, he barks about “thinly disguised bribery,” “shenanigans,” and a “trail of money” that will “shake the confidence” of American voters.
While there is nothing wrong with vetting Clinton — or consulting the publicly available foundation records that exceed IRS requirements for transparency — the Kentucky senator should remember that “follow the money” is a game everybody can play. And since he believes that any funds raised or spent by Bill Clinton are fair game, shouldn’t the same rule apply to all the financial “shenanigans” that surround his millionaire father, Ron Paul?
When he ran for president in the Republican primary three years ago, the Texas Republican drew the attention of Washington reporters and ethical watchdogs bemused by his habit of using campaign funds and congressional expense reimbursements to enrich himself and his family. In 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington examined every congressional campaign filing — and Paul had paid more of his relatives with campaign funds than any other member. His re-election committee paid salaries to his daughter, his grandson, his daughter’s mother-in-law, his granddaughter, and his grandson-in-law — namely Jesse Benton, who just took charge of Rand Paul’s SuperPAC.
Total payments to Paul and his family in that cycle were nearly $400,000 — and this dubious practice, illegal in some states, has continued.
During the first few months of 2012, Roll Call published a series of stories citing credit card records that showed Ron Paul billed travel expenses to both his congressional office account — that is, to the taxpayers — and several political organizations that were controlled by him and his family. When one of those committees came under independent management, the new leadership noted the discrepancies and complained that he had “double-billed” at least $20,000 and possibly much more. (According to the ubiquitous and scandal-tinged Benton, married to Rand Paul’s niece and Ron Paul’s sometime employee, those were all mere bookkeeping errors.)
But the nagging, never-answered question about the Paul family business is how much of Ron’s millions were the fruit of Ron Paul & Associates — corporate purveyors of the racist, anti-Semitic, gay-baiting, conspiracy-addled newsletters that raked in millions over two decades from their dim ultra-right subscribers.
The Washington Post reported in January 2012 that under his supervision, Paul’s company “pursued a marketing strategy that included publishing provocative, racially charged newsletters to make money and spread his ideas…” In other words, he sought to profit from the bigotry of his supporters.
No doubt Rand Paul will soon demand to see even more records than Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have released already — every email, every canceled check, maybe every dry-cleaning bill. As of 2008, the last time either of them ran for elected office, Bill and Hillary Clinton had released 30 years of income tax returns (in addition to her Senate disclosures, the foundation’s IRS returns, and the additional information provided by the foundation since her appointment as Secretary of State).
If and when Hillary Clinton is asked to release her tax returns again sometime this year, you can bet she won’t give the cute answer offered by Ron Paul when asked to release his tax returns at a debate in 2012:
“I don’t have any intention of releasing it – but for a different reason. I’d probably be embarrassed to put my financial statements next to [the other candidates’] income and I don’t want to be embarrassed because I don’t have a greater income.”
Does anyone really believe that’s why the former proprietor of Ron Paul’s Survival Report refused to release his returns?