The controversy over Ron Paul’s newsletter business erupted again on Friday — just days before the Florida primary — when three former associates of the libertarian presidential candidate contradicted his earlier claims of ignorance about the racist and anti-Semitic material published under his name. Although the Texas Congressman has previously insisted that he had been unaware of the newsletters’ racial slurs, his former secretary Renae Hathaway, who still supports his candidacy, said: “It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product. .?.?. He would proof it.” Hathaway told the Washington Post that Paul was a “hands-on boss” who frequently visited the publication’s offices despite his busy schedule as a Congressman and practicing physician.
Confirmation of Hathaway’s recollections came from Eric Dondero Rittberg, another ex-aide, who told the Post that Paul approved all the final copy in his newsletters during the 1990s, when the racist articles appeared. As other former Paul associates have suggested, Rittberg said that the Congressman’s motives involved greed more than bigotry. “The real big money came from some of that racially tinged stuff,” Rittberg said, “but he also had to keep his libertarian supporters, and they weren’t at all comfortable with that.” According to the Post’s analysis, the newsletter business was so profitable that Paul went from personal indebtedness to a net worth of more than $5 million.
Although the newsletters were reportedly written and edited by Lew Rockwell – a close associate of Paul and longtime far-right pamphleteer — the Congressman was not only aware of their contents but endorsed the strategy behind them. Ed Crane, who headed the libertarian Cato Institute for many years and knows Paul well dating back to their years together in the Libertarian Party, said the Congressman told him that the strongest response to his mailings came from the subscriber lists of The Spotlight, then the weekly publication of neo-Nazi Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby.
A spokesman for the Paul campaign said that Paul didn’t recall that conversation with Crane, and more broadly denied the descriptions of his role in publishing the newsletter by Rittberg, Hathaway, and another former employee who spoke to the Post anonymously. The Paul campaign also directed reporters to Mark Elam, owner of the company that printed the newsletter, who said Paul was “a busy man” in those days. “I just do not believe he was either writing or regularly editing this stuff,” Elam said.
The emerging story of Paul’s newsletters is hardly flattering to the candidate. Is it plausible that he paid no attention to a business that employed his wife and daughter and earned millions of dollars for him? Or was it ethical for him to market the newsletters as the products of his intellect and insight if he knew nothing of their contents?
What remains ironic is how little impact the newsletter controversy is likely to have on his candidacy, even as his fellow presidential hopefuls are held accountable for positions and actions from past decades. The Republican Party will always marginalize the droll old doctor, not because of the vile bigotry in his past, but because he now defends constitutional rights, criticizes U.S. foreign policy, and denounces the war on drugs. Republican audiences still cheer whenever Newt Gingrich blows the racial dog whistle, after all — the louder, the better.