Rep. Ron Paul’s 1988 Libertarian Presidential campaign started with great promise: A former four-term Republican US Congressman running on the ticket of America’s third largest party. But it ended in failure and even scandal. Many were predicting over 1 million votes–a Libertarian record. Paul ended up with 435,000.
On the money front it was even more of a downer. By some estimates over $3.5 million was raised. Most of it was squandered on full-page NY Times ads, escapades to the Republican National Convention, and lavish luncheons for visiting Libertarian luminaries. On Election Day scores of Lawyers, and Accountants raided the Ron Paul for President Campaign Headquarters and closed down the campaign operation. Campaign Manager Nadia Hayes was arrested by the Nassau Bay, TX Police Department and later convicted for embezzlement of roughly $140,000.
American Libertarian magazine November 1988 described the situation: “â€¦a bizarre twist tough-talking campaign manager Nadia Hayes was sacked the day before the election. And the much awaited last minute campaign media blitz largely failed to materializeâ€¦. Paul campaign chair Burt Blumert and Paul campaign ghostwriter and direct mail fundraiser Lew Rockwell showed up… unannounced and unexpected (at HQ). Staff were told that they should leave… locksmiths turned up late in the day to change the locks on the office doors.”
Three years later, an undeterred Ron Paul prepared to launch yet another Presidential Campaign. Many inside the Paul camp were anxious to back a more successful effort and redeem their reputations. Several had been booted from the Libertarian Party in 1989. They were on the receiving end of a mini-purge largely resulting from the scandal-ridden ’88 effort.
Their new project was Ron Paul, Republican for President. The Trio of Paleo-libertarians Lew Rockwell, Burt Blumert and Murray Rothbard, conspired with ex-Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee members Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris to draft Paul to run again, this time in early GOP primaries.
Problem was Paul himself had stayed within the LP and wasn’t anxious to re-join the Republicans.
In the Fall of ’91 Burt Blumert, Paul’s longtime partner with his Camino Coins Gold business in Bulingame, CA and the Ron Paul Investment Letter, finally secured permission from Paul to launch an Exploratory Committee, and to raise money for the effort. Paul himself wanted to keep all his options open, including the option of another 3rd party bid.
Soon thereafter, Blumert, who is now the publisher of LewRockwell.com contacted this reporter and asked me to run the effort on the ground. I had served as Ron Paul’s travel aide in 1988, and had all the necessary contacts, particularly in critical states like New Hampshire. By December we had a few State Coordinators and volunteers in place in New Hampshire ready to go. Everything was under the radar, hoping to catch the Bush people off-guard.
But two weeks before our scheduled first trip to NH Pat Buchanan muscled his way into the campaign. On PBS’ McLaughlin Group, Buchanan announced that a “good source” told him â€œa former Congressmanâ€ was about to jump in and challenge Bush in the New Hampshire primary. .
Ron Paul and I had tickets in hand and a schedule mapped out for a New England swing. Then Buchanan called Paul up the night before our trip and asked him to drop out. Buchanan wanted to run himself. Paul agreed.
Murray Rothbard, writing in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report (RRR), wrote at the time:
As if our prayers were swiftly answered by Heaven, we now have that candidate and that leader: Pat Buchanan.
One might well ask: what about Ron Paul? In November, we called for Ron Paul to enter the Republican primaries, and we joined an exploratory committee to test the waters for that race. We generated an enormous amount of interest from libertarians and conservatives, and from the media, starved for some kind of contest in what had looked like a torpid and boring Bush coronation in 1992. Ron was determined that Bush would not go unchallenged, but he was not anxious for personal reasons to make the race. When Pat phoned him, without hesitation, Ron welcomed Pat’s entry into the race, and pledged his support to the Buchanan effort. Unlike most libertarians, Ron Paul understands the real world of politics, and he realizes that in Pat Buchanan we have an unprecedented opportunity to forge a powerful coalition, to create a new libertarian-conservative, Old Right movement.
The Paul effort quickly morphed into Pat Buchanan for President. Our New Hampshire Coordinator Chris Tremblay became Buchanan’s top Personal Aide throughout the Presidential Campaign. Blumert, Rockwell and Rothbard solicited funds for Buchanan’s campaign. Raimondo and Garris became leaders in the “Buchanan Brigades” on the grass roots level. Raimondo famously became the champion for “Gays for Buchanan” and even made a couple national TV appearances for his role. Young paleo-libertarians got into the Republican National Convention that August under the auspices of the “Buchanan Brigades.”
Over $80,000 was raised for the 1992 Paul for President Exploratory Committee. After Blumert closed up shop, a few vague promises were made to donors promising to spend the money on Ron Paul projects or a PAC supporting Ron Paul style candidates, but nothing ever materialized. Paul, out of Congress since 1985, went on to win a Texas Congressional seat in 1996, again with major fundraising assistance by Blumert and Rockwell.
2008 a replay of what was to be for 1992?
The general plan for Paul ’92 was to make a big splash in New Hampshire and possibly other early primary states. This was a modified strategy that we used from the 1988 Libertarian Presidential efforts when we campaigned extensively in both Iowa during the Caucuses and New Hampshire during the Primary.
The loosely conceived 1992 plan was to utilize the ballot access of the minor Constitutional parties as a fall back after losing the Republican primaries. Howard Phillips and his US Taxpayer’s Party were organizing. Other various smaller 3rd parties like the American Party and the rump of George Wallace’s American Independent Party had ballot status as well, most notably in California. Phillips had balked on supporting Paul on the Libertarian ticket in ’88 but was behind the scenes encouraging Paul to run Taxpayer’s Party for ’92.
Today, these parties are generally under the umbrella of the Constitution Party. The CP has one elected official–Montana State Senator Rick Jore. They have ballot access in 15 states under various names. Most recently they attained ballot status in Arkansas, and a currently conducting ballot drives in a number of other states.
In a last minute move the “Texas Independence Association” is seeking ballot access as a political party. Ballot Access News reports: “Texas law, since 1993, has required parties that plan to petition to give advance notice no later than January 2 of the election year. The Texas Independence Party recently notified the Secretary of State that it will attempt to qualify next year.” The quasi-secessionist group praises Ron Paul throughout their press release advising: “if Ron Paul is anywhere on the ballot, vote for him.”
And this late breaking news… The Constitution Party of Alabama has formally endorsed Ron Paul for President. MaryAnn Crum said in a press release Dec. 27, “We feel that Dr. Paul may be AMERICA’S LAST HOPE to return this country to it’s Constitution.” It went on to say “The ACP is an independent state political party and not affiliated with any national political party.”
The Constitution Party nominating convention will be held April 22-27 in Kansas City, MO.
At the same time there’s an active effort to recruit Paul on the Libertarian Party side, as well. The LP has become more Paleo-friendly in recent years with a stridently non-intervenionist stance, while largely casting out it’s former Pro-Defense wing. The battles of the late 1980s involving the Paleos have long been forgotten.
Libertarian Party Founder David Nolan even offered himself as a possible VP on a Paul ticket. He also let loose some insider LP information on the Yahoo Libertarian Radicals Board saying on December 19: “Eric Garris at antiwar.com was in the process of putting together an ad for the February ’08 issue of LP NEWS, wherein a ‘blue ribbon’ list of Libertarians would have done just what the LNC did in December: asked Ron Paul to seek our nomination. The ad was to appear right AFTER the February 5th Mega-Primary, when it will almost certainly be clear that the GOP will not be nominating Dr. Paul.”
What Nolan is referring to is the actions by the Libertarian National Committee December 1 and 2 in South Carolina, where LNC member, former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) introduced a resolution inviting Paul to run on the LP ticket. It was passed unanimously. The Paul campaign politely declined. For now.
Thomas Knapp of Rational Review wrote recently: “â€¦the whole LNC resolution thing was a coordinated activity. The Paul campaign knew about it in advance and approved/encouraged it (maybe even asked for it in the first place!); its movers on the LNC knew precisely what the reaction would be and why.”
Eric Garris soliciting top LP members to sign a letter urging Ron Paul to run on the Libertarian ticket is also no accident. Garris works directly for Lew Rockwell as his Web Designer and as one of his top political operatives. It’s hard to imagine Garris making such a step without Rockwell’s encouragement.
The Libertarian Party has won ballot access in 27 states so far. The Libertarian Party National Convention will be held in Denver, May 22-26.
On Meet the Press with Tim Russert Sunday, Dec. 22, Ron Paul responded that he “needed a little wiggle room” on the question of running as a 3rd party candidate. This could possibly signal that much like 1992, he plans to utilize the New Hampshire primary as a launching pad for a 3rd party effort either on the Constitution or Libertarian tickets, or possibly as a fusion candidate or Independent candidate with support from both parties.
Libertarian Party or Constitution Party route still seems to still be up in the air. Ron Paul, famously a ditherer right up until the end, may not even know the answer to that question himself right now. Ballot access wise, the Libertarian Party makes more sense for Paul. But ideologically the CP and other Constitutionalist Parties are a better fit. But with $18.8 million raised for his effort, one thing is sure; the likelihood of Paul just quietly pulling out of the race after a few losses in early GOP primaries is very slim.
One wonders though, given Paul’s track record with past Presidential runs, will the race end up with expectations met for the Ron Paul supporters and donors? Not too mention a full accounting of the funds raised? Or, will it end with disappointing vote totals and money spent unwisely as in his past efforts?
UPDATE: Ron Paul told the Washington Post yesterday that a third party bid would depend on “if the money is there…”
Editor’s Note – Eric Dondero served on Paul’s Congressional staff 1997 – 2003 as Senior District Aide & Scheduler. Eric Dondero is a US Navy Veteran, former Libertarian Party National Committeeman, Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus and fmr. Senior Aide to US Congressman Ron Paul R-TX. He is now a national Republican Political Consultant based in Houston, Texas.