When I read this very well-documented story in the Lone Star Times about the $500 donation to Ron Paul from well-known white supremacist Don Black, I didn't really blame Paul for taking the money. After all, it's hard to screen out every kook in advance. I assumed Paul would immediately return the money (or donate it to a group like the Holocaust Museum), prevent a link on Black's Neo-Nazi website, Stormfront, from connecting to the campaign's donation page, and announce these moves on the official Ron Paul website. I assumed wrong.
Five days after the Lone Star Times story appeared, Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told the paper he was still unsure whether the campaign would return Black's money. "At this time, I cannot say that we will be rejecting Mr. Black's contribution," he said, "but I will bring the matter to the attention of our campaign director again, and expect some sort of decision to be made in coming days." Would the campaign at least block fundraising links from Stormfront's IP address? Again, Benton said, he'd have to bring up the idea with the campaign director.
Since then, more than two weeks have passed without an update from the Paul campaign, so I sent Benton and email today asking what the campaign manager had decided. Would Paul be returning Black's money and blocking further donations from Stormfront? A few minutes later he wrote back, and this is what he said:
(Continue reading after the jump)
Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and the protection of inalienable individual rights for every American. All of our campaigns energy is dedicated to spreading the message of liberty and limited government, and we do not spend time screening donors or blocking websites. We don't know who Don Black is, and pay him no attention. If a small number individuals who hold racist beliefs want to waste their money by giving to Dr. Paul, a man who stands firmly against their small minded ideologies, then the campaign will simply use those funds to protect freedom, peace and civil liberties across our Nation.
Frankly, I find the glibness of this response appalling, and I could not disagree more with its reasoning. Accepting Black's dirty money creates an implied obligation to these nut jobs and their priorities, which, even if rejected by Paul, is hard to deny. Are we to simply take Paul's word that these people aren't buying anything? How are we to know that Paul doesn't share their motives? Does Paul support tighter border controls because he fears a drain on social services, or because he doesn't like brown people? Now it's hard to know. I say this reluctantly, as someone who has a great deal of respect for Paul's courageous stands on issues such as the war in Iraq: I no longer believe that Paul is a man of principle. There is simply never any principle to taking cash tainted with the blood of Auschwitz and Jim Crow.
More thoughts: In the comments Paulites have echoed Benton's assertion that money from racists is better spent on the Paul campaign than on the active promotion of racism. This is true, but it doesn't make it right to accept the money. The fact remains that some people will view its acceptance as a legitimization of the racists who donated it, no matter what Paul says to the contrary. Racism in America has been a duplicitous endeavor. Why do you think members of the KKK wore masks? Actions speak louder than words here, and if Paul really cared about rebuking the Neo-Nazis, he would do so in the most direct way possible, which is to donate their money to a group that counters them, such as the Anti-Defamation League. (More on Paul and racism here, here, and here).
Ultimately, the Paulites might be correct that this incident isn't worth taking seriously. The Neo-Nazis are not a great threat to American society, and in the end, neither is Paul. He has made a buffoonish, politically tone deaf move, and it confirms, despite his great strides in recent months, that he is still a fringe candidate with no hope of winning the presidency. There's simply no way America will elect a candidate who knowingly takes money from Neo-Nazis.
Update: Because of this post, my membership in Ron Paul's San Francisco Meetup group has been revoked. This morning Stephanie Burns, who administers the group, wrote to me in an email: "I am removing you from our Meetup Group as you certainly aren't a Ron Paul supporter. I suggest you spend your time looking at bigger issues than a stupid $500 donation from someone the campaign did not even know. . . .Why don't you focus your efforts on the Neo nazis in power, instead of some stupid nut job who happens to support a candidate (every candidate has them, Josh, check it out)."
Does this mean that a perquisite of membership is the San Francisco Ron Paul Meetup group is a belief that it is morally fine to accept donations from Neo-Nazi groups? Will others who question this policy also be booted? It certainly seems strange that a campaign that portrays itself as a big tent, where even Neo-Nazis are welcome, is simultaneously so intolerant of dissent.
More on that dissent: Comments to this post have evolved into complaints that Paul is unfairly being singled out. Paulites contend that kooks donate to all of the candidates and ask why I'm only pointing this out in Paul's case. To that I say, show me a proven example of a well-known Neo-Nazi group (or its leader) donating money to another well-known presidential candidate, or posting fundraising ads for the candidate on their web page. I will then contact that candidate and ask if they will reject the money. If they will not, I will blog about it. This is exactly the scenario with Paul. A second recurring critique is the the notion I have some agenda to discredit Paul, which is somehow proven by the fact that I've researched this issue. In reality, researching and writing this blog post took me about an hour. Meanwhile, I have spent months researching the campaign for forthcoming stories, as many here in San Francisco know. It's hard to see how that constitutes an anti-Paul agenda. IMHO, Paul supporters should be doing some soul-searching right now. See, for example, the anti-semitic comments below by "No Mo Jooz." Why has nobody repudiated this guy?