It is hardly a new revelation that newsletters sent under Rep. Ron Paul's name often contained provocative and occasionally racist material. When the Texas Republican ran against Lefty Morris for Congress in 1996, the issue first surfaced as a potentially crippling skeleton in the closet. When Paul gained popularity as a truth-telling Libertarian-leaning presidential candidate in 2008, it came up once again.
Each time, Paul has denied that he knew what was being published in the Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter. They may have contained screeds against urban black culture; they may have ridiculed Martin Luther King Jr. as a philanderer; they may have accused the federal government of covering up the AIDS crisis; but none of it was being done with the congressman's sign-off, he claimed.
"I didn’t write them. I disavow them. That's it," Paul told CNN in a recent interview.
Now that he is poised to potentially win the Iowa Caucus in a matter of weeks, the idea that Paul was blissfully unaware of what was happening with his newsletters is being seriously challenged. On Thursday, USA Today reported that Paul had told the Dallas Morning News in 1996 that the contents of his newsletter were accurate -- including accusations that 95 percent of black men in Washington were "semi-criminal or entirely criminal" -- but that they needed to be taken in proper context. That same day, Reuters reported that Paul's signature was on a 1993 direct mailer warning of a "coming race war" and a "federal-homosexual cover-up," though the Paul campaign said he didn't write the mailer and disavows its content.
On Friday, The Huffington Post located an Oct. 11, 1996, article from the Houston Chronicle in which a Paul spokesman once more didn't dispute that he had authored some of the newsletters but accused the candidate's opponent of trying to make a political issue of something written in an "abstract" sense. Reviewing old videos in the C-SPAN Video Archive, The Huffington Post also uncovered previously unreported footage of Paul talking about how in his time away from public office he spent time on his newsletter.
"I also put out an investment type of letter because I've always been fascinated with the hard money school, and been interested in the gold standard, so I put out an investment letter on those lines," he said in a C-SPAN interview on May 29, 1987, amidst his run for the presidency on the Libertarian ticket.
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It is worth noting that the most controversial of the Paul newsletters -- Ron Paul Political Report -- was started in 1987, while the Ron Paul Investment Letter and the Ron Paul Survival Report began in 1985. Likewise, most of the inflammatory material that has surfaced (much of it published Friday by the New Republic) came years after the C-SPAN interview.
Paul may, indeed, have not authored the political and cultural commentary that would make these newsletters such a political liability. The most common suspicion is that the material was written by Lew Rockwell, his former chief of staff and the man listed as editor on these letters' mastheads.
But the notion that he was totally unaware is increasingly difficult to believe. Certainly, in May of 1987, he was acknowledging that he knew about and was invested in the success of these newsletters, and they would generate an estimated $1 million in one year alone. And as reported by Andrew Kaczynski, the video archivist, he continued to take ownership of them through 1995.