Where will Paul’s campaign money go?

At Volokh, Ilya Somin writes about the opportunity cost of donating to the Ron Paul campaign. That is, given how things have turned out, think of what better use these dollars could have been put to in the hands of a group like the Institute for Justice.

A more troubling cost is how the remaining money may yet be spent. From my understanding of the law, Paul could donate leftover millions to a non-profit organization of his choosing. Yes, I believe this includes the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the group that’s been vocally supporting Paul and that’s currently headed by the guy widely thought to have been his frequent ghost writer when the offensive newsletters were published.

11 CFR 113.2(b) provides [pdf]: “In addition to defraying expenses in connection with a campaign for federal office, funds in a campaign account . . . [m]ay be contributed to any organization described in section 170(c) of Title 26, of the United States Code . . . .” [meaning organizations who may receive tax-deductible contributions.]

I’m not a lawyer, so I may be incorrect. However this seems like a direct application of the law. For those of us who donated to the campaign, this would not be a thrilling outcome.

Comments

  1. Barzelay says:

    “I’m not a lawyer…”

    The funny thing about that phrase is that it’s one of the most lawyerly things you could possibly say, disclaiming liability for any errors you may have made.

    If you were a lawyer, you would say, “But I am not an administrative law attorney, so I could be wrong.” And if you were an administrative law attorney, you would say, “But I am not a campaign finance attorney, so I could be wrong.” And if you were a campaign finance attorney, you would say, “But I haven’t researched that issue, so I could be wrong.” And if you had researched that issue, you would say, “But there is some contradictory case law, so I could be wrong.”

  2. Phil Magness says:

    Jacob – FWIW take a look at Raimondo’s blog on the whole newsletter thing.

    http://www.takimag.com/site/article/why_the_beltway_libertarians_are_trying_to_smear_ron_paul/

    I know it’s Raimondo, and I know there’s a lot of inflammatory crap in there directed at Cato & others in the D.C. circles, but if you cut through that he makes some valid observations about the newsletters and some poignant critiques of Jamie Kirchick’s standards of journalism. The newsletters are still troubling, but I find them much less so today after reading some of the rebuttals.

    Sadly, I think a story that has been lost in all of this is how it highlights the libertarian movement’s fondness for the circular firing squad. I make this assessment as a conservative with strong libertarian tendencies, and as one who has tried for many years to build a stronger libertarian wing of the Republican Party in hopes of someday making libertarianism electable again. I don’t aim to take sides in the Rockwell/Cato war, and frankly there’s plenty of guilt to go around there for almost all involved. But I’ve long considered the unparalleled schismatic tendencies of the libertarian movement to be its greatest barrier to electoral viability, and when I see things like the Kirchick/Paul newsletter dispute it suggests that many people involved are more than content to keep it that way. If there’s a wound to be seen in the body of libertarianism from this thing, it is self inflicted – not only by Paul’s campaign in bungling the newsletters, but also by Kirchick, by Cato, by Reason, by Mises, by the LP, by just about everyone who has gotten involved in this sordid affair. Cutting off the nose to spite the face comes to mind as an accurate descriptor, to say nothing of the immense and disheartening irony I find in watching an ideology built around the freedom of ideas self-destruct over the doctrinaire rigidity of its petty warring factions.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on Paul just as it is with numerous lesser libertarian-oriented political campaigns. Maybe it’s just a fatal characteristic of the movement. The movement as a whole tends to view itself as the losing, contrarian side of an inevitable decline into statism. When that’s the case, the simple act of “winning” once in a while violates the apocalyptic outlook and therefore, unsurprisingly, never happens.

  3. Phil Magness says:

    Also FWIW I think the Volokh stuff on opportunity cost is completely wrongheaded. For starters, it mistakes the nature of the lost opportunity (i.e. donation to a “better” cause). It assumes an implicit indifference parity between donating to Paul and donating to Libertarian Cause X, when in fact the issue is probably better captured in a tradeoff between donating to Paul and not donating to anything (i.e. using the money on something else). The Paul fundraising phenomenon is itself a bizarre reversal of the collective action paradox in that group size seems to actually be a self-feeding characteristic. The more Paul takes in now, the more people pull out money and donate in the future. That’s how the whole money-bomb thing worked, and it is unparalleled in the history of campaign finance.

    The Volokh guys are simply being wishful when they wonder what pet project would have gotten the money that was supposedly lost in opportunity through Paul’s campaign because that money would never have been there to begin with. It also attests to the problem of libertarian electoral viability, in that efforts at obtaining it are automatically cast aside as inherently wasted in comparison with policy projects on the side that, ultimately, find their efforts handicapped for the precise reason that libertarianism lacks electoral viability =-)

    I’m not saying Paul’s campaign was ever the answer to that problem, and there remains the point about what he will do with his leftover money (my prediction is he simply spends it all the way through the convention, or transfers the remainder over to his congressional account and buoys himself for a couple more terms on it). But electoral viability is an issue the libertarian movement will have to address in some way or another if it ever hopes to be anything more than a collection of abstract ideas bantered around in academic circles.

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