The Corner

Ron Paul and Alex Jones

On the Right, or in parts of it anyway, hatred of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) arguably matches or even exceeds antipathy toward Hillary Clinton. So eager are conservative bloggers to pounce on Paul that a number of them have accused him of “paying” $1,300 to 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Asks “AllahPundit” of Hot Air:

Assuming it’s the same Alex Jones, which seems a safe bet, pray tell what might that payment have been for? The likeliest explanation is that it’s some sort of service fee, either Jones doing something on behalf of the campaign or allowing the campaign to do something using his property.

This was one of several different places the same item has now appeared (only the original blog to get this wrong appears to have “clarified” as I write this). Herein lies a major hazard of the blogosphere. For each time someone strikes gold and demonstrates what a fool Dan Rather is, there is another moment where bloggers can’t be bothered to do five minutes of research that could spare them a bit of embarrassment and prevent readers from being misinformed.

The “payment” to Jones (and yes, it is that same Jones) was not a payment at all, but a partial refund of Jones’s $2,300 contribution. It is clearly marked as such, if you look in the right place on the electronic FEC forms. Paul’s spokesman said he put a line in to the campaign treasurer when he noticed it being discussed on the blogosphere, but that’s the answer he’s going to get.

The bloggers also raise the more legitimate question of why Paul would take money from a nut like Jones in the first place. Certainly, any association with Jones is a negative for Paul (or anyone else), but it’s not as though the money was stolen (ala Norman Hsu) or donated illegally. It really just depends on how bad Paul is willing to look. At some point, most candidates prefer to give money back or donate it to charity to avoid controversy.

I’m not necessarily convinced that this is always the best way to deal with the problem — why not just denounce the donor and merrily cash the check? It depends on the pain threshold in your press shop. Paul is famously non-image-conscious. This is in some ways admirable, but it could prove harmful if he doesn’t do something about neo-Nazi leader Don Black’s $500 contribution (a spokesman said that was just noticed on Saturday — to their credit, because of the bloggers). No one thinks Ron Paul is a Nazi, but any association there is the most toxic kind of association possible.

I fear that Paul isn’t about to denounce Jones, and it’s a shame. When Paul made his most recent appearance on Jones’s radio show, I asked the candidate’s spokesman why he continues to associate with Jones. I detected some quiet frustration in his answer that Paul had promised the interview and that he keeps his word in such matters. Considering that Jones’s entire operation exploits gullible people willing to believe anything about 9/11, he might want to consider making fewer such promises in the future.

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