A closer look at Rand Paul’s campaign contributors
In The Fall and Rise of Rand Paul (Jonathan Miller, Details Magazine), Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul reveals appalling ignorance about the environmental calamity of mountaintop removal mining (MTR):
“I think they should name it something better,” he says. “The top ends up flatter, but we’re not talking about Mount Everest. We’re talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I’ve seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass.” Most people, he continues, “would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it.”
“Let’s let you decide what to do with your land,” he says. “Really, it’s a private-property issue.”
…something between indifference and diffidence about the role corporate wrongdoing played in the Big Branch mine disaster earlier this year:
“Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?” Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. “The bottom line is I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn’t sound…” Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. “I want to be compassionate,” he concludes, “and I’m sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?”
…and some astonishing ignorance about the state he hopes to represent as a Senator:
Rand Paul and I are trying to remember why Harlan, Kentucky might be famous. That’s where Paul is driving me, on a coiling back road through the low green mountains of the state’s southeastern corner, in his big black GMC Yukon festooned with RON PAUL 2008 and RAND PAUL 2010 stickers. Something about Harlan has lodged itself in my brain the way a shard of barbecue gets stuck in one’s teeth, and I’ve asked Paul for help. “I don’t know,” he says in an elusive accent that’s not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: “It’s famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard.” (links added)
But it’s the way he summed up his libertarian purism for a meeting in Harlan, Kentucky that I’d like to focus on particularly. Again, it was in reference to mountaintop removal; here’s how Nola Sizemore of the Harlan Daily Enterprise reported his remarks:
I think some of these people complaining about [mountaintop removal] need to come and take a look at it. I say, if you don’t live here, it’s none of your business. Ask the people who live here about it.
Paul said he can’t see why residents of Louisville and Lexington should have any say in what people do with their land in other areas. He said he hadn’t heard any complaints from people who live here. (emphasis added)
Maybe because the ones who are against MTR know it’s a waste of time showing up at your events, Mr. Paul. At any rate, they’d be right to suspect he doesn’t think it’s any of their business either, once they got a look at where his campaign contributions are coming from. As Greg Skilling of the Louisville Independent Examiner puts it,
“Rand Paul believes almost everything should be handled at the state and local level – everything except for campaign fundraising. A quick look at Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports filed by Rand Paul’s campaign and it becomes immediately clear that Kentuckians are vastly outnumbered on the donor list by people who live outside the Bluegrass State. Like his father Ron, Rand Paul has used the Internet to successfully solicit out-of-state campaign contributions from individuals.“
Skilling identifies out-of-state PAC contributions from Sarah Palin’s PAC, Duke Energy, and the like, but left his analysis at “vastly outnumbered.” So I had a closer look at those FEC reports, and specifically at the breakout of individual vs. committee and in-state versus out-of-state contributions. The resulting summary sheet can be seen here.*
The upshot: over 76% of all contributions to Rand Paul’s Senate campaign — nearly 75% of individual contributions and nearly 92% of political action committee contributions – are from out of state. Those donors don’t live in Kentucky either, but I guess Rand Paul figures it’s their business anyway who should be its next senator. Or maybe he doesn’t, but takes their silver anyway:
Unamuno’s “San Manuel Bueno, Mártir” is, he says, “a great short story. It’s about a priest who doesn’t really believe in God but feels he needs to protect his parishioners from this disbelief, that it’s too much for them.” This calls to mind another favorite story of Paul’s, Somerset Maugham’s “Rain.” “Once again about a conflicted priest,” he says. Priests in a crisis of faith, I point out, appears to be a theme with him. Lightly, he says, “I went to a Baptist college. I had to have an outlet.”
There’s something especially galling about so-called libertarian candidates who — whodathunkit? — wind up consistently protecting the interests of big business in the guise of protecting local control or individual rights.
Do I have a problem with out of state contributions to a Senate candidate? Of course not — I do it myself all the time. But I don’t go around saying “if you don’t live here, it’s none of your business” either. I know people in other states who have to work in unsafe mines or live downstream from MTR runoff need help from individuals like me, and from the federal government, if they’re to have a chance against well-financed corporations — and their glib spokesmen like Rand Paul.
* I can send the full workbook to readers on request. In a nutshell, the FEC data must be copied in pieces and pasted to an Excel workbook as HTML. Functions of the form “=IF(MID($B21,1,2)=”KY”,$D20,0)” then isolate the two-letter state designation for individual contributions, and tally the contributor or his/her dollar contribution to a new column — “KY” (Kentucky) or “elsewhere”. Addresses were not provided in the initial committee tallies, but there were few enough that I could find the home state of each committee “by hand.”