It has been a tough week for libertarians. The beloved internet marketplace of freedom, Silk Road, became mired in a scandal when its leader betrayed the hopes of supporters by allegedly hiring hit men to kill two people. Now, the grandfather of libertarian politics, Ron Paul, has become mired in an alleged scandal of his own.
Most liberty lovers, myself included, were thrilled when Ron Paul finished first in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012. But a report by a Des Moines lawyer suggests that money sent from his campaign to Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson may have had something to do with Paul’s success.
Sorenson was a well-liked and influential figure in the state. Throughout nearly all of 2011, the state senator had worked on Michelle Bachmann’s Iowa caucuses campaign. But on December 28, just days before the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Sorenson ditched Michelle Bachmann to back Ron Paul. The endorsement gave Paul’s campaign significant publicity and may have contributed to the candidate’s last-minute surge in Iowa.
What could have caused Sorenson to back Paul at the last minute? Did he suddenly wake up and realize that we should indeed end the Fed? That the drug wars are not effective? That income tax should be zero?
Not quite, says Mark Weinhardt, a Des Moines lawyer working on behalf of the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Weinhardt suggests that Sorenson’s last-minute switch was thanks to a $25,000 check.
According to Weinhardt, Sorenson received a $25,000 check from a high-ranking official in the Paul campaign days before he left Bachmann’s campaign. That check was never cashed. After further investigation, Weinhardt claims that Sorenson received a total of $73,000 in payments that may be from Paul’s aides, which includes the $25,000 check and installments of $8,000 monthly payments over six months. The payments were sent by wire transfers from ICT, Inc., of Hyattsville, Md.
Ben Swann originally reported on this story back in August. Since Swann’s report, Sorenson has resigned from office. He stepped down on Wednesday, but would not give any details to reporters, pleading the Fifth.
Before jumping to conclusions about Sorenson, it is important to note that Weinhardt has still not been able to connect the payments directly to the Paul campaign.
Sorenson admitted that the ICT payments were from the Paul campaign, but was not specific about the source ICT itself. He said ICT hired him to do political consulting, but would not go into details during a deposition last month.
If what Weinhardt alleges is true, how will libertarians react?
Libertarians typically take pride in defying the imprisoning paradigms of left- and right-wing thought in America. But it may come to pass, from time to time, that heros of the libertarian cause will do the wrong thing. This may have happened with the founder of Silk Road. It may have happened with Ron Paul. Or, it may have happened not with Ron Paul himself, but with members of his campaign staff. If the allegations about corruption in the Paul campaign are proven true, are libertarians prepared to accept that people they support can make mistakes, too?
This topic seems especially relevant this week, given the reluctance of some libertarians in recent days to condemn the founder of Silk Road, even after he allegedly tried to murder people.