The world of the Libertarian Party was again thrown into drama this week, with sensational headlines and blog posts alleging that the party had “banned” or “rejected” the possibility of having former congressman Ron Paul speak at the party’s 2018 national convention in New Orleans.
The underlying reality is far less substantial, and in fact nobody with the Libertarian Party told Paul he was unwelcome at the convention.
The Libertarian Party did not ban Ron Paul from speaking
A group of party members calling themselves the Mises Caucus, closely aligned with the Institute of the same name, sent a series of Facebook messages to the party’s convention oversight chair, Daniel Hayes, back in October. This group had reached out to the booking agent representing Paul as well as Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano, and expressed tentative interest in a paid speaking arrangement. Combined, a speaking engagement featuring both Paul and Napolitano has been quoted as costing $70,000, plus expenses. Ron Paul on his own, has been quoted at $35,000 for similar events.
Hayes, as he explained in a short video response, expressed interest in accepting if the honorariums were paid by outside donors, and little else came of it. The Mises Caucus initially dropped the idea of securing Paul, instead wishing to raise donations solely for Napolitano, but no donations ever materialized. No agreement was ever negotiated with the party or the booking agent, and it was never more than an idea. There was also questions about the legality, under campaign finance laws, of an outside group paying for a speaker at party event, as well as the desirability of diverting donors to pay for such a fee.
In December, Paul published an article with some criticisms of the party, further cooling interest in the idea. Then, this week, a furor broke out when Michael Heise of the Mises Caucus and the right-leaning libertarian website Liberty Hangout published articles accusing the party of having snubbed Paul, featuring out-of-context screenshots of Heise’s private Facebook message to Hayes.
These conversations never went past speculative plans and ideas. No actual contract was ever negotiated with Paul’s booking agent, no price was agreed upon or paid for, nor were Paul’s usual fees waived, and the party never pursued the matter further. Hayes has confirmed that if Paul wants to come to the convention, he is welcome to. Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark referred the members of the national committee to an explanation posted by this author on social media.
Ron Paul is always welcome to speak at the Libertarian Party National Convention
In a video posted Friday, Paul himself was mostly unfamiliar with the controversy, and confirmed he’d had no involvement in the discussions. Somewhat exasperated, he asked if he could “get his gold coins back,” referring to the lifetime membership he purchased in 1988 with the precious metal. But in point of fact, the party never told Paul he was unwelcome. It simply declined to pursue a tentative and highly speculative paid speaking arrangement that was initiated by uninvolved third parties.
Paul himself doesn’t appear eager to insert himself into the LP’s intra-partisan conflicts, but there may be more self-interested reasons some would try to involve him. The Mises Caucus has been controversial in the party for its embrace of figures associated with the Mises Institute like Jeff Deist and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Provoking a controversy relating to Ron Paul invokes a much more popular figure among Libertarians.
The caucus has endorsed the candidacy of Joshua Smith for LNC Chair, and has professed its intention to pack the party’s convention and stage a takeover of the Libertarian National Committee. Such “take over and purge” attempts have a long history in the party, but inevitably sow the seeds of their own backlash. That appears to be likely the case here, with many party insiders and likely delegates perturbed by what, on closer inspection, was much ado about nothing.
(Photo of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) speaking during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)