The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has released their 2012 report on the Most Corrupt Members of Congress and has included Texas Congressman Ron Paul as a “dishonorable mention” for allegedly double-billing travel expenses to both Congress committees that support him.
The immediate temptation for the liberty-minded is to call these charges a conspiracy of the powerful elite against the iconoclastic Paul, but public opinion is not a court of law where the accused are innocent until proven guilty. The congressman’s office may yet release information that would prove these well-documented claims false, but it’s necessary to evaluate Paul in the court of public opinion where one is guilty until proven innocent.
The strongest evidence of the double-billing comes from the Liberty Committee, which was run by the mother-in-law of one of Paul’s daughters. The current head of the committee, David James, approached Paul once in 2005 about an inconsistency and again in 2012 in response to Jonathan Strong’s Roll Call piece that first claimed inconsistencies. CREW’s report claims that Paul reimbursed Liberty PAC for once when approached in 2005, but then stopped submitting expenses to the organization, unsuccessfully tried to oust James, and has not responded to subsequent requests for payment.
If Paul travelled with anyone else on these flights, his or her ticket would not be reimbursed by Congress but would be paid for by Liberty PAC or another political group. Understandably, Paul has not kept flight records for his hundreds of trips over the past 10 years. And since Paul used his own corporate credit card to book all these flights, it may be impossible to tell the names on each airline ticket dating back to 1999.
But if Paul travelled alone on all these flights, he is guilty of conversion of federal property. So while he would have never abused taxpayer money, he would have been financially benefitting from a paid-for congressional expense.
Paul is known as Dr. No in Congress for a reason. His voting record against government spending is utterly consistent, and his office regularly comes in under budget and returns a surplus to Congress. If these double-billing allegations are true, Paul may join the ranks of Pete Rose — undeniably excellent to his fans but irrevocably besmirched.
That is the worst case scenario, and it would turn the more casual Paulites away from Paul’s message. But Paul has always maintained that his message is not about him. He was not the first to speak up for non-interventionism and sound money, nor is he the only one around doing so today. Regardless of his guilt or innocence in this matter, his message has spread far beyond him. It would be exceptionally unfortunate if these allegations were true, but that would not undo what he has done.