Paul recently told James that his office is investigating the payments and will return money to Liberty Committee if duplicate payments are found. Roll Call provided Paul with the documents it used in this report, as well as a summary of James’ recollections. Paul’s office said they are “reviewing” the records.
James, a former fundraiser for the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), began working for Paul in 1988 when Paul ran for president as the Libertarian Party’s candidate. His job was to connect Paul with conservatives who were wary of the libertarian label — thinking it meant moral anarchy.
“I just could not understand how a man with this incredible message had not gotten further,” James said.
After the presidential campaign, James began working for the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, orchestrating the National Endowment for Liberty project, a series of television shows titled “At Issue” that explored libertarian themes.
In 1998, two years after Paul returned to Congress after more than 10 years out of politics, Paul tasked James with founding the Liberty Committee, a nonprofit group that would lobby for libertarian legislation.
“He needed an organization that would step on toes, that people would look at and try to find something wrong with and make an issue of, and was pristine,” James said, adding that the group kept meticulous records. “Liberty Committee was set up to be unassailable.”
Paul only reluctantly allowed the group to operate independently, insisting its checkbook be kept in his Clute, Texas, business under the care of a family member — Nora LeBlanc, the mother-in-law of Paul’s youngest daughter, Joy.
Paul’s business office in Clute is where Lori Paul Pyeatt, his daughter, works as treasurer for Paul’s presidential and Congressional campaigns, Liberty PAC, the Campaign for Liberty and FREE.
Paul has built a national reputation and personal brand, which he is now using in his second run for the Republican nomination for president, as a leading advocate of smaller government, personal liberty and decreased federal spending. He has for years traveled the country assailing the reach of the federal government in military, fiscal and monetary affairs. And he has used an array of outside groups to support his travel and other expenses.
On Jan. 18, 2005, for example, Paul purchased a Continental Airlines ticket from Washington, D.C., to Montrose, Colo., via Denver for $1,076.78. The Liberty Committee paid for that ticket and one other flight with a Feb. 21 check signed by LeBlanc. But taxpayers also paid Paul $1,076.78 for the same flight on Feb. 11.
For years the Liberty Committee paid some of Paul’s expenses, but the issue of double payments led to a permanent rift with James. After James brought it up, Paul stopped sending expenses for reimbursement. Instead, he wanted the names of the Liberty Committee’s donors and for James to make cash transfers to FREE, James said. James said he consulted with attorneys for the group and declined to honor Paul’s request.
In March 2006, James’ wife passed away after a fight with lung cancer. Reeling from the loss, he reacted angrily weeks later when Paul tried to alter how James was compensated, telling Paul in a letter he would not be part of a “Ponzi scheme.”
Paul apologized, but feelings between the two stayed raw.