Rothfeld had given a guided tour of a little-understood sector of the Ron Paul/Rand Paul universe. (He later told me that he does not talk on the record to reporters.) Critics on the right call it Ron Paul, Inc., the byzantine array of organizations that helped create and staff the “liberty movement.” Some of these critics insist that the network will sink Rand Paul’s ambitions in 2016, either through misdirection of funds or scandal, and they point to an ongoing grand jury investigation of a former Iowa state senator who allegedly solicited a bribe from Paul’s 2012 deputy campaign manager.
Rand Paul is approaching his new network more carefully. He didn’t linger at LPAC, for example, giving his speech then flying to Michigan to meet with a more elite group of Republican donors. His national fundraisers include a 2004 Bush–Cheney bundler and veterans of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. But the new organization is built on the foundation of a group of long-term staffers activists, who are mistrusted by some in the “liberty movement” and linked to a 2011 campaign finance scandal that was equal parts Byzantine and brazen.
“Rand can learn, from his dad’s campaign, who to rely on for good support that will be totally above board and ethical,” says Drew Ivers, a former Iowa Republican Party official who’s considered one of the nascent campaign’s top men in the caucus state. “I always look for the silver linings, and here’s one—people become transparent in hindsight.”