Rep. Ron Paul
WASHINGTON – A commentator on the Russian government-funded television news network RT boasted of a $1 million “money bomb” on behalf of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
The donation raises legal questions, because while the commentator happens to be an American, allowing him to donate to Paul’s presidential campaign, foreign entities such as RT are prohibited.
“I’d like to end tonight on a note of some good news,” said Adam Kokesh, a former U.S. Marine who has a segment on RT called “Adam vs. The Man.”
“We have some good news from the front lines of the Ron Paul ‘LOVEaluation’ with our money bomb on June 5.
“Yesterday we raised over $1 million for the Ron Paul campaign. And I’m starting to figure out what electable means, because electable or non-electable is really a code word for ‘if this person wins, I’m not gonna be able to get as much money from the government,’” he said.
The comments came on his June 6 program on RT, formerly known as Russia Today, which effectively has endorsed Paul’s candidacy.
But contributions from RT, which observers say is tied to Russia’s intelligence services, would raise legal questions. The Russian media outlet is a foreign entity and, in effect, an instrument of the Russian government. Support for Paul from RT is due to the congressman’s opposition to U.S. involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
News of RT’s backing of Paul surfaced just after the Aug. 12 Iowa Straw Poll, won by Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., with 4,823, or 28.6 percent of the vote. She was closely followed by Paul, who captured 4,671 votes, or 27.7 percent. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty finished a distant third, with 2,293, or 13.6 percent, and dropped out of the race the next day.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann
U.S. media highlighted Bachmann’s win, with little mention of Paul’s close second-place finish.
The light coverage of Paul’s straw poll results caught the attention of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program Sunday as well as RT.
Roger Simon of Politico complained to Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz about the lack of coverage for Paul, saying that the mainstream media didn’t think he had a “hootin’ hell’s chance of winning the Iowa caucus, the Republican nomination or the presidency – so we’re going to ignore him.”
RT’s Kokesh then complained Monday about the lack of media coverage of Paul’s Iowa result. Under a caption “Y U No Mention Ron Paulolol,” Kokesh in his RT segment pointed to a Politico article headlined “Bachmann wins Straw Poll, Pawlenty gets third.”
Kokesh said that second place apparently was “entirely irrelevant” and “ceased to exist.”
“Someone named Ron Paul got second place in the Iowa straw poll,” Kokesh said. “We in the media conveniently tend to forget inconvenient details.”
Kokesh’s focus on Paul followed comments he made toward the end of his RT show on June 6 about the “money bomb” for Paul.
“If you want a president who’s going to honor his oath to the Constitution and your freedom, I urge you to support none other than Congressman Ron Paul,” he said.
Neither Paul’s campaign office nor RT returned calls inquiring about the alleged RT endorsement or contributions.
Since Kokesh is a U.S. citizen, he can make contributions to U.S. political campaigns. However, foreign entities, such as RT, are prohibited from making them under 2U.S.C. Section 441e.
The statute states:
It shall be unlawful for –
(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make -
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of
value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a
contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State,
or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement
for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of
section 434(f)(3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or
donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1)
from a foreign national.
(b) “Foreign national” defined
As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means -
(1) a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section
611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall
not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States;
(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or
a national of the United States (as defined in section
1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for
permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.
Under the law, foreign nationals can refer to foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations, foreign associations, foreign partnerships, individuals with foreign citizenship and immigrants who do not have a green card.
In addition, a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign corporation or a U.S. corporation that is owned by foreign nationals may be subject to the prohibition.
Because of his affiliation with RT, Kokesh could be liable under the provisions of the law that include knowingly providing “substantial assistance” to foreign nationals making contributions or donations in connection with any U.S. election.
Under 11 CFR 110.20 (h), “substantial assistance” refers to active involvement in the solicitation, making, receipt or acceptance of a foreign national contribution or donation with the intent of facilitating the successful completion of the transaction. The prohibition includes, but is not limited to, individuals who act as conduits or intermediaries.
And then there is 11 CFR 100.29, regarding “electioneering communication,” which imposes further limits on foreign entities that broadcast, use cable, or satellite communication that is publicly distributed by a television station, radio station, cable television system, or satellite system. This provision’s limitations refer to:
“(1) A clearly identified candidate for Federal office;
“(2) Is publicly distributed within 60 days before a general election for the office sought by the candidate; or within 30 days before a primary or preference election, or a convention or caucus of a political party that has authority to nominate a candidate, for the office sought by the candidate, and the candidate referenced is seeking the nomination of that political party.”
In his other presentations on RT, Kokesh implied his endorsements had the backing of RT. There was no disclaimer by RT when he made his endorsement and references to “a money bomb” on behalf of Paul.
For RT, which reflects Russian policy in opposing U.S. involvement in Iraq and elsewhere, it isn’t unusual to have someone such as Kokesh with his own segment.
A former U.S. Marine, Kokesh has strongly opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq and has backed Paul’s position to have all U.S. troops removed from there.
Last year, Kokesh ran for Congress from New Mexico as a Republican against incumbent Democratic Rep. Ben Lujan but lost.
While running for Congress, Kokesh had the backing of Paul and had positive coverage by Fox News.
Columnist Michelle Malkin refers to Kokesh as “an anti-war smear merchant in ‘Republican’ clothing.”
Kokesh was a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, or IVAW, for which he has prominently marched in anti-war parades.
In an open letter to “Veterans For Peace,” Kokesh, wearing an “Iraq Veterans Against the War” T-shirt and a desert boonie hat, sent a “plea” that “protesting is not enough” and called for an anti-war “die-in” on Sept. 15, 2007, at which he was arrested.
Kokesh also had traveled to Germany to urge U.S. soldiers, some of whom were ready to deploy to Iraq, to abandon their posts and seek aid and comfort with his anti-war group.
Last May 28, at a “dance-in” at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., Kokesh was arrested as part of a “flash-mob” of demonstrators to exercise what they said were their First Amendment rights in response to U.S. District Judge John D. Bates’ recent ruling denouncing dancing at the memorial.
Bates had ruled that dancing at national memorials was a “type of performance, creating its own center of attention and distracting from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration” that Park Service regulations are designed to preserve.
Prior to the “dance-in,” Kokesh had issued an invitation of “Come dance with me! Please share this invitation!”
At the memorial, Kokesh is shown wearing a T-shirt saying “Disobey!” and dancing until U.S. Park Police threw him to the ground to handcuff and arrest him.
There has been no comment from RT on the multiple arrests of their commentator by federal authorities. But a day after his arrest, RT interviewed Kokesh as a news event.
Kokesh also was arrested for attempting to smuggle a firearm back into the U.S. following the end of his Iraq deployment. He was supposed to go back to Iraq a second time but was demoted from sergeant to corporal and not allowed to return once the pistol incident following his first tour in 2004 became known.