Ron Paul’s campaign has claimed that it has the bulk of support from military service personnel, more than all the other candidates combined, according to some sources. If true, that would represent a significant achievement for Ron Paul in terms of actual, financial support, not to mention the symbolic significance of having the largest cohort of military members supporting your non-interventionist foreign policy positions. You’ll forgive me, then, if I say it sounds too good to be true.
So, I took some time to analyze Ron Paul’s contribution statistics to see if the claim would stand up under scrutiny. After all, if the majority of the military is in the tank with Ron Paul, I’d like to know that going into the upcoming election season. What I found is revealing. I don’t want to give away the conclusion just yet, but I will say there is certainly a pattern that has emerged in the race for the Presidency that orbits Ron Paul’s campaign. I’ll explain shortly.
The campaign contribution figures for Ron Paul are available at opensecrets.org. Here are Paul’s top five donors, as reported by the Ron Paul campaign:
- US Army: $81,423
- US Air Force: $60,739
- US Navy: $58,267
- Google Inc: $34,191
- Microsoft Corp: $24,698
The figures have gone up since Jan. 6th, which was expected. However, there is something strange about the numbers. The military branches are the top three donor groups for Ron Paul.
Really? The top three?
Only one other candidate in the current campaign, including all those who have already dropped out, shows ANY donations from the military; Herman Cain received $9000 from the US Army. But Ron Paul’s top three donor groups are US military personnel? Isn’t that highly suspicious? Frankly, it doesn’t pass the smell test. Even the other Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, shows no donations from the military.
Gary Johnson actually provides a good control for analyzing Ron Paul’s claims. Johnson’s platform on the use of the military is not much different from Ron Paul’s, e.g. we should bring the troops home, become more non-interventionist, and refrain from “nation building.” Yet Johnson has no listed contributions from the military. None.
Have all the libertarians in the military agreed to support Ron Paul? Probably not. But let’s get to what the actual figures tell us. It’s very enlightening.
The figures don’t actually prove that Ron Paul has any given level of support from the military; they are aggregate numbers. They actually prove too much. From a statistical standpoint, the military donor groups are outliers; these military groups are his top three sources, which should indicate that military donors are very politically active. Yet none of these same sources are donating to any other candidates. That’s unusual at best. If true, it would indicate a monolithic support for Ron Paul among active military personnel that excludes all other candidates, which is a statistical improbability.
Could there be other reasons why military donations are not being collected by the Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich campaigns? According to the author of Liberty Reborn, there are four,
“First, active duty personnel stationed overseas will often have their spouses make donation for their household to candidates. These donations are then listed under the spouse’s information which is often times not military related. Secondly is that members of the military, from my personal experience, hate to be used as political pawns and when they donate to political candidates they often do not list their military service as their profession. Thirdly, military personnel, as I have been told by military personnel themselves, generally really hate to be used for political purposes thus they again do not like to list their service on donations made to military candidates so that their donations cannot be used in this manner. And fourthly (sic) is that there is a concerted effort by Ron Paul supporters in the military to make sure that their donations are listed as coming from military personnel in order to perpetuate this talking point for political gain.”
Since there is no way to tell how many persons actually made donations to Ron Paul (it could be as few as five, for all we know), the best we can do is calculate, based on the contribution numbers we have.
As of Jan. 6th, Ron Paul could have had financial support from no more than about 4.4% of active military personnel, based on campaign contributions. Today, if we assume a $1 per person contribution level, it’s still only 13.7%. Since 200,000+ $1 donations is unlikely, let’s assume a $10/person level. It’s still less than 1.4%. But that percentage is actually more in line with exit polling numbers, which indicate that only 2.5% of Ron Paul’s total votes in military-heavy South Carolina were military voters.
The numbers above show, regardless of the total amount, about 1.4% support for Ron Paul among active military personnel. Is it possible that a large percentage of the balance of military personnel are politically inactive or contributing under other occupations? Yes, that is possible. Can we reasonably assume that the other 98.6% did not contribute to any of the other three candidates? Absolutely not, but this is what Ron Paul’s campaign and supporters have asked us to believe.
Additionally, the figures that Ron Paul’s campaign provided to the government show that a claim of “$150,000 in Q4 alone” is very high. As noted above, he had pulled in a total of $65,270 as of Jan 6th, 2012, which included data from Q4. These are his official statistics.
I promised at the beginning of this column that I would explain the pattern I found. With the evidence above, I have demonstrated how Ron Paul’s campaign is claiming much more support from the military than it actually has. This pattern is a microcosm of the bigger claim the Paul campaign has been making for weeks, i.e. that it has more delegates than any other candidate. In similar fashion, however, they use some rather fuzzy math to arrive at that conclusion, as well as reliance on a big hope that the campaign is decided in a brokered convention that goes well for Ron Paul.
At bottom, it doesn’t look like Ron Paul’s military support, active or otherwise, is as strong as he claims. His campaign and his supporters are asking us to believe things that are statistically unlikely. The actual numbers tell the real story. But don’t expect that to change the endless loop the Paulbots are programmed to repeat.