Ron Paul's cyber-backers are at it again. Three weeks after setting a record by raising $4.2 million in one day for the anti-war GOP candidate's dark-horse bid for the White House, Paul's online supporters are trying to raise another $2.5 million this week to help Paul get TV ads on the air as soon as possible in crucial primary states.
And, as in the previous fundraising frenzy, this one is being led by a volunteer: 37-year-old Miami political novice Trevor Lyman, founder of the online music promotions firm Music Submit. Like the November 5 push, which was based around the Web site ThisNovember5th.com, the latest push is courtesy of RudysReadingList.com, which combines images of books decrying the failure of American policy in the Iraq war with footage of Paul discussing his views on foreign policy. The goal this time is to push Paul's campaign past the $12 million mark for the fourth quarter by soliciting donations $100 at a time.
"Coming off the 2006 election, we basically told Democrats, "It's time to get out of the war," which is what we voted for, not a change in strategy and to stay in the war," said Lyman, who has never before voted in a presidential election or donated to a political candidate. "I learned about Ron Paul and saw his voting record and how he foresaw the problems in the war, and it was refreshing to find someone who was so consistent in what he says. I was under the assumption that the system worked, like a lot of Americans were, so becoming active is a way to take back the will of the people now."
As of Tuesday (November 27), Rudy's Reading List had already gotten 1,956 pledges (close to $200,000) before Friday's "Ron Paul Mass Donation Day." The new site highlights the Texas congressman's maverick foreign-policy stance, which differs from most of his GOP rivals in calling for a pullout of troops from Iraq and a non-interventionist foreign policy. Though at press time, Lyman was well short of the 25,000 pledges he'll need to reach his goal, his latest effort is another example of the volunteer army Paul has inspired across the country, which includes thousands of college kids who've organized Paul groups on hundreds of campuses.
Lyman said he originally planned to stage the second money push over the weekend of December 15 and 16, to coincide with Bill of Rights Day and the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, respectively, dates chosen to appeal to the Libertarian streak that has inspired the retired physician's cult-like following. The Web site for that challenge, TeaParty07.com, had already raised more than $2 million in pledges out of the $10 million goal, at press time. But on November 20, Paul's fundraising director, Jonathan Bydlak, e-mailed a list of supporters to tell them that the money might be too late to help cover what's needed in the next few weeks.
"During the first few days of October, we announced our fundraising goal for the fourth quarter: $12 million raised by December 31," Bydlak wrote in a note posted on DailyPaul.com. "But there's more: We need to have spent it by then too. If we were to raise the entire $12 million in the last week of December, we would meet our fundraising goal for the quarter. But Ron Paul would stand little chance of winning the Republican nomination, because that money would have come in too late. ... If you wait a month from now to donate, your money will only be spent after Iowa caucus-goers and New Hampshire primary voters have made up their minds." The urgent letter inspired Lyman to post Rudy's Reading List the very next day.
"Now we have another chance to get mentions in the media about Dr. Paul closing in on his goal of raising $12 million," Lyman said of the site. "Then we'll be in the media again at the end of the month and again when we say we beat our own prediction that nobody thought we'd do." With the original $4 million so-called "money bomb" generating a 3 percent bump in some polls, Lyman thinks the $12 million effort could result in a double-digit bump by the end of December. And, as usual, the entire effort is being done on a volunteer basis, with no input or help from the Paul campaign.
The Reading List site's name is inspired by a tense exchange Paul had with fellow GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani at a May presidential debate, during which Giuliani lambasted Paul for suggesting that U.S. actions in the Middle East had helped provoke the September 11 terror attacks. Paul countered by pointing Giuliani to sections of the 9/11 Commission Report and books such as "Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire," which he said supported his stance.
In keeping with his maverick money-raising schemes, Lyman — who has never met Paul but has spoken to him once — is also behind one of the most unconventional grassroots Paul pushes: an effort to raise $350,000 to launch a "Ron Paul Blimp" that would fly around the country touting Paul's candidacy. At press time, more than $272,000 had already been pledged to the stunt. "That one was all my idea," he said from his former home state of New Hampshire, where he has traveled to meet other Paul supporters. "People liked the idea, but they didn't think we could raise the money to do it. Now we see that we can raise the money and what the media can do, and it's a lot of fun. When people see what we're willing to do, they'll think, 'He must be really special.' "
On RonPaulBlimp.com, Lyman writes, "Imagine the mainstream media is mesmerized as the image of the Ron Paul blimp is shown to tens of millions of Americans throughout the day (and throughout the month). ... [CNN's] Wolf Blitzer, stunned as if in a trance, repeats the words, 'Amazing, Amazing.' As GPS coordinates stream to the Web site, a map shows the Ron Paul blimp's location in real time. The local television stations broadcast its every move. The curious flock together and make a trip to see history in the making. E-mails with pictures are sent, then forwarded, then forwarded again. YouTube videos go viral and reach tens of millions of views. Ron Paul becomes the first presidential candidate in history to have his very own blimp. The PR stunt generates millions upon millions of dollars' worth in free publicity, and captures the imagination of America."
And he's not done yet. Lyman said he has already secured the name of yet another site for a possible January 15 stunt to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. "MLK had a dream, and I think Ron Paul can make it a reality," Lyman said.