Super PAC supporting Ron Paul is operated by a 9/11 'truther'
Gary Franchi, right, has warned of a 9/11 cover-up, FEMA concentration camps and the New World Order. He leads a Super PAC using unlimited campaign contributions to support Ron Paul, left, in the Republican presidential race.
As libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul looks for a state he can win, some of his supporters have turned to a new theme: voting fraud.
A Super PAC supporting Paul has pledged to monitor the vote in all the remaining states, using an army of exit pollsters to fight what it calls results that are "outrageous, unacceptable and patently un-American." The group, called Revolution PAC, has spent half a million dollars supporting Paul with videos, webcasts, online ads, direct mail, billboards and radio ads in primary and caucus states.
We first noticed Revolution PAC last week, when it told the Federal Election Commission that it couldn't meet the deadline to identify its donors, because of an error by its bank. Now Revolution PAC has filed its report.
As with many other so-called "independent" Super PACs, which can receive unlimited donations outside the normal rules of campaign finance, the pro-Paul group is operated by people with close ties to the candidate. The group's advisory board members include Penny Langford Freeman, Paul's political director from 1998 to 2007, and Joe Becker, chief legal counsel for Ron Paul 2008.
The leader of the group, its founder, chairman and treasurer, is Gary Franchi, a promoter of conspiracy theories and sophisticated social-media entrepreneur in the resurgent movement known as the Patriots.
The 34-year-old political activist from the Chicago suburbs told msnbc.com that his goal is a "non-violent intellectual revolution, which results in a full restoration of the federal Constitution."
Online videos produced by Franchi, and online interviews with him, add specifics:
- Franchi has supported the 9/11 Truth Movement, which supports the idea that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, werean inside job to create a pretext for a reduction in American liberty, or at least involved a cover-up, with the World Trade Center brought down by a planned U.S. demolition, instead of terrorist-controlled airplanes. Franchi founded the Lone Lantern Society (a reference to Paul Revere indicating that foreign enemies are on American soil). The group supports "the birth of freedom and the death of the New World Order," a secretive elite that is supposedly trying to set up a world government. Lone Lantern has held street demonstrations on the 11th of every month in Chicago and elsewhere, demanding an investigation of 9/11. In New Hampshire in 2008, a video shows Franchi asking Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security, who was campaigning for Sen. John McCain, whether Ridge would support an investigation of the "controlled demolition" of the World Trade Center. Ridge was having none of it, saying, "I just don't buy into that. That's a conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact. It's almost out of the Twilight Zone."
- According to a 2010 reportby the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic fringe groups, "Gary Franchi is one of the leading promoters of a resurgent Patriot conspiracy theory that alleges the government is creating concentration camps for U.S. citizens." In 2009 he co-wrote and co-produced the video "Camp FEMA: American Lockdown," which claims that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is creating concentration camps on air bases and in vacant buildings to house political dissenters when the federal government proclaims martial law. "Your church may have already signed a deal with the devil," reads promotional material for the film. The film questions whether Census data will be used to round up Americans. Clips from Franchi's film on YouTube show Hitler youth marching while the narrator ominously describes President Obama's plans to expand AmeriCorps and the USA Freedom Corps, the volunteer initiative launched by the Bush administration after 9/11.
- Franchi operates Restore the Republic, which opposes the Federal Reserve, the IRS and the income tax, decries the control of the economy by the Rockefellers and the "banking cartel," and warns of government plans to plant RFID microchips into all Americans. The group was founded by Franchi and filmmaker and Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo, and has been operated by Franchi since Russo's death from cancer in 2007. RTR shares an address with Revolution PAC in Northbrook, Ill. The group, which describes itself as a social media platform for like-minded individuals, promotes Russo's film, "America: Freedom to Fascism," in which Ron Paul declares, "If that's the definition of a police state — that you can't do anything unless the government gives you permission —we're well on our way." In a YouTube video interview with Franchi in 2008, Paul credited the Russo video with bringing a lot of people to his presidential campaign. The group has also placed billboards fueling the bogus claim that Obama is not an American citizen, asking, "Where's the REAL birth certificate?"
Franchi agreed to answer questions from msnbc.com, but only by email.
He said labels are distracting, and the description of him by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "conspiracy theorist" is "derogatory and inflammatory language."
In regard to Sept. 11, he said his view is that "I personally, alongside Russo, 9/11 Family members, and thousands of architects and engineers do advocate for a more thorough investigation, preferably free from the Executive Privilege invoked during the Bush Administration."
Of Paul, Franchi said, "Ron Paul is my candidate because he understands what is affecting this nation, i.e. the Federal Reserve, an unsustainable foreign policy, and the loss of civil liberties under the guise of security."
Ron Paul has credited Franchi for bringing in more supporters for his presidential campaign.
Paul has had a vague and uncertain connection with fringe views and conspiracy peddlers for decades. In several cases he has welcomed their support, neither repudiating their views nor explicitly endorsing them.
For example, in 2007 Paul was asked by a student and 9/11 skeptic, "We've heard that you have questioned the government's official account." Paul replied, "Well, I never automatically trust anything the government does when they do an investigation because too often I think there’s an area that the government covered up, whether it’s the Kennedy assassination or whatever."
Larger donors to the Revolution PAC include Texas rancher Margaret Bowman, who gave $50,000; and Scott Banister, an early investor in PayPal, who gave $10,000. Another $10,000 came from Judy Kay Gray, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., who paid $2.5 million to settle a false advertising claim by the Federal Trade Commission in 2008 regarding her company, North American Herb and Spice, and its claims that its oregano oil treated cold and flu.
Large donors received a free book signed by Thomas Woods, an author and member of the Revolution PAC advisory board. Woods is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Mises is one of the members of the Austrian School of Economics, whose ideas have influenced Paul, such as his call for a return to a gold standard. The PAC paid Woods $1,200 to sign his books for donors.
The Revolution PAC paid $41,487 to Franchi or his group Restore the Republic, including $3,000 a month in management fees, $1,766 a month in rent at their shared office in Northbrook, Ill., and a 10 percent commission on large financial donations solicited. Franchi, the group's chairman and treasurer, said in response to questions that these are reasonable charges, much lower than is common, and that he has provided more support to the PAC than it has paid to him, considering the value of his in-kind donations of his time and services.
"I am personally not a representative for Dr. Paul nor should my beliefs be construed to be his," Franchi told msnbc.com. "Nor am I sure if Ron Paul believes in all the issues that concern me, however I do know I stand with him on the constitutional issues he continues to highlight throughout this election cycle and as he has done for over 20 years. That is why I formed Revolution PAC and produce content that I feel highlight his principled consistency and advocacy of fidelity to the Constitution."