Supporters Pump Ron Paul Full of Hot Air

Individuals are limited by law to giving $2,300 to the Paul campaign, although it is fast approaching its goal of $12 million in fundraising between October and the end of the year. Achieving that goal will have more to do with the independent grass-roots efforts than with the Paul campaign.

Supporters Galvanize Around a Platform

Paul's supporters come from varied backgrounds and are sprinkled around the country, connected only by cell phones and high-speed Internet access. Most have never met each other in person or even seen Paul speak, but they have created a remarkable network of Web sites and e-mail lists committed to fundraising for and around their candidate.

"We also wanted to ensure that supporters who would have otherwise donated once, would feel compelled to donate again and again, thus increasing the overall funding for the campaign," said Eric Nordstrom, the active duty service member posted in England who created RonPaulMoneyBomb.com.

"Our entire goal was to form a Web site that would provide a funnel, which lead directly to Ron Paul's donation page. We are just average Joes trying to cast the largest $100, let alone the maximum allowable contribution to make, but they would have $25."

The official Paul campaign is mounting a more traditional effort with television and radio advertising as well as phone calls to voters in early primary states. The campaign's next TV ad, which was shot over Thanksgiving at Paul's home, will not even mention his Libertarian streak. It will focus on his personality and his family.

An Idea Takes Flight

Only last month, the Ron Paul blimp was just an idea being floated among supporters in e-mails and on blogs. But with the success on Nov. 5 of a one-day, Internet-driven fundraising drive pegged nominally to Guy Fawkes day and the old nursery rhyme "Remember, remember the 5th of November," novel ideas began to seem more possible.

Trevor Lyman, an online music promoter based in Florida who had set up the Web site This November5th.com started working with some other fans of the blimp idea in Colorado, California and elsewhere around the country.

They launched RonPaulBlimp.com and have been selling stakes in the leased blimp. He said he's confident the blimp violates no campaign financing rules even as it obviously sidesteps them, but said "it could be contested down the road."

Campaign finance experts not affiliated with the effort agree. "Given the way this came about, what they are doing and their stated goal, it is very possible they will still be considered a political committee. For one thing, they are going to have to show that this is truly a business," said Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission now in private practice.

"It's almost too good to be true to have a client pop up as quickly as they have and just say do it," said George Spyrou, who owns Airship Management Services, the company Paul's supporters have contracted with.

"Frankly we didn't treat it that seriously until very recently," said Spyrou in a phone interview last week. "But it seems to be genuine."

Spyrou did not want to start prepping the airship until he was relatively sure the Paul supporters could come up with all the money. "It's quite an expensive beast to feed and water," he said.

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