In light of some fairly harse accusations regarding Eric Dondero, former Congressional aide to Ron Paul, that have been posted on our comment threads, I felt it necessary to reprint a post that he authored. The following provides some background on Ron Paul and Eric’s own position.
My name is Eric Dondero Rittberg. For 12 years I worked on and off, mostly on, for Ron Paul. I started on his staff in 1987 during his Libertarian Party Presidential campaign. I served throughout 87 and 88 as his Personal Travel Aide. Ron and I campaigned in over 40 states, including Alaska.
In 1992, I organized Ron’s Presidential Exploratory Committee. We operated the effort for about 4 months. We aborted the effort when Pat Buchanan declared for the GOP primaries. In 1995, Ron agreed to serve as my “boss” as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
In 1996, Ron decided to test the waters for a Congressional Campaign. I moved to Texas and served as his Campaign Coordinator. Ron won first in the Primary and then in the General with 51%.
In 1997, Ron hired me as his Senior Aide and District Representative. My job title was to represent the Congressman at all functions throughout the District, to speak in his absence, and to handle all District Scheduling. I was also in charge of Local Governmental relations. I served in that capacity til February of 2004. I can honestly say that the Congressman was more than just my boss, he was also my friend. We had a good understanding, after years of working together, and were very good Travel mates.
Him and I would literally spend hours in the car traveling from one event to another, during campaigning and for District events. We would debate everything under the sun, in a friendly and fun sort of way. Our differences were always over abortion – I am Pro-Choice, he is firmly Pro-Life, and over foreign policy – I am Pro-Defense, he has always been more Non-interventionist. But we always maintained our friendship.
Then September 11, 2001 hit. My boss, Ron Paul, all of a sudden changed dramatically. Whereas before he was a reasonable non-interventionist, he was now rabidly so.
I must say that Ron always knew how to play the game before 2001. He always campaigned as a die-in-the-wool rock-ribbed Conservative Republican. Coming from the Libertarian Party there was always suspicions about him on this. So, he went the extra mile within the District to allay such concerns. He also campaigned as a “Bush Republican.” I recall two specific events when Ron publicly backed Bush for President, quite enthusiastically; Once during a big GOP dinner in Wharton, and another time during a Bush for President fundraising in Corpus Christi. He also had Bush’s photo on the wall at our District Office in Freeport.
I should also note that I personally spoke with Karl Rove twice in 1996. After Ron won the GOP Nomination, mainline Republicans were unsure as to how to treat him. We reached out to the Bush people. After my conversations with Rove, he put out the word to key Houston-area, Austin and Victoria Republicans to back Ron Paul. All of a sudden like a tidal wave all the GOPers came on board our Campaign.
Though privately, Ron leaned non-intervenionist, publicly he was always Pro-Troops, Pro-Veterans, Pro-Defense and quite Patriotic, particularly in his Campaign style. He made extra sure to attend as many Veteran’s events as possible. And when he couldn’t go, he would always send me, as the only Vet on staff to represent him. He always made it quite clear that I was to emphasize “my views on foreign policy” more so than his non-interventionist views at such events. And I did.
But after Sept. 11, things changed. He became morose. He became bitter, and quite pessimistic. I had to literally beg him to support the vote authorizing the President to send Troops to Afghanistan. I actually threatened to resign if he did not vote that way. And another key District Staffer, practically threatened to resign, as well. At the last minute Ron voted in favor of the Authorization. I suspected he only did it, cause he knew if he hadn’t he would cause the Republicans in the District to oppose him, and he wouldn’t win reelection. But 9/11 served as a wake up call for me. I started questioning how it is that I could work for such a man.
Before it was always just a fun-loving disagreement; debating in the car from event to event to pass the time. Now, I saw he was quite serious, and cared even less for how others, even constituents took his views on foreign policy.Ron and I grew apart. I served as his Travel Aide less and less in 2002/03.
Finally one day in the Summer of 2003, he called on me to accompany him to an event in Victoria. He was acting quite strange in the car. He kept prodding me on foreign policy. I knew he was trying to get me to debate the War in Iraq with him. But I kept my cool the whole trip. Finally, when we reached Victoria, I made a slight comeback, that I didn’t think his particular view on the War was correct. He jumped out of the car and lunged at me. Poking his finger into my chest, he looked me in the eye and said, “I will have nobody working for me on my staff who supports the War in Iraq, even you.” I’d only seen this look on Ron maybe once or twice in all my 12 years working for him. He was clearly quite angry with me. I knew he was trying to provoke me so that he could have justification to fire me. But I kept my cool.
For 6 months after than we didn’t speak. Finally, Chief of Staff Tom Lizardo suggested that Ron and I not talking to each other was not helpful to the “atmosphere” in the District offices. I offered to my friend Tom to resign. We discussed a date, two months out, and a compensation package and I agreed. I’ve been asked by others if my former boss is an Anti-Semite. My answer is an emphatic NO. I am half Jewish. I am familiar with Anti-Semites. Ron is not one of them.
But I would say he’s very insensitive to issues concerning Israel and for other concerns of Jewish Americans. Houston Jews were always suspicious of Ron Paul. But Ron could always point to me as his “Jewish Staffer.” He would even send me to Synagogues in the District and to Jewish events. But I do remember one time, when a group of Houston Jewish Young Republicans wanted to lobby the Congressman on some issues. I begged Ron to meet with them. He was very hesitant. He finally agreed. But the meeting turned out to be a disaster. The Jewish YRs came all the way from Houston, and all Ron did was berate them in our District Office about how the Israel Lobby was too powerful in Washington, and other issues. He also got defensive when the Jewish YRs expressed concern over Palestinian violence against Israel. I ran down the hallway after the meeting chasing the group, and apologized profusely to them. After 9/11 Ron also became much more upfront in his anti-Israel views. He’d even criticize Israel in public speeches which would make me cringe.
Ron Paul and I agree on about 95% of all domestic issues. We disagree on a myriad of foreign policy and defense issues. Still, he was my boss. He was paying me, so I was obligated to toe the line. This is not why I think less of him today.
Rather, what concerns me most was the fact that for many years he played both sides of the aisle. In the very Conservative South Texas CD, he was always Mr. Red, White, and Blue. If he couldn’t make a Veterans event, he made damn sure that his one Vet on staff could go, even if it was just 8 VFW guys meeting for a couple hours 3 hours drive away. Ron was very careful to portray himself in the District as Pro-Troops, and even Pro-Defense.
But after 9/11 and most especially after the War in Iraq, he played up his non-interventionist side to a national audience. This while still keeping the facade of Pro-Troops/Pro-Defense in the District. As late as last year I got a constituent mailing from RP with 4 pages of nothing but Patriotic/Pro-Troops/Pro-Veterans information from the Congressional office. I suspect the reason why RP has gone south on foreign policy for the national audience is simple: To gain more dollars from a National fundraising base, and to gain more National media attention from Liberal media sources.