At a Glance
- Career History: U.S. House (1997 to present); Libertarian Party presidential nominee (1987 to 1988); U.S. House (1976, 1979 to 1985); Ob/Gyn (1968 to 1996)
- Birthday: August 20, 1935
- Hometown: Green Tree, Penn.
- Alma Mater: Gettysburg College, BA, 1957; Duke University, Md., 1961
- Spouse: Carol
- Religion: Protestant
- DC Office: 329 Cannon Building, Washington DC, 20510, 202-225-2831
Path to Power
Paul grew up in Green Tree, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, where his father Howard Paul worked as a milkman. He attended Gettysburg College, where he studied biology and met his wife Carol Wells-they married the year that he graduated, 1957. The Pauls moved to North Carolina, where he earned a degree in medicine from Duke University. He volunteered for the Air Force as a flight surgeon, spending two-and- a-half years of his service at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. When he finished active duty he returned to Texas and set up a medical practice in Lake Jackson, a small city about an hour south of Houston.
The young ob/gyn was interested in economics, if not in politics. As a medical resident he had discovered the works of Ayn Rand-Atlas Shrugged was published the year the Pauls were married-and the dense Austrian theories of Ludwig von Mises. Paul dates his political awakening to August 15, 1971, the day that President Richard Nixon took America off the gold standard. "After that day, all money would be political money rather than money of real value," Paul told a reporter three decades later. "I was astounded."
As an adherent of Austrian economics, Paul believes that the dollar should be tied to gold, and that the Federal Reserve Board should be abolished. Paul introduced the Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, watching it go nowhere. In 2009, he has introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, a proposal to audit the board,and Paul's staff describes this as his greatest legislative priority. While Paul has predicted a collapse of the world economic system since 1971, the current economic crisis has bolstered his public image, and he appears frequently on radio and TV to make the case against fiat currency. He opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailout as well as the 2009 economic stimulus package. "We can't solve the problems of a weak dollar by printing more dollars," he said on Jan. 23, 2009.
Paul opposes all foreign aid, all pre-emptive military intervention and much of the military budget. He voted against giving Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush authority for most of their interventions, with the exception of Paul's 2001 vote for the Afghanistan operation after Sept. 11. But Paul does not consider himself an isolationist. "Isolationism isn't what I advocate," Paul said in a 2007 interview. "I advocate non-intervention, not getting involved in the internal affairs of other nations, and not pretending a country like Iraq is equivalent to Nazi Germany." In 2001 and 2007 Paul introduced a Marque and Reprisal Act, viewing specific targeting of specific terrorists as the only Constitutional way to battle terrorism.
Paul does not have casual allies-those who work for him either stay involved for years, or break away and attack the congressman. Lew Rockwell, who served as Paul's chief of staff for most of his first stint in Congress , has remained close friends with his former boss and hosted hundreds of his speeches and articles at his web site, www.lewrockwell.com-where traffic soared as a result of Paul's presidential campaign. Eric Dondero, who worked for Paul's congressional staff in the late 1990s, left and became a dogged critic of his former boss, threatening to run for Paul's seat in 2008 before eventually endorsing a city councilman who lost to Paul in a landslide. Paul's political operation within his district has been consistent ever since his 1996 comeback, with political consultant Mark Elam running every campaign.
Paul's circle of friends has grown with his fame and fundraising ability. The Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty maintain full-time staffs composed largely of people who worked on the 2008 presidential campaign. Jesse Benton, the CFL's communications director, filled that same role on the campaign, and in 2008 he married Paul's granddaughter Valori Pyeatt.