Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul apparently learned nothing from the death of his 2008 campaign chairman, a gay man named Kent Snyder.
Snyder, 49, died of pneumonia in 2008. He was uninsured and left about $400,000 in unpaid medical bills to his surviving mother. Paul was criticized at the time for failing to offer his campaign staffers medical insurance. The Blade covered the story extensively back then and interviewed Paul about it. His lame defense was that no campaign offered health insurance, a false claim — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s campaigns all offered health insurance to staff.
At last week’s Tea Party debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Paul what should happen to an uninsured 30-year-old man who needed six months of hospitalization.
“In a society that you accept socialism and welfarism, he expects the government to take care of him … he should assume responsibility for himself,” came Paul’s heartless response.
Blitzer replied, “Are you saying society should just let him die?”
In response, the bloodthirsty, unsympathetic crowd yelled, “Yeah!”
You’d think that the death of a trusted campaign aide — who Paul said was instrumental in helping him decide to run in 2008 — would prompt some soul-searching and deeper thinking about the state of America’s health care system. But obviously that’s not the case for Paul, who happens to be a medical doctor.
The full 2008 Blade story is re-posted below:
Ron Paul supporters mourn death of gay campaign chair
With no health insurance, Snyder leaves $400K in hospital bills
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Activists belonging to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party continue to mourn the loss of Kent Snyder, a 49-year-old gay political operative credited with propelling the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) into a national, grassroots movement that raised more than $35 million.
Snyder, who served as Paul’s campaign chair, died of pneumonia on June 26 after being hospitalized for about two months and after running up medical bills exceeding $400,000, according to friends and family members, who said he did not have health insurance.
Gay staffers from the Paul campaign, some speaking on condition that they not be identified, said they learned about Snyder’s unpaid medical bills from a web site created by his friends that calls on Paul supporters to contribute to a special fund to help Snyder’s family pay the bills, which come mostly from a two-month hospitalization. So far, the site (kentsnyder.com) has raised about $32,000.
“I can’t believe he didn’t have health insurance,” said one political activist who read about Snyder’s unpaid medical bills in a story published last month in the Wall Street Journal. “I can’t believe that Ron Paul didn’t give him health insurance,” said the activist, who asked not to be identified.
The Journal story did not identify Snyder as gay; a Washington Post obituary reported Snyder died of viral pneumonia but did not mention his sexual orientation.
Craig Max, a D.C. gay Republican activist who sought to become a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican National Convention, said news of Snyder’s death and his lack of health insurance has triggered a behind-the-scenes debate among Paul supporters and libertarian activists over whether or not the Paul campaign should have provided health insurance to its staff.
Among the points raised, according to Max and others involved in the Paul campaign, is the fact that Paul is a practicing physician. Some of the Paul supporters are asking why a medical doctor, whose campaign raised $35 million in contributions, chose not to offer health insurance for his staff.
When asked at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday about concerns raised by critics that his presidential campaign did not provide employee health insurance, Paul said only that he doesn’t believe any political campaigns offer health insurance.
“I don’t know of any campaign that has health insurance for temporary and other employees,” he said. “I’ve never had it and I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I don’t know any campaign that does.”
At least three gay Paul supporters said it was well known among Paul campaign insiders that Snyder was gay. Although Snyder shunned the public spotlight, activists and political operatives working on the campaigns of rival GOP presidential candidates, including officials with the McCain campaign, recognized Snyder’s efforts in building a major campaign operation for Paul, Paul’s gay supporters said.
“As far as his being out, I don’t think that he was ever in or anything like that,” said Jesse Benton, who served as communications director for the Paul presidential campaign. “But his romantic life was just not something that was discussed. He was the boss and that was that.”
Benton said Snyder confided in him that he had a chronic blood disorder. He said that Snyder told him the name of the disorder but Benton said he does not remember it.
“To my knowledge, Kent did not have HIV,” Benton said. “He expressed to me a couple of times what his blood disorder was, but I believe [the HIV speculation] to just be a rumor.”
Benton said it was Snyder himself who made the decision not to provide health insurance to the campaign staff.
“Kent Snyder as the chairman of the campaign ran the business operation,” Benton said. “So it was his decision as to what would be offered to employees.”
Benton said Snyder’s decision was not unusual in the realm of political campaigns.
“As a general practice, virtually no political campaigns offer health insurance,” Benton said. “It’s just not done. A campaign is a temporary organization that could disband at any minute.”
But gay Democratic activist and political consultant Steve Elmendorf disputes Benton’s assessment, saying that in recent years, a growing number of campaigns have begun providing health insurance to paid staffers, with the campaigns of Democratic candidates offering medical coverage in greater numbers than Republican candidates.
Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns and Elections’ Politics Magazine, which is considered an authority on American political campaigns, said that in the recent past, health insurance was almost never offered by campaigns operated by either Republicans or Democrats. Now, Lieberman said, the trend among larger campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, is to offer health insurance benefits.
Spokespersons for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain said both campaigns provide full health insurance coverage to their paid staff. A spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign said Clinton also provided health insurance coverage to campaign staffers before she ended her campaign in early June.
On his own web site, Paul called Snyder’s death a “great loss” to the libertarian movement.
“Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for freedom,” Paul said. “He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family. We deeply mourn his loss.”
Paul praised Snyder for playing a key role in advancing libertarian causes and noted that Snyder began his association with him in 1987, when he worked on Paul’s first run for president.
“Over the next 20 years, we worked together on countless projects in the name of freedom,” Paul said. “It was Kent, more than anyone else, who urged me to run again for president” in 2008.
Gay libertarian activists have praised Paul for his longstanding views calling for all Americans to be free from government intrusion into their private lives through laws and regulations. Paul voted against a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
But according to a scorecard on the voting records of members of Congress on gay-related issues, Paul voted against the interests of gays on all issues other than the marriage amendment. In the Human Rights Campaign scorecard for the 109th Congress (2005-2006), the latest scorecard that the group has issued, Paul received a score of 38 on a scale from 0 to 100. According to HRC, Paul received a score of 25 for the 108th Congress (2003-2004) and a 0 in the 107th Congress (2000-2002).
Similar to most libertarians, Paul opposed bills like the Employment Non- Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a hate crimes bill, which would authorize the federal government to prosecute anti-gay hate crimes, on grounds that such legislation improperly expands government powers.
Liberal blogger Rob Kall, in a July 5 posting on Opednews.com, called Kent Snyder’s death and his unpaid medical bills an ironic twist to Snyder’s libertarian philosophy.
“What a testament to the libertarian creed, which abhors the idea of universal health care,” Kall wrote. “This loyal, passionate man who died too young left his family a debt of $400,000 in medical bills,” he said. “Sadly, the libertarian heart apparently does not include health care.”
Benton and others who knew Snyder said he gave up a lucrative career as a telecommunications industry executive to work for one of Paul’s libertarian organizations before becoming the head of the Paul for president campaign. Benton said Snyder’s friends and associates from the campaign are now especially concerned that Snyder’s unpaid medical bills could adversely impact Snyder’s mother.
“I do know that Kent was an extremely proud man and he was basically financially supporting his mother and allowing her to live in a property he owned,” Benton said. “As someone who respected him very much — he had a lot of people who respected him a lot — we all know that he would turn over in his grave if his mother has to leave that property.
“So it was important for us to do what we could,” Benton said. “And I’m not a wealthy man but I made a small contribution, Dr. Paul has made a personal contribution, and a lot of the campaign staff have given what they could,” he said, referring to the special fund to help pay off Snyder’s medical bills.