By Peter Schroeder - 08/17/11 09:14 PM EDT
The rest of the GOP presidential field is starting to sound a lot like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Paul spent much of his political career waging a lonely crusade against the Federal Reserve, but his attacks on the central bank are increasingly boilerplate for Republicans who, like him, hope to occupy the White House in 2013.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry became the latest GOP hopeful to encroach on Paul’s turf this week when he said it would be “treasonous” for the Federal Reserve to pump more money into the economy.
The rush to criticize the Fed and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, has turned Paul into just one voice of many criticizing the bank’s actions.
Paul’s campaign isn’t convinced that the denunciations of the Fed by other candidates reflect anything more than political calculation.
“He kind of looks at it as, it’s good to see other candidates finally catching up by at least paying lip service to some of this,” Paul spokesman Gary Howard said. “Unfortunately, we’re looking at people’s records, and they don’t have much of a record in dealing with this issue.”
The Fed’s unprecedented involvement in the economy since the start of the financial crisis has raised the ire of many in the GOP. Both Tea Party favorites and more establishment Republicans have ripped the Fed’s recent moves, and that criticism is now seeping into the campaign trail.
“Americans have come to have an unhealthy distrust of all government institutions, including the Federal Reserve, and politicians like Perry and Paul are tapping into it,” said Mark McKinnon, a veteran GOP consultant. “I think for Paul it is a policy issue and for Perry it is a political issue.”
Paul’s camp said the outcry from voters is forcing Republicans to reassess their views.
“[Other candidates] only come around after the majority of Americans have voiced the need for more transparency from the Fed,” Howard said.
Not all the top GOP candidates are critiquing the central bank. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, considered by many the front-runner for the nomination, has steered clear so far, and even complimented Bernanke on his work in April.
Few politicians can pinpoint the moment they decided to run for office, but Paul can. It was a day in 1971, when President Nixon completely detached the dollar from the gold standard. He came to Congress in 1976, and has been denouncing the Fed ever since.
Paul touted his Fed-bashing bona fides Tuesday, noting he had been critical of the institution for decades.
“I was motivated in the 1970s, because the handwriting was on the wall,” he said on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”
Paul has consistently pushed for an audit of the central bank, and managed to win over enough House members to get a partial review included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. And when Republicans took the House majority in 2011, Paul became chairman of the Financial Services subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology. He has used that position to hold regular hearings to dissect and criticize the Fed’s policies.
Paul literally wrote the book on taking down the central bank with the best selling End the Fed, and now it seems several GOP candidates are singing from the same hymnbook.
Perry made the biggest splash with his fiery comments about Bernanke.
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election,” Perry said Monday at a campaign function in Iowa, “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.
“Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost ... treasonous, in my opinion.”
On Tuesday evening, Paul suggested Perry’s Fed-bashing was motivated primarily by politics.
Paul referred to comments Perry made at a 2009 Tea Party rally, where he seemed to indicate Texas could secede from the United States.
Paul said he wouldn’t call the Fed’s actions treasonous, but that printing more money would be “morally equivalent to counterfeiting because they create money out of thin air.”
He added that the Founding Fathers felt so strongly about counterfeiting, they originally threatened death to U.S Mint employees that engaged in the practice.
The increased attention on Perry and Bachmann has left Paul somewhat in the shadows of the GOP field. He has complained publicly that the media are ignoring his candidacy despite a close second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll.
But while Perry may be commanding attention for his Fed criticisms now, Paul’s campaign is confident that when the dust settles, people will remember who was on the issue first.
“This is the reason that he got into politics in the first place,” Howard said of Paul. “Everybody knows he’s being doing this a long time.”