WASHINGTON -- Presidential hopeful Ron Paul has disavowed white supremacists and their views, but a review of federal campaign filings shows he accepts their money.
Paul's 2012 campaign has received more than $6,000 from people who have identified themselves as white separatists or supremacists, or who are listed on anti-hate group sites such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Two prominent donors are leaders in what may be the most ambitious white nationalist political movement in the U.S., American Third Position. One is William Johnson, the group's chairman. Another is Virginia Abernethy, a former Vanderbilt professor who is listed as a director of the party.
Abernethy has given Paul at least $2,451 for this election. Johnson has donated at least $3.349.
Paul, under fire for the racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic passages in the newsletter he used to produce, disavowed the content of the publication in December.
He further told The New York Times that he "wouldn't be happy with" with racists and anti-Semites doing his volunteer work, even as many were. He explained the apparent contradiction to the newspaper, saying, "If they want to endorse me, they're endorsing what I do or say -- it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say."
The Paul campaign declined to comment on why he is accepting donations from people the candidate says he disagrees with. The contributions represent an ongoing Paul tie to right-wing extremism -- one that could be severed simply by sending back the checks.
Most presidential campaigns reject what they regard as money from tainted sources. Paul has not done that, even though Abernethy and Johnson are well known for their views and Paul has encountered Johnson before.
If Paul doesn't want to make a complete break with white nationalists, neither do white separatists worry that he has publicly shunned them, with Abernethy cutting a fresh check as recently last month, according to the latest federal election filings.
Johnson, in an email, explained why he contributed to the Texas congressman's presidential campaign:
"In my opinion, Ron Paul is the most principled politician of his generation. He forthrightly states what he believes, at all times. He is a man of his word. He states that he does not recognize groups -- only individuals. He states that he does not possess any degree of racial consciousness. Those are his actual beliefs and the nation should believe that that is his position."
Johnson actually has reason to shun Paul. He had been endorsed by Paul for a judicial election in 2008 until Paul found out about his views and withdrew his backing. "Had he known I was a white nationalist at the outset, he would not have given me his imprimatur," Johnson said. "In the coming years, this will change. Reputable and fair-minded men will freely endorse us because our positions are just."
Johnson also sounded somewhat like Paul in not believing the desires of the candidate mattered to his own choices.
"I will continue to support Ron Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul, because it is the right thing to do," Johnson said, adding that "in many respects it is 'unrequited love.' Ron Paul has said that he does not want the support of white nationalists because 'it muddies the waters.' This is true, because our support brings with it certain baggage that Dr. Paul does not want.
"My view is that white nationalism is a just and proper position for all white people to hold, so it would not be appropriate for me to withhold my support from Ron Paul just because he does not want it," Johnson said.
Regardless of how Paul feels about race issues, right-wing leaders also simply like Paul.
"I've liked Ron Paul for a long time. I like Libertarian candidates. I'd like more Libertarian candidates to become active in the Republican Party," said Wayne Lutton, editor of the Michigan-based Social Contract Press and who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "anti-immigrant."
Lutton, who gave Paul $201 in December, called himself a "conservative environmentalist and conservationist" and denied he hates immigrants, although he blamed immigration for pushing the U.S. population past the 200 million level that he thinks is desirable.
His reasons for backing Paul in Tuesday's contest sounded more like the more conservative members of the Tea Party who want drastic spending cuts and a return to the gold standard.
"As far as Paul is concerned, I'm in favor not just of balanced budgets, but of much lower spending. I'm certainly in favor of hard money," Lutton said.
If that hard money is a campaign donation, so is Ron Paul.