The Ron Paul Institute may be organizing an advocacy campaign attacking US space contractor SpaceX and boosting a rival which coincidentally relies on components made by a Russian defense contractor to power its rockets.
That is the conclusion of an analysis of multiple op-eds written over a multi-year period attacking SpaceX, whose main competitor is United Launch Alliance (ULA).
ULA is a joint venture between American defense giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Unlike SpaceX, ULA relies on Russian rocket engines built by defense contractor Energomash to power its space-bound vehicles.
ULA has been intensely critical of SpaceX's gain of market share with regard to space launches, but Russian interests are also said to oppose SpaceX gaining a toehold with regard to US space-related defense contracts because that trend diminishes long-term need for Energomash engines. That in turn risks depriving the Russian defense contractor of potential future revenue.
The op-eds first began running in September 2017 when Ron Paul himself ran an op-ed at Fox News falsely alleging that the congressional defense budget handed "SpaceX a monopoly."
That was swiftly followed by Jillian Lane Wyant, a former press secretary for Rand Paul and current staffer for Rep. Matt Gaetz, promoting Ron Paul’s defense of American subsidies for Russian rocketry in a piece at the American Thinker, and Joey Bradfield, another former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul, running an op-ed at Rare also echoing Ron Paul’s defense of American subsidies for Russian rockets.
Most recently, Bill Wirtz of the Paulworld-linked Consumer Choice Center wrote this anti-SpaceX op-ed for the Washington Examiner.
In the meantime, Ron Paul has personally weighed in on an array of policy matters relevant to Russia and foreign policy, including through his platform at the Ron Paul Institute.
Together with the links these authors share to Paulworld, that has raised suspicion of a coordinated campaign.
The speculation is that the effort may be being led directly on behalf of Energomash since libertarians like Paul generally are hostile to legacy defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed, and SpaceX tends to conduct space launches at a fraction of ULA's price which makes it an unlikely target and ULA an unlikely Paul ally.
Ron Paul has bashed US defense contractors from his platform at the Ron Paul Institute, writing this July that "Russian weapons are so superior to the junk produced by the waste-filled US military/security complex that lives high off the hog on the insouciant American taxpayer that it is questionable if the US is even a second class military power."
In that same piece, Paul dabbles in the kind of Russia-friendly rhetoric that marked his prior presidential runs and tenure in Congress.
But is the campaign actually being paid for by Energomash? Those tracking it previously believed it was an astroturf campaign conceived of and paid for by ULA, Boeing or Lockheed. But in view of libertarian skepticism of big defense contractors and the cost-savings that increased reliance on SpaceX has delivered, they now say they're unsure whether the campaign is ULA-, Boeing- or Lockheed-led or whether it might be funded or otherwise encouraged by Energomash directly.
What is unlikely is that it is not coordinated, and that no money has changed hands. Of course, the Ron Paul Institute-- or whoever else might be orchestrating it--digs capitalism. So theoretically, anyway, there's nothing wrong with that-- unless Russian interests are actually involved, in which case a below-the-radar advocacy campaign might become significantly more interesting to a range of people in Washington, D.C., than it has been to-date.