FRANKFORT, Ky. — College student John Ramsey stands out in a new campaign finance world order filled with big names like Republican casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Democratic Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Ramsey is just the latest wealthy individual to try to influence federal elections in the wake of a series of federal court decisions that deregulated the campaign finance system and dramatically changed the country's political landscape.
It's not just his age — he's 21 — that sets him apart. There's his source of means: He turned $1 million of his inheritance into the Liberty For All Political Action Committee. And there's this: He's part of an army of young Ron Paul supporters who have turned their attention to federal, state and local races after their libertarian-leaning hero's presidential hopes were dashed once again.
"I could very easily, having that great fortune, be spending it on frivolous things — big expensive cars or jets. But, you know, I'm really interested in making this world a better place," says Ramsey, a lanky 6-foot-7 Texan. "To be able to put your own personal wealth behind a humanitarian cause, it's really very refreshing for me."
In Ramsey's view, libertarian politics is humanitarian because it will produce a fiscally healthy United States and citizens who can afford to provide charity to poorer countries where people are starving.
He wouldn't have been able to choose this path if not for a series of federal court cases, including the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling in 2010, that stripped away the old restrictions on campaign spending. Those changes have green-lighted wealthy individuals and corporations to open their wallets freely this election, but they've also given the OK for grassroots groups like Ramsey's to raise unlimited sums of cash.
As an economics and finance major, Ramsey is passionate in his belief that an overreaching government hinders rather than helps. He said his own philosophy mirrors that of Frederic Bastiat, a 19th century French legislator who decried government's intrusion on individual liberties, and that of Paul, the Texas congressman who gained a passionate following by espousing similar principles.
It's that belief that drove Ramsey to found his group, which the liberal-leaning magazine Mother Jones dubbed the Brat PAC.
Liberty For All's first order of business was supporting the primary campaign of a protege of Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for Kentucky's open 4th Congressional District seat.