So the latest bit of filth Ron Paul signed but says he didn’t write was a pitch for an “insider” investment newsletter warning of a “coming race war” and “the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS.”

This should presumably put “paid” next to the Ron Paul account and leave anti-Romney Republicans looking for yet another flavor of the month.

But there’s a broader point here, not raised in any of the coverage I’ve seen: the relationship between right-wing politics and pure con artistry.

The hard-core, true-wingnut, John-Birch-Society, Tea-Party faction of the GOP contains a disproportionate share of conspiracy believers; that’s one reason Glenn Beck appeals to them. Some of these folks are convinced that a ring of “insiders” knows what’s really happening, and can make profitable investments as a result.

So scammers like Dr. Paul can fleece these sheeple by promising to bring them the inside scoop that will allow them, too, to make a killing by buying or selling the right securities and commodities. After claiming that his terms in Congress left him with a network of “sources” from “House and Senate Committees, the White House, the Treasury, the Fed, the Justice Department, and even the IRS, Paul (or his ghostwriter) promised his intended victims:

… I give you the facts and analysis – and specific recommendations – you need to protect yourself, and dramatically increase your wealth, in the spastic economy of the 199os … as the only former high official to publish a financial letter, I supply facts and analysis available nowhere else.

The “investment letter” racket represents a substantial source of income for wingnut pundits and websites. And some of the fanaticism about returning to the gold standard comes from people who fantasize that their own Krugerrands will suddenly appreciate sharply as a result.

To my knowledge, there’s nothing even vaguely comparable on the other side of the aisle.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.