Kent Snyder, the openly gay 49-year-old campaign chair responsible for helping Libertarian Presidential hopeful Ron Paul raise more than $35 million, died on June 26 after being hospitalised for about two months and running up medical bills exceeding $400,000 (£200,000).

Controversy is now swirling about the fact that Paul, though a practising physician, did not offer health insurance to his campaign staffers.

As activists mourn Snyder’s loss, the late campaign chair’s family and friends are now scrambling to raise money to cover the exorbitant medical bills he left behind.

To that end a web site has been created which calls on Paul supporters to contribute to a special fund to help Snyder’s family pay the bills, which come mostly from his two-month hospitalisation.

So far, the site has raised about $32,000.

The question of whether or not Paul should have offered his staffers health coverage is now the subject of debate among many of his supporters and Republican activists.

Though the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain all provide full health insurance coverage to their paid staff, the practice is not a completely common one.

According to Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns and Elections’ Politics Magazine, which is considered an authority on American political campaigns, in the recent past, health insurance was almost never offered by campaigns operated by either Republicans or Democrats.

Now, Lieberman said, the trend among larger campaigns, especially Presidential campaigns, is to offer health insurance benefits.

Most interestingly, Jesse Benton, who served as communications director for the Paul Presidential campaign, says that it was Kent Snyder himself who made the decision not to provide health insurance to the campaign staff.

“Kent Snyder as the chairman of the campaign ran the business operation,” Benton said. “So it was his decision as to what would be offered to employees.”

Benton said Snyder’s decision was not unusual in the realm of political campaigns.

“As a general practice, virtually no political campaigns offer health insurance,” Benton said. “It’s just not done. A campaign is a temporary organisation that could disband at any minute.”

But gay Democratic activist and political consultant Steve Elmendorf disputes Benton’s assessment, saying that in recent years, a growing number of campaigns have begun providing health insurance to paid staffers, with the campaigns of Democratic candidates offering medical coverage in greater numbers than Republican candidates.

Though Representative Paul himself called Snyder’s death a “great loss” to the Libertarian movement and praised him for his 20 years of service and for playing a key role in advancing libertarian causes, a spokesperson for Paul’s Congressional office said the Texas Congressman would have no comment on the question of whether his campaign should have provided health insurance for the staff.

As a Libertarian, Paul opposes universal health care.

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