Meet Paul Erickson, Maria Butina's Middle-Aged, Balding, Debt-Ridden 'Boy Toy'
Accused Russian agent Maria Butina is currently safely tucked away in jail, pending her trial and likely conviction for spying without proper permits. Folks seem baffled at how this Anna Karenina of Green Gables managed to infiltrate "elite" conservative circles when it seemed so obvious she was a spy. However, she did have some inside help from longtime GOP gadfly Paul Erickson.
An article in The Daily Beast described the 56-year-old Erickson from South Dakota as the 29-year-old Butina's "boy toy," which is not in any way how that concept works. When I applied for the open position of Madonna's "boy toy" in the early '90s, the job description made clear that youth was a required attribute. (I also looked awful in a cone bra, so I never got a second interview.) Erickson, in truth, is a bald, gross patsy, to whom Butina attached herself for his connections -- not that they were all that impressive. Their "relationship" didn't even pass the government's giggle test when determining if Butina had legitimate ties to the community.
The whole point of "boy toys" is that they serve no "necessary" functions. They aren't your accountant. Butina more likely viewed Erickson as the stationary bike in her basement she felt obligated to ride a couple times a week. Erickson hooked up with Butina in Moscow sometime around 2013. Why all these loyal, patriotic Americans were hanging out in Mother Russia is beyond me, but the supposed point this time was for a mixer organized by the "Right to Bear Arms," a front group Butina created to trap suckers who'd think, "Hey, gun rights! Second Amendment! She's totally not a spy!" Russia has fairly restrictive gun laws, so it would look to aforementioned suckers like Butina was defying Putin's tyranny and embracing the sort of all-American liberty that results in regular school shootings. Naturally, Butina would support the NRA as she helps them funnel money to Putin's preferred candidates. As scams go, it was an impressive one.
Erickson was enjoying a fairly undistinguished existence before his "meet cute" with Butina. He was an adviser to Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaigns (both of 'em) and served as the national political director/campaign manager for racist toad Pat Buchanan's 1992 "right-wing rebellion" against George H.W. Bush. Buchanan's biographer "described" Erickson as "the best there was at the price Pat could afford." (There's a glowing LinkedIn recommendation for you.)
He's been sued "multiple times" for defrauding business partners and was described as a "kind of like a taller, more physically unappealing Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can." (So, he might've actually resembled the real-life serial scam artist DiCaprio played.) He was executive producer for the anti-communist action film Red Scorpion starring Dolph Lundgren and was "media adviser" to John Wayne Bobbitt, whose wife cut off his penis but they were later reunited (Bobbitt and his penis, not his wife).
I dunno: Maybe Erickson was using Butina. She had a full life of espionage ahead of her before she met this clown. She was assistant to Alexander Torshin, who is a deputy governor of the Russian central bank and a key figure in Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party. This should have concerned Erickson, but his dumb ass just got in deeper. He helped Butina set up "Bridges, LLC," a "business" Erickson later claimed was created to help Butina with her graduate studies. (If that's his story, he should find another, less ludicrous one.) He is clearly not the master spy Butina was: He sent an email in May 2016 to Trump's campaign manager of the week with the cleverly disguised subject line "Kremlin Connection," the purpose of which was to ask for advice on setting up a meeting between Putin and candidate Trump. He's also claimed that he advised Trump's transition team, but no one wants to own up to that.
It was a match made in sucker's heaven. Erickson thought he could piggyback on Butina to a more profitable future, but his near future likely involves federal prison with limited access to Russian redheads.
Unfortunately, Erickson probably can't afford a lawyer. He's already gone to court over unpaid debts, and The Rapid City Journal uncovered $421,212 worth of court judgments against him since 2003.
Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.