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Is Paul Getting an Early Start on 2016 White House Race?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is taking a pass on next week’s crowded inaugural festivities in order to attend a much more intimate gathering: The Monday Meeting, a closed-door, off-the-record gathering of top conservatives in South Carolina.

The Monday Meeting, called a “cabal” by New York media outlets, moved from the Big Apple to Charleston, S.C., with its co-founder, conservative businessman and political activist Mallory Factor, in 2006. Paul’s office confirmed he will be in South Carolina on Jan. 21 for the meeting.

So while the president, vice president, dignitaries and other senior senators convene in Statuary Hall for a lavish lunch, Paul will be schmoozing with conservatives in a state most GOP presidential hopefuls — as Paul is rumored to be — see as crucial. South Carolina hosts the first-in-the-South presidential primary and is viewed as key to those who want to win the GOP nomination.

The Monday Meeting has been known to help with political fundraising. New York Magazine once referred to the gathering as former President George W. Bush’s “ATM.”

According to the Federal Election Commission, Factor has donated more than $80,000 to Republican candidates over the past decade or so, including Paul’s fellow Kentuckians, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Sen. Jim Bunning, whose seat Paul now holds. Factor also has contributed significantly to South Carolina Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Sen. Jim DeMint and the House campaign of DeMint’s appointed replacement, Sen. Tim Scott. But more than that, he is viewed as an influential conservative thought leader and fundraiser.

When starting the Charleston version of the meeting, Factor told the Post and Courier that he hoped it would take a similar shape to the New York gatherings, with a group of lawmakers or other influential conservative thinkers getting a few minutes to “make their case” and then fielding questions from those in attendance that week.

“We will have impact on legislation, approaches,” Factor told the South Carolina newspaper. “We will have impact on leaders as far as who they support, just by the fact they are participating in these meetings. Impact is key.”

Representatives for Factor and The Monday Meeting did not respond to a request for comment.

Another potential 2016 presidential aspirant, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is considering spending Inauguration Day with his children, who have the day off from school for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Rubio aide said.

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