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Rand Paul Makes His Pitch, Brushes Off Indictments

Paul speaks to supporters at a "Pints for Liberty" event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Paul speaks to supporters at a "Pints for Liberty" event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

RollCall-On-the-Road-Logo(150x150) COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sen. Rand Paul’s target audience is unique among the presidential contenders. It skews younger and more libertarian.  

That may make the Kentucky Republican the ideal candidate to attend a “Pints for Liberty” event, as he did Friday, but Paul says he also thinks that appeal suits him for a long campaign slog. As Paul traveled to the first-in-the-South primary state Friday, his stump speech was well-honed and well-received at a sunset gathering on the lawn of the small Rat River Brewery.  

“I think it’s a little easier for me to be distinctive than other candidates. I’ve been a champion leading against the president collecting call of our phone records. I’ve been the one trying to talk about the Republican party defending the entire Bill of Rights,” Paul said, also touting his tax and spending cut plans. “I think I occupy a unique space that makes it a little easier for me than some others.”  

He showed no signs of being affected by Wednesday’s campaign finance indictments of longtime family confidantes. But, when asked about it by Roll Call, Paul questioned the timing of the indictments of three aides to his father’s 2012 presidential bid.  

“Campaign financial regulations, I think, are very complicated, and I’m sure the lawyers and accountants will figure it out sometime,” Paul said in response. “But, it did look a little suspicious with the Obama administration doing this right in the middle of the presidential debate season.”  

The Justice Department announced Wednesday the indictments of Jesse Benton, John M. Tate and Dimitrios N. Kesari in connection to alleged improper payments made to a former Iowa state senator to cajole him to switch endorsements to former Rep. Ron Paul.  

Paul has faced questions about the indictments, which involve two of the men who had been leading a key pro-Paul super PAC, throughout his post-debate tour through South Carolina, as BuzzFeed reported Friday .  

In addition to familiar themes, like his proposal to slash federal income tax rates, Paul mixed in material from Thursday’s debate in Cleveland, including his attention-grabbing scuffles with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Donald Trump.  

“I figured we needed a little bit of fireworks, so we got started early on it,” Paul said. “I guess the thing that boggles the mind is we’ve got a front-runner … the guy with the big hair, so we’ve got this guy that’s like, what is he famous for? He’s famous for buying politicians.”  

That reference to Trump in the stump speech came before news spread that the RedState gathering in Atlanta and its organizer, Erick Erickson, had uninvited the real estate mogul and reality TV star as a result of inappropriate comments about Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly.  

“We all despise Hillary Clinton for selling access, for enriching herself with her public service. Why aren’t we upset by a businessman who buys access to a politician like Hillary Clinton?” Paul said.  

And in response to the other big question — this being a brewery — Paul said he preferred amber beers, though he also put in a plug or Kentucky’s spirits business.  

“What I think what’s neat about the beer industry and the bourbon industry in Kentucky is that we’re getting into all these niches now with a lot of different choices, and so it’s a great time to be a beer consumer or a bourbon consumer,” Paul said. “And by the way, that was a great question.”  

Paul had more to say about Trump Saturday morning at his last public event in the state, a Berkeley County Republican Party breakfast in Goose Creek with more than 400 in attendance.  

“I have no idea if he’s conservative. We are kidding ourselves to even consider someone who is such a chameleon that he’s been on every side of every issue,” Paul said.  

He said Republicans need to “wake up.”

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