Rand Paul Courting Silicon Valley

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Thursday, 17 Jul 2014 09:34 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is visiting Northern California, hoping his strong views on personal liberty and privacy will stir deep-pocketed tech types to offer their support, both financially and at the polls, according to Politico.

Paul’s assumed 2016 presidential bid could be buoyed by technology geeks upset over the Obama administration’s position on surveillance and privacy following revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to the political news website.

Despite Silicon Valley historically supporting Democrats, Paul believes he can reverse the course.

"I’m not just talking about going out there to seek fundraising," Paul told Politico. "Every time I’ve gone out there, the response I get is, 'You know what, while we supported the president, we’re disappointed in the president on issues of privacy, but also on issues of fiscal responsibility, taxes, regulations.'"

According to New York Magazine, Paul may be striking at just the right time. While social progressives continue to comprise the Bay Area’s majority, they are "much less reliable to Dems" when it comes to writing checks. More than ever before, tech investors are disenchanted with current policies on taxes and business regulation that may stymie growth.

Paul recently held meetings with Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg and a second Facebook billionaire, Sean Parker, characterized by New York Magazine as a "politically active tech investor."

Parker has historically supported progressives but is undergoing a "political rebirth" which finds him bankrolling centrist conservatives as well, according to the magazine. He contributed more than $500,000 to GOP groups and candidates, the magazine reported.

At Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley conference in Idaho, Paul met privately with Peter Thiel, "the best known avatar of Silicon Valley libertarianism," according to Business Insider, which said that Thiel contributed $2.6 million to a PAC that supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul, in 2012. Ron Paul is a Libertarian turned Republican and is Rand Paul’s father.

Paul recognizes that most voters care more about individual issues than just straight party loyalty.

"I think most people in Silicon Valley are actually more conservative on fiscal issues than the president, and they’re probably more moderate than most Republicans on social issues," Paul told Politico. "But without me even bringing it up, many of them bring up the word ‘libertarian.’ They say I’m not really Republican, I’m not really a Democrat, but I’m libertarian."

Internet startup founder Garrett Johnson told Politico that Paul is a natural fit for much of what Silicon Valley expects: "Someone who is willing to engage new ideas and debate politics that might be a bit controversial or inconsistent with what the establishment would expect."

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