Rand Paul's NSA Lawsuit Builds Database for Presidential Bid

Saturday, 18 Jan 2014 05:11 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Rand Paul's class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency's surveillance policies is an early play in the Kentucky Republican senator's presidential ambitions, a new report says.

While it will allow him to hone his brand as a champion of small government, it likely won't have much legal effect, reports Politico.

Paul is up for re-election to the Senate in 2016, but is on a short list of Republicans being mentioned as a contender in the 2016 presidential race as well, and he is adding supporters for his NSA suit to his political database.

Names and emails of anyone who signs onto his campaign website, RandPaul2016.com, goes into the database, his campaign acknowledges.

Signing up to support the lawsuit through Paul's website, on his non-governmental Facebook page, or at RandPAC.com does not make people who sign on a party to the lawsuit.

However, people signing on are asked to make a "generous donation to help rally up to ten million Americans to support my lawsuit to stop Big Brother from infringing on our Fourth Amendment freedoms."

A senior adviser defended adding the supporters to Paul's campaign database.

"This could have been done through some other named website," one adviser told Politico. "We did it straight up. Go to RandPaul2016.com or RandPAC.com to sign up. They know who they’re giving their name to. It’s a couple hundred thousand people who obviously care about this issue, care about Rand taking action on this issue. [We’re] sure there are other things they’ll care about.”

Strategists say Paul's action is a way to energize his base while making overtures to attract younger voters, who care more about protecting privacy.

But Paul says the NSA is overreaching with its mass data collection, and doesn't think "we can allow the president, who's allowed this overreach, to be the one to police it himself."

He's also dismissed President Barack Obama's reform proposals, saying he's just shoring up the same "unconstitutional program" with new activities, and pledged he will continue with his lawsuit and a Congressional Act.

Paul's advisers stressed that the petition is being pushed through campaign sites because it would be too difficult to do through Senate channels, and the action is not being funded by taxpayer dollars.

Legal expert Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution, said from what he knows now, the lawsuit will accomplish nothing because it duplicates litigation already in the courts.

"It’s a way of . . .  forcing the administration to talk about things,” Wittes said. “There’s a lot of value — I don’t say this pejoratively — from a PR point of view in having the litigation. If [they filed] early in the process, it could be the leading edge of the mechanism by which this gets decided. But I think it’s going to be more the former than the latter.”

Other digital campaign strategists, though, said the approach is smart because Paul's websites are fully functional while attracting voters on issues that matter to them now.

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