BuzzFeed had an interesting piece over the weekend highlighting the Libertarian network closely associated with Rand Paul that could be a big boost to his presidential campaign. Groups like National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), Campaign for Liberty, National Pro-life Alliance, and the National League of Taxpayers has long been around with ties to Ron Paul and have more or less been passed down to Rand who has helped fundraise for the groups by signing mailers and with conference calls.
But as much help as these groups may provide when it comes to organizing and firing up volunteers and a base, it’s those very operations in the past that may come back to haunt Paul’s 2016 ambitions, especially in Virginia and especially with 2nd District Republican Congressman Scott Rigell
Paul’s connection to NAGR has caused some political tension in the past. The group presents itself as a more conservative alternative to the NRA — and runs ads against Republicans not sufficiently strong on gun rights, a frightening political prospect for many politicians, especially Republicans.
In 2012, NAGR’s tactics pulled Paul into a public spat with a Republican congressman from Virginia, Scott Rigell, based on a number of ads the NAGR ran in his district that argued Rigell was trying to curb second amendment rights. (The ads also targeted former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and in 2013, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine complained during a Senate GOP lunch that NAGR’s ads were hurting her back home. Paul reportedly stormed out of the lunch.) Rigell confronted Paul, asking him to publicly refute the group or at least get them to stop attacking him. According to Rigell, Paul told him there was nothing he would do. At the time, Stafford told Politico, “Rand signs normal, run-of-the-mill activist emails and letters for numerous groups and this is one of them. That’s all he’s ever done for them, he’s not affiliated with the group in any way, he doesn’t control how they decide their activism should take place in terms of who the people are that need to be shored up on an issue.”
Two years later, Rigell is still furious with Paul over the ads.
“He was completely indifferent to the truth. It speaks to his character and he’s a man and public figure lacking in character. I think he is unworthy of the office he holds but certainly of a higher office,” Rigell told BuzzFeed News.
“This will over time become increasingly an issue,” Rigell added. “Not just because of what happened to me personally but because of the pattern that is there of working with groups that use nefarious methods and outright deception… And when presented with it, as a fellow member of congress and a fellow Republican, he was indifferent to it.”
Asked about Rigell’s comments, Paul’s office declined to comment.
Emphasis mine, because this explanation comes awfully close to his father’s response to the newsletter controversy that haunted him over the years.
Rand Paul’s strength in Virginia could be huge or could be a bubble waiting to burst. A Rand Paul headlined fundraiser for the Republican Party of Virginia was twice delayed before ultimately being cancelled. A spat with Rigell in a swing district in a swing state could cause tension with the ticket should Paul end up the nominee in 2016. But a recent Quinnipiac poll shows Paul within the margin of error in a head to head against Hillary Clinton with the only candidate polling stronger against her being Jeb Bush.