Rand Paul mixes basketball with politics in Ames


U.S. Sen. Rand Paul attended the ISU men’s basketball game against West Virginia on Feb. 7, 2015. Paul gave a speech at the Scheman Building during the second half.

Alex Hanson

Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, spent his final hours in Iowa on Feb. 7 reaching out to students at Iowa State, another indication he is considering a run for president in 2016.

Paul was at Hilton Coliseum during the first half of the men’s basketball game against Texas Tech, and then went next door to the Scheman building for the second half of the game. He spoke to students and answered questions for about 20 minutes. He also posed for pictures with those in the packed room.

“I think liberty brings people together,” Paul said at the beginning of his remarks.

“If we want to have a movement of young people that say, ‘what I do on my cell phone is my own damn business, I want to keep government out of my affairs, out of what I do, government should only have the ability to look at my stuff if I’m accused of a crime.’ I think if members of [Young Americans for Liberty] bring that message to Iowa State, I can come back and we’ll have 1,000 young kids here,” Paul added, talking about privacy issues.

Paul has used the issue of civil liberties and privacy to bring young voters together. He mentioned during the speech he was suing the Obama administration following the revelations surrounding the National Security Agency and its extensive spying program.

“I also think there is a great opportunity for us to reach out to new people who haven’t been interested in the Republican message, if we are the party that believes in justice. We’re the party that believes you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Paul said.

Paul also mentioned he would oppose the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the next attorney general, adding he has issue with her position on civil forfeiture, the practice of law enforcement seizing assets of people who have not been convicted of a crime.

Students in attendance were able to ask Paul questions following his remarks.

Robert Dunn, senior in accounting, asked Paul about constitutional issues at Iowa State. Dunn mentioned the free speech zone restricting First Amendment rights to a specific area, colleges restricting Second Amendment rights and student disciplinary policies that he says violate students’ Fourth Amendment rights.

“You don’t remember the clause in the First Amendment that says you have to stand over here to speak?” Paul joked, which drew laughter from the crowd.

Paul said the issue of speech is a great issue to grow groups on campus, adding students should stand up for free speech rights and protest outside Iowa State’s “free speech zone.”

Brenden Maxwell, senior in history education, said he works at a school and has firsthand experience with common core, the national education standards. Maxwell said he has a positive view of the standards, but can see why some would be skeptical of the program. He asked Paul what his alternative to the standards would be.

“I think that curriculum, and how we study and how we teach should be as decentralized as possible,” Paul said. “I don’t like a national curriculum, I don’t like the federal government doing it.”

Paul added that he was against “No Child Left Behind,” does not want the federal government making educational decisions and also does not want teachers being judged by Washington.

“Nobody in Washington knows who is a good teacher here in Ames,” Paul said.

Kevin Corbett, senior in finance, asked Paul about education, as well, but focused on the issue of student loans and debt.

“I’m very aware of the problem. I’ve got two kids in college. [I know] how much it costs and how a lot of people end up with a lot of loans,” Paul said. “Then when they get out, the jobs don’t pay adequately, so they’re stuck with these large loans.”

Paul talked about the price of education and healthcare rising rapidly compared to almost anything else, saying it may be because the government subsidizes demand.

“We give people a lot of money,” Paul said. “Pell-grants, loans. We are pushing people to go to college because college is a good thing, and I agree, I think college is a good thing. But when you stimulate the demand, the price goes up.”

Paul’s stop in Ames wrapped up a two-day trip to the state. He spoke at an “Audit the Fed” rally in Des Moines on Friday. Along with a private fundraiser in Ames, Paul attended a meet and greet with U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, on Feb. 7.

The event was sponsored by RANDPAC, Paul’s Super PAC. Staffers handed out free iPhone cases with Rand’s logo and passed around iPads to get student’s emails and allow them to volunteer.

Paul’s latest trip is his first of 2015 as he ponders running for president in the 2016 election.

“I think [Rand] is a Republican that can [attract] both sides, like the younger generation. He can get independents and anyone who is on the edge on whether they want to vote Republican or Democrat,” Corbett said in an interview after Paul’s question and answer session.

Jake Dagel, the Iowa field coordinator for Turning Point USA, a student organization advocating for fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government, said young people like what they see in Paul.

“I think people on both side of the aisle are looking for a non-traditional candidate.” Dagel said. “We’ve ran traditional candidates the past few years and no one has ever been as excited.”

Paul’s trip arrived after a recent Iowa poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics showed Paul second among likely caucus voters, only one point behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“I think a lot of people are excited about Rand Paul,” Dagel added.