At South by Southwest, Rand Paul champions Snapchat, criticizes Clinton

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Rand Paul speaks with Texas Tribune editor in chief Evan Smith in Austin. (Laura Buckman/REUTERS)

AUSTIN – Though Republican Rand Paul is not officially running for president, he had plenty to say here about the woman soon expected to announce her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The senator from Kentucky took the stage Sunday evening at the annual South by Southwest festival for a discussion with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. The two touched on the potential of campaigning with Snapchat, the changing media landscape, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address while serving as secretary of state.

Asked about the way technology might change the presidency come 2017, Paul replied, “My advice to whoever wins is: Don’t use your private emails.”

Paul was referring to recent revelations that Clinton used a private email address during her time helming State and later deleted more than 31,830 emails after aides deemed anything lacking certain keywords or names to be irrelevant for the purposes of archiving. In a press conference last week, Clinton explained that she chose to use a private email address while in office because it was more “convenient” than carrying  two devices in order to access two accounts on the go.

As new revelations about those messages continue to surface, Republicans have seized the opportunity to criticize Clinton. South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, whose House committee on Benghazi first surfaced the private address, denounced her actions and questioned her motives. “It’s not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what’s public record and what’s not,” he said last week on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Paul echoed that sentiment and accused Clinton of breaking the law.

“The law can’t be different for different people,” he told the audience. “I think there’s a certain arrogance and hypocrisy that’s going to be difficult for her to overcome. … I think you have to obey the law. I obey a lot of laws I don’t agree with.”

Hillary Clinton answers questions from reporters March 10, 2015 at the United Nations in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP Photo)

Asked if he himself used a private email while in office, Paul declined to answer the question.

“We’re not under the same rules,” he said. “We’re not required to do anything under government email. The executive department is under different standards.”

Paul also took the opportunity to tout the new technologies he’s using to reach young constituents. On March 11, in preparation for opening Paul’s new Austin office, his senior field and technology strategist, Rachel Kania, called his operation the “most technologically savvy campaign in the field, and his message will inspire and widen the GOP base unlike any other candidate’s.”

Paul, who participated in the first-ever senatorial Snapchat interview in January, emphasized that politicians must reach young voters via the platform they’re on.

“You look at Snapchat’s audience, it’s like an 18- to 24-year-old audience,” he said. “These are new voters. I’m worried about the next generation having jobs, having a robust economy, having privacy, having a bill of rights. I think a lot of kids are interested in that, but if you don’t go to a platform where they are, you won’t find them.”

The senator also acknowledged that this means communicating with new, different media entities.

“You’ve got to talk to the Texas Tribune and that girl in the bathtub,” he said, referring to YouTube star GloZell Green, who before her January interview with President Obama was best known for bathing in milk and cereal.

Throughout the talk, Paul expressed a common ground with the technologically minded, emphasizing that innovation was synonymous with his libertarian views.

“Voters are now no longer Republican or Democrat and no longer neatly fit in one box or the other,” he said. “We think that people potentially interested in our message are free thinkers, people who think for themselves, people who invent and fly drones around a conference room on the fourth floor.”

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