Top Rand Paul aide working for Israeli prime minister's re-election effort

Top Rand Paul aide working for Israeli prime minister's re-election effort
Jon Ward
·Senior Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON – Rand Paul’s top digital strategist is working for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.

Vincent Harris, the 26-year-old Austin-based digital strategist, has made two trips to Israel to help the Israeli leader in a stiff fight to win his fourth term as prime minister and has been working for his campaign for more than six weeks, he told the Jerusalem Post.

Harris denied to the Post that he had been sent by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for whom he has previously worked, to help Netanyahu.

“I have not spoken to Sen. Cruz or to Mitch McConnell about my job here,” Harris told the Post. “My Israeli work is completely separate from my work in the U.S., so what is being reported is not true. I love Israel, and I am excited to be here to help the Likud and the prime minister use digital media in an effective and forward-looking manner.”

Harris did not respond to Yahoo News' request for comment. 

Harris, who according to colleagues is skilled at understanding the role of social media in campaigns and in translating technical ideas into plain language, worked for McConnell’s re-election campaign in 2014.

In 2012, Harris had worked for Cruz, and many thought he would work for the Texan’s likely presidential campaign. But Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky who is also likely to run for president in 2016, hired Harris last November to be his chief digital strategist.

Paul is viewed with some skepticism by members of the American right who hold strong pro-Israel views. Paul, in 2011, proposed a budget that would eliminate all foreign aid, including to Israel. After it came under criticism, Paul’s more recent budget proposals have included aid to Israel.

Harris is not the only American political operative involved in the Israeli election. Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Obama’s presidential campaigns, is providing consulting to a coalition of groups that are working to defeat Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu’s planned trip to the U.S. next month has ignited controversy because House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited the Israeli leader to address Congress without informing President Obama’s White House. Some Democrats are contemplating boycotting the speech.