Rand Paul woos donors and hackers at tech conference

March 17, 2015 02:51
1 minute read.

As his likely rivals spent the weekend shaking hands in New Hampshire, potential Republican candidate Rand Paul flew to Texas to court the software developers and entrepreneurs who are likely to play a central role in the 2016 election.

The libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator tweeted, Snapchatted and Instagrammed his way through the South by Southwest Interactive conference as he sought to make inroads among an independent-minded crowd that could serve as an important source of money, votes and programming talent for his expected presidential bid.

"If you want talent you gotta go where the talent is," he said on Monday.

It was the first time a potential candidate has participated in the conference, according to organizers. Paul spent much of the weekend talking about the shared DNA of the tech community and the libertarian movement, but he spent little time talking about net neutrality, the thorny question of how to ensure that all Internet traffic is treated equally.

While many tech companies back recently approved rules that broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast should be regulated like utilities, Paul and other Republicans have argued that the new regulations will choke off innovation.

It's an argument he has made in great detail in other forums. In front of this crowd, he framed the debate in the broadest terms possible.

"I don't want the government to screw up one of the greatest technologies we've had," he told the conference on Sunday, drawing applause.

The applause that line drew came as a surprise for tech consultant Warren Hanes, who said he thought many at the conference weren't aware of his opposition to the new rules.

"It's possible there are people who simply responded emotionally to the issue of less regulation," he said.

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