NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In a back corner of the exhibition hall for the Conservative Political Action Conference -- past the National Rifle Association's multiple booths and across the way from the Charles Koch Institute's table -- there's a group making its first appearance at CPAC. Its table is littered with handouts featuring libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a bowl full of yellow squirt guns, and its television flashes quotes from preacher Pat Robertson and former President George H.W. Bush.
But its call for criminal justice reform was not traditionally welcome in the conservative movement. The nonpartisan Families Against Mandatory Minimums fights against laws that force judges to send convicted criminals away for a set number of years, regardless of individual circumstances.
FAMM's message at CPAC was well targeted to the audience. The group's pamphlets highlighted the family of Orville Lee Wollard, a former Sea World employee in Florida who was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in 2009 for firing a warning shot inside his home to scare off his daughter's violent boyfriend.
"We're getting a really good reaction, especially when we talk about mandatory minimums for gun crimes," Molly Gill, FAMM's government affairs counsel and a former prosecutor, told The Huffington Post. "People identify with that, and it resonates very strongly with them because they're gun owners, and because I think a lot of them do fear that if they defended themselves or their family, there would be really harsh consequences for that."
(Reuters) - Over cocktails and chocolate-covered strawberries, a group of west Michigan Republicans gathered at a Tudor-style home in Grand Rapids and vented frustrations with Congressman Justin Amash and his Tea Party tactics that they blame for Washington's gridlock.
"The Republican establishment has lost confidence in Justin," said Mark Bissell, chief executive of vacuum manufacturer Bissell Inc.
"We're sort of feeling like we're not represented, because he is so far out there," lamented small businessman Dan Bogo.
The venue was a fundraiser last month for Amash's Republican primary opponent, Brian Ellis, the head of an investment firm who bills himself as "West Michigan Nice" for his collaborative style.
The contest in Michigan's third district, for a congressional seat once held by President Gerald Ford, is emblematic of the nationwide struggle between the five-year-old Tea Party and more traditional Republicans who believe conservative upstarts like Amash have gone too far.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he disagrees with his tea party compatriot Rand Paul's foreign policy views.
The two would-be 2016 Republican presidential contenders have divided over how to best handle Russia's invasion of Crimea. Both were scheduled to appear on ABC's "This Week" to discuss foreign policy, but ABC correspondent Jon Karl said Paul backed out "at the last minute."
"I'm a big fan of Rand Paul," Cruz said in an interview aired Sunday." "We are good friends. I don't agree with him on foreign policy. U.S. leadership is critical in the world. I agree we should be reluctant to deploy military force aboard, but there's a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire, when he stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said 'Tear down this wall.' Those words changed the course of history. The United States has a responsibility to defend our values."
This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference has had something of a deflated feeling floating about it. The crowds are smaller, the panels are fewer, and the entire enterprise has a sneaking feeling of being scrimped on. For Rand Paul, however, CPAC was bigger and better than ever.
At last year’s conference, Paul was freshly coming off of his launch into the full national spotlight thanks to a filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to the CIA in protest of Justice Department equivocating on executive domestic droning authority. Yet for all the positive attention he received from that filibuster, Paul was still treading softly on the Republican political ground. Libertarian politics had not been overly welcome in the wider GOP, especially after a decade of Bush II foreign policy. So he took to the 2013 stage with a rock star’s reception, complete with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” but deployed a sophisticated rhetorical strategy intended to make libertarianism more comfortable for conservative ears.
What a difference a year makes.
When Paul arrived behind the podium Friday night, he walked and talked with the assurance of a man confident in his base of support, and spoke more to rally the faithful than sell the skeptical. From the beginning, Paul centered his remarks around liberty, telling the audience he was not calling for more Republicans, but more “friends of liberty.” And where last year’s speech was essentially grounded, a friendly pitch to make common cause, Paul deployed much loftier rhetoric, interspersing (as he often has) quotations and references to classic thinkers like Madison and Montesquieu in his rousing call to arms. The running theme was the “great battle” coming, and an urging to not be “lemmings” rushing towards destruction, but rather men who would defend their inalienable rights.
As hangovers cleared, on panels and in booths, Day 2’s momentum drained away from the GOP’s aging “values” peddlers—in favor of the young, energetic followers of Rand Paul.
Day 2 of CPAC got rolling with a more subdued crowd than Day 1. Not because folk weren’t having fun. Quite the opposite: More than a few attendees clearly had stayed up too late having too much fun Thursday night. Throughout the convention center, you heard people asking variations on the questions: “So what time did you get to bed?” In the downstairs exhibit hall, attendees of all ages slumped on the white sofas like bleary-eyed rag dolls. Standing in line at the hotel’s sundries shop, one young Citadel cadet groaned to his buddies: “I’m hung over harder than I deserve.”
For much of the day, the main ballroom was drawing less action and attention than it did on Thursday. Most of the program lineup was slightly lower wattage (Rick Perry instead of Ted Cruz; Mike Huckabee and John Cornyn instead of Chris Christie and Marco Rubio), tilted more toward values issues (Rick Santorum and Ralph Reed), and, perhaps as a result, more sparsely attended. Which was a shame, because there were some sweet sparks flying, courtesy of the ongoing battle for the soul of the movement.
The morning panel on national security may have been the feistiest discussion of the entire convention. Libertarian lawyer Bruce Fein went mano a mano with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who took a traditional strong-defense, Edward-Snowden-is-a-traitor stance. Voices were raised. The combatants got snarky. Charges of naivete, cluelessness, and “nonsense demagoguery” were hurled back and forth. And that was mild compared to the audience pushback. Though the crowd was tiny, it was fierce—and firmly in Fein’s corner. Most words out of Gilmore’s mouth drew boos and loud grumbling. At one point, an outraged audience member cut loose with a Joe Wilsonesque “You lie!” When Gilmore took a swipe at Rand Paul by name, I feared for his safety. By session’s end, I wanted to give the former governor a hug, a Band-Aid, and a big glass of Johnny Walker Black.
One year after his filibuster, the Paul love at CPAC is stronger than ever.
By Sarah Mimms
March 7, 2014
NATIONAL HARBOUR, Md.—A year after his 13-hour filibuster won the hearts of young conservatives just a week ahead of the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, the fandom for Sen. Rand Paul here has only grown.
Paul gave a speech Friday before the first standing-room-only crowd at the conference so far, asking a cheering audience, "Will you, America's next generation of liberty-lovers, will you stand and be heard?"
Following his typical style, Paul's speech focused largely on personal freedom, the Fourth Amendment and rights he alleged are being usurped by the Obama administration, while avoiding the tricky topic of foreign policy, where his Libertarian views are not as widely accepted by conservatives here.
Paul's biggest applause line of the afternoon – the biggest applause line at CPAC so far – came during his discussion of President Obama's failures, particularly at the National Security Administration. "As our voices rising protests, the NSA monitors your every phone call. if you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business," he said to loud cheers.
Paul continued an assault on Obama's record, getting laughs when he asked how history will remember the president, and later quoting Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters in asking whether former supporters of the president now believed they had "trade[d] your heroes for you ghosts? … Did they get you to exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"
• Paul, a Kentucky senator, got the Conservative Political Action Conference's loudest applause with a libertarian message
• He railed against President Obama for allowing the National Security Agency to seize millions of Americans' phone records with a single warrant
• Paul is seen as a major 2016 presidential contender
• The CPAC even has heard from other crowd favorites Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump
• Paul sued the Obama administration, and the president personally, in February over the alleged NSA abuses
By DAVID MARTOSKO, U.S. POLITICAL EDITOR
PUBLISHED: 15:31 EST, 7 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:51 EST, 7 March 2014
A sustained noise that could best be called a hoot and holler greeted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at the mention of his name, before he took the stage at Friday's Conservative Political Action Conference and declared that cell phone records sought by government agencies were 'none of their damned business!'
By the time he launched into his blue streak against the National Security Agency and quoted Pink Floyd to criticize President Barack Obama, the overflow crowd of thousands sounded like Beyonce concertgoers who had stumbled into the wrong ballroom.
The crowd simultaneously drank it in and shouted it out, making Paul the star of the Conservative Political Action Conference's second day and giving him – by far – the event's loudest applause.
'If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance' from the federal government, Paul warned in his biggest moment. 'I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damned business!'
One group of partisans shouted 'President Paul! President Paul!' as he spoke.
WASHINGTON — Shortly after Senator Rand Paul filed suit last month against the Obama administration to stop its electronic dragnet of American phone records, he sat down for lunch with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in his private dining room at the Justice Department.
Mr. Paul, a Kentucky Republican, is one of the Obama administration’s most vocal critics. But their discussion focused on an issue on which they have found common cause: eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
The two men are unlikely allies. Their partnership unites the nation’s first African-American attorney general, who sees his legacy in a renewed focus on civil rights, and some of Congress’s most prominent libertarians, who have accused the Obama administration of trampling on personal freedom with drones, wiretaps, tracking devices and too much government.
While a range of judges, prosecutors and public defenders have for years raised concerns about disparities in punishment, it is this alliance that may make politically possible the most significant liberalization of sentencing laws since President Richard M. Nixon declared war on drugs.
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