For all the blaring headlines that Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has attracted for his remarks on the Civil Rights Act and his views on government interference in private enterprise, there is a strand of his libertarianism that -- on occasion -- can be alluring to progressives.
Mainly this is when the discussion turns to foreign policy matters and the Kentucky GOP candidate's skepticism with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his opposition to the Patriot Act.
Occasionally, however, Paul's domestic politics have a bit of post-ideological resonance. And during a Monday appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, that element of his candidacy was briefly on display. Asked a question about campaign finance reform, Paul offered the traditionally conservative denouncement of laws that curb the amount of money spent during an election. But from there he offered a proposal that would be of similar (if not greater) scope and reach.
"What I would do is that for every federal contract, if you sign a federal contract and we pay you, the taxpayer pays you a million dollars, I would put a clause in the contract that you voluntarily accept that you won't lobby or give contributions," he said, "because I think it galls the American people that taxpayer money is paid to contractors who take that taxpayer money and immediately lobby for more money."
This type of proposal would seemingly leave good government officials smiling. That it came from the belle of the Tea Party ball makes it all the more powerful -- not because of its unexpectedness (the Tea Party movement is quite clearly wary of the influence of lobbyists), but because Paul is symbolic for many of the future of the GOP.
But for all the idealism of the proposal, there is apparently one glaring shortcoming. According to David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director for Public Campaign Action Fund, it's likely to be ruled unconstitutional.
"People have the right to redress by lobbying their government," he said. "You can't ban someone from lobbying you can require that it be disclosed. It is all well and good. But there is a better way to get at the problem, and Mr. Paul ought to look at the Fair Elections Now Act [which would set up publicly funded federal elections]. We actually fund the fund through a fee on large government contracts."
Despite throwing cold water on the idea, Donnelly did acknowledge that Paul's suggestion was a surprising, if not refreshing, offering from within the Republican tent. More pointedly, he hinted it would add some consternation to the already frayed relationship between the Kentucky Republican and the establishment GOP.
"The interesting thing would be to find out what [Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell thinks about that," Donnelly said.