Rand Paul and the Kentucky GOP: Bribery or Blackmail?

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It looks like the long-running saga between Rand Paul and the Kentucky GOP has at long last come to an end. For those who don’t know, Rand Paul has been struggling for quite a long time to get around a (somewhat silly) Kentucky law that prevents him from being on two different ballots at the same time, thus effectively preventing him from running for the Presidential nomination and his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat he currently occupies at the same time.

Initially, Paul lobbied the GOP-controlled Kentucky legislature to just change the law, which would seem to have been the most sensical solution to this tempest in a teapot, but they refused. Accordingly, Paul has since been lobbying the GOP to agree to hold a presidential preference caucus in Kentucky on a separate date from the Senate primary so that Paul could essentially get around the law.

Among other problems raised by this proposed solution, it threatened of course to cost the Kentucky GOP a fairly substantial amount of money.

Well, it appears that the two parties have finally managed to cut the Gordian Knot, which I suppose reaches a happy ending in that Paul presumably gets to run for President and keep his Senate seat, which raises Kentucky’s profile, but which somehow makes you think less of both parties involved:

FRANKFORT — It wasn’t unanimous, but Kentucky Republicans voted Saturday to hold a presidential preference caucus next year, helping U.S. [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] get around a state law prohibiting a candidate from appearing on the same ballot twice.

But the approval of a caucus is conditional on whether Paul has transferred $250,000 to an account controlled by the Republican Party of Kentucky before Sept. 18. If the money is not there, the party will automatically revert to a primary.

In a closed-door session before the caucus was openly debated, Paul asked his fellow committee members to trust that he would fully fund the caucus, as he has repeatedly pledged to do.

But enough committee members were still skeptical that a plan was hatched that requires Paul to transfer money by a set date or the party reverts to a primary. Beyond that $250,000, there are no written guarantees that Paul will cover the rest.

Committee members were skittish going into Saturday’s meeting after Paul had told them in a letter that he had already transferred the sum, only to apologize later when the Herald-Leader reported that the money had not been transferred.

While I get where the Kentucky GOP is coming from here, I think it is needlessly embarrassing to Paul and his donors, and likewise makes the Kentucky GOP look like grifters. Presumably, Paul is not going to pay the fee to the Kentucky GOP out of his own pocket. So now he has to go to his donors, who he has presumably been telling this whole time that he believes he can really win the Presidency, and ask them to fork over substantial money that preserves his ability to keep his backstop – his Senate seat. This is going to make it substantially more difficult for Paul to pitch his own Presidential candidacy, especially when thrown in stark relief to [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s.
Similarly, it gives the appearance (albeit unfairly) that Paul is essentially buying insurance on his Presidential bid from the Kentucky GOP. Having an arrangement like this get out in writing is embarrassing to all the parties involved and tremendously bad form.
Ultimately, it would have been better for everyone involved that, if the Kentucky GOP did not trust Rand Paul to follow through on his promise to fund the caucuses, to just refuse to have them and force Paul into a choice. This ugly resolution benefits no one and sets an ugly precedent for the future besides. Only the GOP could turn what ought to be a win into such a PR loss like this.