Rand Paul Calls for Repeal of Drug Laws; Reaches Out to Minority Voters

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., formally launched his presidential campaign Tuesday with a speech in Louisville. Among the notable quotes from Paul’s speech was a comment seemingly meant to raise minority support by calling for reform of federal drug laws that disproportionately lead to incarceration of black Americans.

“I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed,” Paul said.

Paul went on to address other topics without expanding much on what kinds of laws he meant. But given his past comments, it’s not hard to guess he was talking about the war on drugs. “The war on drugs has become the most racially disparate outcome that you have in the entire country,” Paul said in November 2014. “Our prisons are full of black and brown kids. Three-fourths of the people in prison are black or brown.”

Lauren Galik, the Director of Criminal Justice Reform at Reason Foundation, said she was excited to hear a Republican presidential candidate campaigning on drug reform. “More than half of our federal prison population right now is there for drugs, many of which are African-American,” Galik told the Washington Examiner. “African Americans are more likely to receive a sentence that carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment than white individuals.”

Mandatory minimums disproportionately affect African American criminals compared to whites and Hispanics. “Although Black offenders in 2012 made up 26.3 percent of drug offenders convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, they accounted for 35.2 percent of the drug offenders still subject to that mandatory minimum at sentencing,” according to the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner…

Rand Paul Heads to the Races

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will announce the official launch of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in Louisville today. In a video released on Monday foreshadowing his announcement, Paul promised, “On April 7, a different kind of Republican will take on Washington.” But how different is Paul from the other likely Republican candidates? Is he really, as Time Magazine claimed, “The Most Interesting Man in Politics”?

While other more conservative candidates promise to return America to its past glory with tried-and-true policy proposals, Paul has staked positions on many issues that have the potential to remake the economy and Americans’ relationship with their government.

Economic opportunity—and what Paul sees as its catalyst, individual liberty—is a major theme that runs across Paul’s often unconventional positions.

Economic freedom zones are one of Paul’s favored tools to bring growth back to low-income communities. Following the lead of former Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY), these zones have lower tax burdens, lighter regulation, and reduced union work requirements. To inject more human capital into these labor markets, parents are given greater choice over their children’s educations, and entrepreneurial immigrants are welcomed.

Paul is working with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to roll back some of the most destructive aspects of the failed war on drugs. According to Paul and Booker, reforming mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes and expunging non-violent juvenile criminal records could lessen the long-lasting burdens felt by those entangled the American justice system. Current policy makes many people who do not pose threats to society unemployable—creating a cycle of economic immobility. As Paul arguedduring an address at Bowie State University, “If you smoked some pot or grew marijuana plants in college, I think you ought to get a second chance.”

Though Paul is not in favor of federal legalization of recreational marijuana, last month he co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to end the federal ban on medical marijuana, now legal in 23 states. This would allow patients, including veterans suffering from PTSD, to follow their doctors’ recommendations without fear of prosecution. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has already declared that he is running for president, also endorses a similar federalist approach to marijuana laws.

Paul’s battle against overcriminalization does not end with harsh drug sentences. He is a vocal opponent of civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to take property from individuals without even accusing them of a crime. Paul is the sponsor of the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, which would require law enforcement agencies to show “clear and convincing evidence” that property was connected to criminal action before it could be seized.

Read the rest at the Manhattan Institute’s E21…

Why Conservatives Are Rooting for Rahm Emanuel

Chicagoans head to the polls Tuesday for a mayoral runoff election where conservatives nationwide should be rooting for someone they once considered a bitter enemy: former chief of staff to President Obama and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel’s opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, is far more liberal than Emanuel. Garcia has the backing of a laundry list of liberal progressives, including Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson Sr., the Chicago Teachers Union, the Service Employees International Union’s State Council, the National Education Association, and MoveOn.org.

Garcia’s Chicago would be a conservative nightmare. He wants to put a moratorium on new public charter schools and maintain teachers union influence over how the school district runs. Garcia wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and re-establish a Department of Environment that Emanuel consolidated into other government agencies. On budget issues, Garcia has been criticized for being maddeningly vague on his plans. When Garcia finally published an op-ed with his budget positions, it focused more on critiquing Emanuel than putting forth his own ideas.

Despite his background with the Obama administration, Emanuel has implemented a number of reforms in Chicago that conservatives should support. For example, the number of charter schools in Chicago has risen from 103 to 130 under his watch. According to Democrats for Education Reform, “In his first three years in office, Mayor Emanuel has secured more time for instruction” — Chicago until recently had one of the shortest school days in America — “more public school options for parents, and more support for students.” Emanuel also stood up to the Chicago Teachers Union’s demands in 2012, resulting in a strike that lasted for seven school days.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner…