Once an open book, Paul now asks reporters to submit questions in writing

06/12/2010 07:18 PM

Rand Paul, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, talked with Republicans after his speech on June 12, 2010.

LOUISVILLE — Rand Paul, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate who offered detailed answers on just about any topic during his primary campaign, declined to answer reporters’ questions Saturday and told them to “submit your questions to us” in writing.

Paul walked away from reporters, telling them he would only answer questions if they pertained to his 13-minute speech he gave to Republican activists Saturday. He was a keynote speaker at state party’s 2nd annual leadership conference at the Galt House Hotel.

David Adams, Paul’s campaign chairman, later insisted that it was not a new policy but didn’t know why Paul rebuffed reporters other than he was “on a tight schedule.”

Paul, however, spent 20 minutes after his speech talking with Republican activists and taking photos with them.

“It’s not a blanket policy. It’s just right now,” Adams said.

Paul initially turned down reporters’ attempts to interview him after speaking to Republicans when he finished his speech. cn|2 Politics tried again as he was walking away to another room in the Galt House. UPDATED with that video:

Specifically, Paul blew off questions from cn|2 Politics about whether he supports an extension of an increase in federal Medicaid funding to the states. The higher rate of payment to the states was included in the economic stimulus bill and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. At least 30 governors – including Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear – have said a six-month extension through June 2011 for the higher reimbursement for the Medicaid program is crucial to balancing those states’ budgets.

Paul said he wouldn’t answer any “hypothetical questions.”

But the issue is one that directly affects the major issues in his platform: government spending and debt.

On one hand, states are counting on that funding for the program that provides health coverage for the poor and disabled. In Kentucky, the total cost of the program is well over $4 billion in federal and state funds.

The two-year budget recently passed by the General Assembly counts on having the increased funding for an extra six months. So if Congress didn’t extend it, that would cause a $238 million hole, Beshear said. Here’s what Beshear had to say about it on Tuesday:

But extending the higher payments to the states would cost the federal government $28 billion more.

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, told Beshear this week that a vote on that provision could come up in the coming week. He said he understood the position Kentucky was in but was concerned about adding debt.

Paul spoke at length Saturday about his concern about government spending and the tea party movement’s fixation on seeing that elected officials reduce it.

“People ask me what are the issues? What are the issues people are concerned about? And I say the top three issues are: the debt, the debt and the debt,” Paul said, sparking applause from the more than 220 activists in the Galt House ballroom.

Paul’s move to not answer reporters’ questions on Saturday is a reversal from his easygoing style in the Republican primary in which in most cases he would hold court with reporters and voters alike until he answered every one.

Adams wasn’t at Paul’s side when the candidate walked away from reporters and was whisked by other staff members into another room at the Galt House for meetings with Republican leaders.

Adams later told cn|2 Politics that Paul wasn’t familiar with the details of the Medicaid reimbursement rate increase and would have to study it before providing a response. He noted that waiting to comment is consistent with Paul’s philosophy of wanting members of Congress to read bills before voting on it.

Paul has struggled with his relationship with the media since his May 18 win in the Republican primary. He had to defend himself after he questioned a provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowed government too much power in telling private businesses how to operate. A firestorm emerged after Democrats, including his opponent Jack Conway, described his position as wanting to repeal the legislation.

Last week, Paul submitted to national media interviews again but chose several friendly conservative forums: the Rush Limbaugh Show, Fox News and Sean Hannity.

- Reporting by Ryan Alessi with video produced by Holly Thompson


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