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Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul organizes class-action suit over NSA surveillance

Paul is taking names of potential plaintiffs on his Web site — names that could be the foundation of a 2016 White House bid

♦By Rich Shumate,

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is organizing a class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its surveillance programs — a novel political gambit that could lay the groundwork for a 2016 White House bid.

Paul is soliciting potential plaintiffs for the suit on two political Web sites he operates — Rand Paul 2016 and RAND PAC. His stated goal is to get 10 million Americans to sign up for the class-action suit.

However, an unnamed senior Paul advisor told Politico that any names collected may also be added a database for Paul’s future political campaigns.

That would give him access to a ready pool of voters upset by NSA surveillance — voters who would be inclined to support Paul. He’s also asking them for donations.

Paul, 51, is in his first term in the Senate. He is up for re-election in Kentucky in 2016, but he is also being mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

A champion of the GOP’s libertarian wing, Paul has been a harsh critic of NSA programs that sweep up phone records of millions of Americans for use in terrorism investigations.

Last week, President Barack Obama announced changes to the program to provide more judicial oversight — changes Paul insisted do not go far enough to protect Americans’ constitutional liberties.

In his solicitation for plaintiffs, Paul said he was “outraged” by the surveillance and “that’s why I’m going to do everything I can to stop this madness.”

“So please sign below and join my class-action lawsuit and help stop the government’s outrageous spying program on the American people,” Paul said.

“After you sign up, please make a generous donation to help rally up to ten million Americans to support my lawsuit to stop Big Brother from infringing on our Fourth Amendment freedoms.”

People who sign up will have their name, email address and ZIP code put in Paul’s political database. All of those fields are required.

A Paul adviser told Politico that more than 300,000 have signed on as possible plaintiffs.

If Paul does seek the White House in 2016, his presidential ambitions may be complicated by a Kentucky law that prohibits him from running simultaneously for Senate and president.

State Republicans currently aren’t in a position to change that law because Democrats control the state House.

The law would only apply if Paul was successful in getting the Republican nomination. If he ran in the presidential primaries and didn’t win, he would be free to run for re-election to the Senate, as his father, Ron Paul, did in his U.S. House seat in Texas after he sought the White House in 2008.

Paul’s camp maintains the Kentucky law is unconstitutional because of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that a state can’t impose its own restrictions in races for federal offices.

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