AUSTIN, Texas — Tuesday evening after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced he was running for president, dozens of “#LibertyKaraoke” events all across the country helped the new candidate recruit hundreds of volunteers and kickstart his campaign fundraising.
Liberty Karaoke was originally conceived as a casual fundraiser targeted to young libertarians, to gather regularly for karaoke, network with other like-minded friends, and make online donations to liberty-oriented candidates. The concept had successfully raised thousands of dollars for Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), but Paul’s entrance into the presidential race inspired supporters to take what had been a weekly gathering at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Arlington, Virginia, into a national, headline-making event.
Matthew Hurtt, who founded Liberty Karaoke about five years ago, told Breitbart News that all together, there were at least 65 events Tuesday evening in 38 different states. “I’m excited that it’s grown into such a successful event,” he said, adding that he was “proud of the work so many people did on the ground to make each of these events unique… I’m certain last night’s events won’t be the last of #LibertyKaraoke.”
lol, when your weekly hobby becomes national news —> #LibertyKaraoke
— Matthew Hurtt (@matthewhurtt) April 7, 2015
“I hope Republicans take notice,” continued Hurtt, referring to how the event was able to channel young people’s enthusiasm into fundraising efforts. Liberty Karaoke does not bundle money or collect funds themselves; instead, attendees and supporters were encouraged to donate online or purchase campaign merchandise directly through Paul’s website. Because of this, it is impossible to determine what percentage of donations to Paul came from Liberty Karaoke attendees, but they no doubt played a part in the over one million dollars Paul raised in his first twenty-four hours as a candidate. Hurtt himself tweeted a screenshot of his own donation:
Hurtt also told Breitbart News that all together, Liberty Karaoke organizers counted more than 1,000 attendees nationwide. Each event asked supporters to sign up to volunteer for Paul, so the campaign just gained hundreds of young, enthusiastic volunteers in cities throughout the country.
Breitbart News stopped by the Liberty Karaoke event in Austin at Ego’s on South Congress. Attendees there typified the young, libertarian-minded supporters that have been attracted to Paul’s candidacy and his father’s before him. Several mentioned having supported former Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) as the reason they first checked out the son, like James Benefico, who described himself as a “hardcore libertarian” who was supporting Paul “because he’s Ron’s son.” Paul was the “next best” to his father, said Benefico, a Connecticut native who moved to Austin four years ago, praising his ability to “reach out across to other demographics.”
— Amanda Anderson (@amandaxanderson) April 8, 2015
Lorenzo Garcia, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, organized the Austin Liberty Karaoke event. According to Garcia, about sixty to seventy people attended the Austin event, coming and going throughout the evening.
Garcia told Breitbart News that he had signed up to volunteer for Paul because “he’s one of the Republican Party candidates who can appeal to other sides without compromising conservative values. He has a message of liberty that no other candidate can project.”
“Liberty” was an extremely popular word among attendees, mentioned by nearly everyone who spoke to Breitbart News. Trent Pool, who works for a newly elected conservative member of the Austin City Council, said that he was “looking for more liberty and less regulation,” and he felt that Paul embodied this concept the best out of all the candidates, especially from the perspective of his age group. There was even an Democrat, Eric Buck, who told Breitbart News that he had voted for Obama but was supporting Paul in 2016 because “I believe in liberty.”
Paul’s ability to reach out past the traditional Republican voter was also a popular reason cited by supporters. Said Jake Miller, “I think Rand Paul is the most dynamic candidate when it comes to expanding the conservative movement. He appeals to young people, minorities, and portions of the electorate that have long been ignored by the traditional Republican Party.” Added Steven Wilkinson, “Rand Paul’s liberty stance is why I’m here, and his push to bring in younger generations into our governmental process.”
Miller, who previously worked for a cryptocurrency company in Silicon Valley and now belongs to a Bitcoin organization at UT, also praised Paul’s acceptance of Bitcoin donations, the first presidential candidate to do so.
One undecided voter, Cara Stout, came with some friends who were Paul supporters and told Breitbart News that she was considering Paul because she was looking for a candidate “who can get both parties to move forward.” Comparing Paul to the only other candidate officially in the race, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Stout said that she preferred Paul to the Texas Senator, whose personality did not appeal to her.
Rachel Kania, Paul’s “Senior Tech and Field Strategist” who will running his Austin office, stopped by as well, straight from the airport after flying back from Paul’s announcement in Louisville.
— Rachel Kania (@raekania) April 8, 2015
The candidate himself even briefly popped in one of the events at Murphy’s Tap Room in Manchester, New Hampshire, according to a report by the Washington Post. New Hampshire is the first stop on Paul’s five-state tour. He did not sing a song, but with just under a year left to go before the primaries, there will surely be plenty of opportunities for Paul to sing for votes.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.