Rand Paul is chasing the techno-libertarian vote with webcam covers and Bitcoin donations

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When Kentucky senator Rand Paul announced this week that he plans to seek the Republican nomination for president, he put out all kinds of bait to appeal to Americans of the techno-libertarian persuasion—people who hate seeing the Internet twisted into a surveillance tool, love crypto-currencies, and generally want the United States to look a little more like a scene out of HBO's Silicon Valley.

First, Paul signaled that he wants to be friendly with the crypto-crowd by announcing that his campaign will accept Bitcoin donations of up to $100 per person, making him the first presidential candidate to accept the darkweb's favorite currency. "The novelty of the payment method is likely to help Mr. Paul highlight his edgy appeal to other libertarians, tech-savvy voters, young people and others who favor Bitcoin," wrote the New York Times. (Accepting Bitcoin is a great start, but a true crypto-candidate would also create a PGP key to allow supporters to send encrypted e-mails to his campaign.)

In addition, Paul has some unique items in his official campaign store. As in Hillary Clinton's campaign store, there are candidate-branded t-shirts, coffee mugs, and iPhone covers. But as noted by Ars Technica, Paul's store has an "NSA spy cam blocker" for sale, its description noting that "that little front facing camera on your laptop or tablet can be a window for the world to see you - whether you know it or not!" Paul is, of course, famously anti-surveillance, and his announcement this week included a promise to "immediately end" unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens, including, presumably, through their laptops' webcams.


In addition to embracing Bitcoin, Paul also checked the drone box. The techno-cool crowd endorses recreational drones, but does not like military Predators flying overseas. In his campaign store, Paul is selling a "Don't Drone Me, Bro" t-shirt, signaling his feelings on the issue. Paul says it memorializes a supporter shouting the excellently-timed phrase during a speech he gave in 2013. The National Journal called it "a nod to the millennial generation" as Paul "capitalizes on his cool."


If Paul wants to complete his techno-libertarian pandering, he just needs to release some 3-D printing instructions for lawn signs, make a campaign appearance on a seastead, and set up a second online store that's only accessible using Tor.