On earmarks, Rand Paul is not following in his famous father’s footsteps

Ron Paul and his son Rand Paul share a lot of supporters, but they are diametrically opposed on earmarks.

Rand Paul, who is running to replace Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), said this month, “I don’t accept the proposition that earmarks are the only way to have money for your community. ... Earmarks represent a lot of what is broken in the system.”

Rand’s father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), rejects suggestions that his backing of earmarks is not consistent with his call for fiscal responsibility. The congressman says the Constitution provides the authority for Congress to earmark, claiming that not doing so would provide more power to the executive branch.

The 2008 GOP presidential contender last year accused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of “grandstanding” on curbing earmarks.

But McCain’s stance is very similar to that of Paul’s son, who has called for an end to earmarks.

Trey Grayson, who is battling Paul for the GOP nod in Kentucky, has adopted a more nuanced stance on earmarks. During a debate with Paul last week, Grayson said, “Eliminating all the earmarks is completely irresponsible,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Grayson’s position on earmarks is similar to that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is widely viewed as favoring Grayson in the primary. Recent polls show Paul with a double-digit lead over Grayson.

Rand Paul is a favorite of the Tea Party, which is holding a Tax Day rally on Thursday in Washington.

Rep. Paul, who has defied his GOP leaders by submitting more than 40 earmark requests this year, is scheduled to address the Tea Party rally. The House Republican Conference recently voted not to secure earmarks in 2010, but Paul and Reps. Joseph Cao (R-La.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) are seeking money for earmark projects.

Rep. Paul consistently votes against spending bills, regardless of whether he has earmarks in them.

In a recent interview with libertarian radio show host Lew Rockwell, Paul explained his disagreement with the majority of his GOP conference.

“I just think this whole argument over the earmarks from the so-called fiscal conservative is nothing more than a red herring,” Paul told the talk show host on April 1 of his leadership’s decision to “badger” rank-and-file House Republicans.

Regardless, his position has not gone unnoticed by those in the Tea Party movement.

Mark Meckler, a leader in the Tea Party movement, predicts that many candidates asking for earmarks are going to be shunned this election year.

“Anybody out there who is requesting earmarks … is going to be hung around their neck come the November elections and primaries because people know about it, they are going to talk about it, it is going to affect how people vote. It’s one of the fundamental things people are looking at when they are looking at reform — they are looking at people running for Congress who know that their job is not simply to bring home the bacon,” Meckler said.

Ron Paul attracted several Tea Party primary challengers, but he easily beat them in the March 2 primary.

Even though they share some of the same donors, Meckler predicted that activists in the Tea Party are savvy enough to discern between father and son.

“People in the Tea Party movement are politically mature enough to separate father from son, so I don’t think Ron Paul’s position on requesting earmarks will affect his son’s support,” Meckler said.

Rand Paul’s campaign manager, David Adams, points to his boss’s position on pork-barrel spending on the candidate’s website.

“Rand Paul appreciates Republican Sen. Jim DeMint [S.C.] introducing … a one-year ban on earmark spending and a balanced-budget amendment.

Rand strongly supports both initiatives and has made them centerpieces of his campaign for limited government, including his signing of the Citizens Against Government Waste ‘No pork pledge.’ ”

The Club for Growth, which has backed Marco Rubio over Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in the Senate GOP primary, has not taken sides in Kentucky.

“We’ve looked at the Kentucky race but haven’t made a final determination. We are actively watching the Republican Kentucky primary,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly said.

The primary is scheduled for May 18.

Rep. Paul’s office did not respond to requests for comment.