Paul defends Kochs from 'liberal haters'
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Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (R-Ky.), a likely presidential contender, defended billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch from "liberal haters" who won't leave the largely Republican mega-donors alone.

Asked in an interview Tuesday night on Fox Business Network about the Koch brothers potentially bankrolling a liberty-minded Republican presidential candidate, Paul focused his answer on the pair's detractors.

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"I think one thing that's important for all the people who bash them to know is that, much of what they do is for the concept and the ideas of free markets and liberty. It has nothing to do with government," Paul said. 

"And I defy any of the liberal haters that are out there to find one instance when they have ever asked for a subsidy or a special government break. I have never heard of any and what they're wanting is to be left alone, like most businesses in our country," he said. 

Paul told Fox Business Network's "Kennedy" that he thinks it's "horrible" that Democrats "have sort of vilified" the brothers "for their own personal gain."

Earlier this week, several reports indicated that the Koch-allied network of more than a dozen conservative and libertarian groups would spend $889 million during the 2016 campaign cycle to elect right-leaning candidates. 

The figure, released at the annual winter meeting of the Koch-aligned Freedom Partners group, dwarfs the $407 million the networked groups spend during the 2012 cycle, according to The Washington Post.

Paul spoke at the conservative, free-market group's meeting at a panel Sunday moderated by ABC's Jonathan Karl along with fellow potential presidential contenders Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats O'Rourke on Senate bid backer Beyoncé: I will have to 'earn her support' for 2020 Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Mellman: Are primary debates different? Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court MORE (Fla). 

Paul told Fox Business "the more the merrier" for 2016. But he said a "conservative libertarian" candidate would afford the GOP a shot at winning the White House with "moderates" like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney dividing up the "mushy middle," a phrase used by Cruz earlier this month to describe Romney. 

"I also think I bring something unique to the table," Paul said. "We haven't been able to win elections because we're not broadening the party."

The libertarian lawmaker has made strides over the past year to expand the Republican voting base while laying the grounds for his own White House bid. 

Paul suggested his campaign would attract support from young Americans and urban voters on issues such as opposing National Security Agency monitoring of phone records, criminal justice reform for drug offenders and school choice for inner-city children.

"I think there's great opportunity for us, but I don't think we'll get there if we nominate the same old, same old.”

He also invoked Reagan in calling to abolish the Department of Education, taking a shot at the likely candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by attempting to tie him to the education policies of his brother, former President George W. Bush. 

"I don't think our kids are any smarter or gaining more knowledge when we centralize things. Even George W. Bush, Jeb's brother, also added to the Department of Education, doubled the size, doubled the bureaucracy through No Child Left Behind. So this will be a big debate in our party, has been a big debate."