AUSTIN, Texas -- The 2015 SXSW Festival is in full swing in Austin, which means that MTV News has been busy covering film and music events for the past few days. I came prepared to attend shows, interview musicians and camp out backstage at the 2015 mtvU Woodie Awards -- but I wasn't expecting to interview with a politician.
Unexpectedly, I got the chance to speak with Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul, on behalf of MTV News. He will likely announce his plans to run for president in 2016. Here's what I learned during our interview.
Convincing Sen. Rand Paul To Announce His Run For President On MTV Was Never Going To Work
The Republican and Democratic parties haven't announced their candidates for the 2016 presidential elections yet. I gave him the chance to be the first candidate to announce it on MTV, but it didn't exactly work.
"I am a candidate ... for the U.S. Senate," he responded, after pretending to consider a 2016 run. "So I'm thinking about the presidency. We haven't made a final decision, but we're getting close. In the next couple of weeks we're probably going to make a final decision." Fair enough.
He Partied With Mark Ronson At SXSW
The senator was in town for a few days before our interview so he had time to check out a few events, sit down for a panel and hit a couple of parties. "We heard Mark Ronson the other night. We were at the Pandora party and had a great time there," Paul revealed. (He claims I was on the list, but I still don't believe him.)
His Sons Taught Him How To Use Snapchat
Social media and Snapchat will be a big part of the Senator's campaign if he does decide to run for president -- and he had some help figuring that out.
"I have three teenage boys and they're not really watching the news networks," he revealed. "They're on Snapchat, Twitter, MTV, so you have to go where voters are. They've got me on Pandora [too]... my kids get me hooked up and connected."
He's Big On Privacy Issues
When it comes to sharing information online, he thinks Internet users should agree or not to share information, but he's against the government collecting phone records and other data.
"If we try to regulate the transfer of information, that's how money is made online and I'm afraid that would destroy the Internet," he explained. "I'm more concerned with the government looking at my information without my permission. I don't want the government finding out ... am I Jewish, am I gay, Japanese..." (or hanging out with Mark Ronson on a late night). "I think the government should only look at my activities if I've been accused of a crime."
He's Learned A lot From His Visits To Historically Black College Campuses
Sen. Paul recently visited Bowie State University, where he spoke to the predominantly black student body about race relations and criminal justice reform.
"There are people in our country -- predominantly people without money, without resources -- who really aren’t getting treated the same by our criminal justice system, who don’t have the same economic opportunities," he told MTV News. "So I don’t think we’ve quite overcome every obstacle that we have, to making everybody equal in our country, and I want to be part of trying to figure that out and coming up with solutions.”
He Wants Reform Within The Criminal Justice System
Sen. Paul has been very outspoken about the need for reform within the criminal justice system and he's also in support of medical marijuana.
"The war on drugs has unfairly incarcerated a disproportionate amount of African American and Hispanics, but also poor whites as well," he told MTV News. "If you're poor in America, you're more likely to be trapped. The police don't do a lot of tours in the suburbs. White kids and rich kids in the suburbs are also smoking pot, they're just not getting caught, so I think the War on Drugs needs to be reassessed. It's been unfair to a lot of people -- we've got people in jail for 55 years for selling $300 worth of pot. That's just wrong, that's unfair and we ought to change it."
Below, you can check out Senator Paul's appearance on MTV's MLK Day race in America special, "The Talk."