Q&A with Paul Rundquist, Democratic candidate for District 2
Democrat Paul Rundquist is a 25-year-old resident of Gaithersberg running against Blaine Taylor and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger in a primary election for Maryland’s second congressional district. Rundquist has a background in the intelligence community, and is running to address problems that he sees in Congress.
The Towerlight spoke with Rundquist over the phone and through email, in order to learn more about his campaign and his candidacy.
Why run for Congress?
The reputation of the National Security Agency, Maryland’s largest employer, has been dragged through the mud, and many Americans now believe that the only way to express dissent about the way our government is conducting intelligence is to break the law and leak national security secrets. I believe that the American people are fed up with the poor performance of Congress, and the creeping erosion of our freedoms during Rep. Ruppersberger’s tenure on the Intelligence oversight committee. There has been a severe loss of confidence in the security of our technology, the intelligence community and the government’s commitment to our freedoms.
What kind of work have you done that qualifies you for the job as representative for district 2?
I understand the unfortunate necessity of government secrecy better than most. As a former intelligence analyst, I specialized in counter-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction at the Deptartment of Energy, and currently work for the DOE at the national archives, ensuring that we do not inadvertently release nuclear weapon data as we declassify the history of the Cold War. I know the difference between strong action to protect our nation and our fundamental values from those who would do us harm, and the erosion of our civil liberties for no measurable benefit by the fearful. As someone who has spent time working in national security, I will not reverse my position on our fundamental values after arriving in Congress and receiving briefings about the true state of affairs, like so many others have in the past.
How would you summarize your platform?
Our fundamental values are the most important difference between us and the rest of the world. There is nothing that we gain from secrecy that is worth sacrificing our fundamental freedoms, and our reputation for honesty and fair dealing. This Congress has lost sight of that. The Congressional Intelligence Committees have a few responsibilities, to keep the intelligence community running efficiently, to ensure that its efforts are directed at our enemies, and to inform the American public, when possible, about the nature of what is being done in our name. They have failed badly on all counts, I will work to improve Congressional oversight of intelligence while standing up for our values as Democrats on environmental stewardship, education, the social safety net, income inequality and fiscal responsibility. I will stand with the President to pass a budget, and will not give in to the efforts to hold our healthcare hostage.
How do you plan on beating Rep. Ruppersberger in the primary?
I would like voters to know that this is the only election in the country where Americans have the opportunity to put the status quo on intelligence oversight and expanding police powers to a vote. The outcome of this election is a clear message to the world about the opinion of the American people on surveillance. As Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Oversight Committee, Rep. Ruppersberger bears responsibility for the current state of affairs. The executive branch has expressed that the national conversation on surveillance has been useful. Rep. Ruppersberger had ample opportunity to start that conversation and stand up for our privacy without damaging our national security, he proposed a cyber-security bill approximately a year ago which many suspected would create a massive surveillance program. That would have been an excellent time to start a national conversation about technology, privacy, and the role of the intelligence community instead of issuing denials. We need leadership, not leaks.
Do you think the fact that you’re a non-resident of district two, and the fact that you’d be the youngest member of congress will play any role in the election?
My professional expertise is uniquely suited to address the problems of district two. If elected, I would be the first of many members of this generation to serve in Congress. As the legacies of environmental mismanagement, the poor economy, and the war will disproportionately affect this generation, it is a good time to start raising our voices.
What would you do differently than Rep. Ruppersberger if you’re elected?
Article 215 of the USA Patriot Act is a bad law, and I would propose an outright repeal. There is a place for the use of business records in investigations, but not through the use of secret court orders that place gag orders on Americans solely because they operate businesses that may be exploited by terrorists and criminals. Look only to Rep. Ruppersberger’s record on CISPA and the FISA Modernization Act, in both cases, the press releases did not match the reality of the bills. The recent proposals to change the system have all been to expand surveillance authorities and open the door to the use of these techniques by domestic law enforcement. This Congress mistakes our consent for the President’s freedom of action in his role as Commander in Chief and in the conduct of our foreign policy for approval of expanded police power domestically.