Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) vociferously defended Apple during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, as the tech giant fought against accusations that it used foreign subsidiares to dodge billions of dollars in taxes. The Tea Party favorite, who is openly considering a 2016 presidential bid, accused the government of “bullying” Apple and issued a personal apology to its executives. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared before a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations one day after Congressional investigators revealed that Apple avoided paying $2.4 billion in taxes in 2011 alone. “I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in Apple executives,” Paul said. “What we need to do is apologize to Apple and compliment them for the job creation they’re doing…Apple hasn’t broken any laws, yet Apple is forced to sit through a show trial,” he said. Watch some highlights: However, Paul’s decision to stick up for Apple may be motivated by more than tax policy. Like any ambitious politician flirting with a presidential bid, Paul needs money. Lots of it. And, according to the Washington Post, he’s working to charm a fertile source of campaign funds: Silicon Valley. Later this month, Paul will travel to California for a speech at the Reagan Library, followed by meetings with tech executives: His closest political strategist, Doug Stafford, resigned last week as chief of staff at Paul’s Senate office, moving to head Rand PAC. Stafford said in an interview that fundraising and other operations are gearing up, both at Rand PAC and at Paul’s 2016 Senate reelection operation. He said the organizations will work aggressively in an area that was not available to the elder Paul, “which is the ability to reach out to high-dollar, traditional fundraising. . . . That’s something that we’ll be focusing on into next year.” To that end, the senator’s Reagan Library trip will include meetings in Silicon Valley with tech industry executives, some of whom see Paul as an ally because of his opposition to Internet taxation and regulation. Paul aides see the tech industry, which heavily backed Obama’s campaigns, as a potential source of campaign donations for the senator or other Republicans. Though Paul frequently rails against crony capitalism, there’s more than a bit of hypocrisy in his decision to stick up for a tax-dodging company in order to score more campaign donations. UPDATE Paul actually held a fundraiser on Tuesday night — the same day as his subcommittee outburst — with high-tech leaders like Google. The minimum contribution to get in the door was $1,000.
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