Googlers stump in N.H. for Paul

Inside the Googleplex, Ron Paul is wildly popular. Here's what happened when current and former Google engineers hit the Granite State to campaign for him. Photos: A techie touts Ron Paul

MANCHESTER, N.H.--Vijay Boyapati is perched on a snowy corner of Elm Street here late Sunday night, fielding other activists' phone calls with frost-numbed fingers, and enthusiastically signaling passing motorists with Ron Paul signs.

It's a long way from the famously comfortable, stock-option-granting, lava-lamp-outfitted environment at Google, where Boyapati worked as a software engineer until quitting his job a few weeks ago to support Texas Rep. Ron Paul's campaign for president.

Boyapati, 29, says he drew on lessons learned while building Google products to create the same kind of distributed volunteer network with the goal of drawing hundreds of Paul volunteers to New Hampshire. His effort's name? Operation Live Free or Die, of course, a nod to the Granite State's thoroughly libertarian motto.

"At Google, when you think about a project, the first thing you think about is how it's going to scale. You don't build it if it won't scale," says Boyapati, a six-year veteran of the company. "It's the decentralized server model that's used at Google. It's so familiar to me it's what I used."

The operation, an independent effort not organized by the Paul campaign, has drawn about 500 volunteers to the state in advance of Tuesday's primary, Boyapati estimates.

It works by squeezing as many volunteers as possible into about 12 homes that Boyapati has rented throughout the state, with extra people shuffled off to hotel rooms or to the homes of New Hampshire residents with a little extra room to spare. One host said in an interview Saturday that he had 15 out-of-state volunteers temporarily living in his basement.

"If you get a thousand people in a little state like New Hampshire, you can have a big impact," Boyapati says. "That impact is magnified because it's the first primary."

Googlers for Ron Paul
Boyapati isn't the only Googler who's braving New Hampshire's sub-zero winter to advance Paul's message of lowering taxes and government spending, opposing the Real ID Act, and withdrawing from Iraq immediately. Paul is the only Republican candidate for president who opposes the Iraq war and occupation.

One other former employee and five current Google engineers, who work on projects including an Asian version of Google Answers and the design of data center hardware, are staying with him in a four-bedroom group house close to Hackett Hill Road near Manchester. Boyapati says he doesn't know any Googlers who have come east to volunteer for other candidates. (After campaigning for Paul on Sunday, the crew returned home to watch V for Vendetta.)

After learning that Operation Live Free or Die volunteers were largely surviving on snack food, a local group called Ladies for Liberty volunteered to cook them meals twice a week. The rest of the time, there's a plentiful supply of potato chips, Indian takeout, and, in the refrigerator, Sam Adams beer.

In addition to having broad support online, Paul is by far the most popular Republican candidate among Google employees. He received $22,650 in contributions from them, according to, compared with a mere $2,300 that Googlers gave John McCain. They gave no contributions to Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney.

Google employees, in fact, represent the single top contributor to Ron Paul's campaign. They narrowly beat out men and women in the U.S. Army and Navy, who are in second and third place, respectively.

The Paul supporters at Google who are in New Hampshire this week seem to have coalesced around, or at least found each other through, an internal company "liberty" mailing list Boyapati created with about 100 members. Other internal lists are called "politics," "economics," and, for Googlers who own firearms, "militia." There's an accompanying T-shirt for subscribers to that particular list, with the "l" in Google represented by a rifle, and the full text of the Second Amendment printed on the back. (A photograph is here.)

Boyapati, who was born in Australia and became a U.S. citizen, says he was always libertarian-minded, but didn't figure out what his limited-government views were called until he "met a few libertarians at Google." One pointed him to the book Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, the Austrian economist and Nobel laureate. And after seeing Paul in the first Republican presidential debate early last year, Boyapati became a fan.

When Paul spoke at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters in July, Boyapati flew down from the Seattle office to attend the talk in person and announce that he had given Paul the legal limit of $2,300. That appearance turned out to be the most popular of all the visits by presidential candidates: the YouTube video of his speech has been watched 486,000 times, compared with 65,000 for Barack Obama, 23,000 for John McCain, and 63,000 for Hillary Clinton.

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