Posted on Mon, Jul. 05, 2010
last updated: July 05, 2010 06:59:13 AM
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Republican Rand Paul's opponent in the U.S. Senate race isn't the only one who thinks Paul compromised his stance against business as usual in Washington, D.C., by taking campaign cash at a high-dollar fund-raiser there last month.
It rankled some Republicans, too.
"I am deeply disappointed that he did that," said Warren Scoville of London, an attorney who served more than 20 years in various positions with the state Republican Party. "I voted for (Paul) because of where he was, and now he's not where he was."
Last year, with the primary election still months away, Paul pledged not to accept contributions from any senator who voted for a federal bailout of the banking industry.
That was in response to plans by Paul's main opponent, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, to attend a Washington fund-raiser hosted by Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and others who voted to shore up giant banks with taxpayer money.
Paul has been sharply critical of the bailout, citing it as a reason he got into the race.
After trouncing Grayson, however, Paul benefited from a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser June 24 in Washington hosted by McConnell and attended by senators who voted for the bailout.
Attorney General Jack Conway, Paul's Democratic opponent, said the move showed Paul had become part of the very thing he railed against in the primary, and Conway accused him of hypocrisy.
Paul's camp disagreed with Conway's assessment.
The GOP primary was a battle for the direction of the party, and Paul won it with his platform of requiring balanced budgets and complete opposition to bailouts, said his campaign manager, Jesse Benton.
"Dr. Paul accepts financial support from anyone who wants to support his ideas of limited government, term limits, balanced budgets and real reform but makes it clear to them that money will not influence his votes or positions," Benton said.
It's difficult this early in the general election to gauge how Paul's decision to get cozier with the establishment he criticized in the primary will affect voters Nov. 2.
David Roos, a retired minister in Murray who has been active in the Tea Party movement, said it didn't escape notice in his circle that Paul had, as he put it, "capitulated to the establishment."
Tea Party activists and others concerned about record federal deficits helped drive Paul's primary win.
Roos said he and others had hoped that Paul would remain independent of McConnell and that the Internet fund-raising prowess Paul showed in the primary would be enough to free him from taking money from the traditional political powerhouses.
But Roos said the incident isn't enough to drive conservative voters away from Paul. They don't see Conway as a viable alternative because he is more liberal, so the choice is to vote for Paul or stay home, he said.
And no one Roos knows is mad enough about the fund-raiser to stay home, he said.
"Most of us will support him in spite of that. We'll take 80 percent of a loaf rather than none," Roos said. "We'll probably have to hold our noses."
Still, others said Paul's warming to McConnell and the GOP establishment probably will cost him some votes.
Scoville said he probably won't vote for Paul in November. The effort to raise money with McConnell raises questions about whether Paul will change his stance on other issues, Scoville said.
"I don't trust Rand Paul anymore," he said.
Others, however, argued that Paul has not turned his back on his principles, but rather is doing what is necessary to win so he can put those principles to work in office.
Republican state Sens. Tom Jensen, of London and Robert Stivers of Manchester said the fund-raising event won't cost Paul any support.
"Running for the United States Senate is the big leagues," Jensen said. "He's not changing his principles to get the money."
If you want to join a game, you play by the existing rules, said Aaron Witten of Grayson County, a regional coordinator for Paul.
"That doesn't mean that once you get into the game, you can't try to change the system for the better," Witten said. "He's just playing the very few parts of the game that he has to to get in."
If Paul thought he could win without McConnell's fund-raising, he probably would, but he will need that help against Conway, who is wealthy enough to give his campaign a big financial boost, Witten said.
Others took a similar pragmatic view.
Richard Collinsworth, a retired insurance agent in Owensboro who has been active in the Tea Party movement, said he has some concerns about McConnell, but it doesn't bother him that Paul is getting closer to the Senate minority leader.
"I see that Paul needs the Republican Party just like the Republican Party needs Paul," Collinsworth said. "If he doesn't get elected he's not going to help anybody."