WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Bunning criticized his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for trying to stock his own campaign war chest in the midst of the junior senator's fund-raising efforts for a 2010 race.
"My senior senator also sent out his first mailing for 2014. Just as I refrained from doing it for two years, he sent out his, so you know where he stands," Bunning told reporters Tuesday during a telephone news conference.
For the past few months, Bunning has had increasingly testy exchanges with members of the Republican leadership and the news media as both questioned whether the senator can mount a strong bid for a third term.
As a key campaign finance reporting period draws closer, the tension has grown palpable.
Never miss a local story.
Bunning lashed out Tuesday at reporters for questioning whether he would meet fund-raising goals by the end of this quarter.
Bunning quipped that he considered July 1 a better benchmark but that some reporters would scrutinize his fund-raising in the interim, talk to unidentified sources and use the information to suit their own purposes.
"Three sources my ass," Bunning said. "Pardon me if there's ladies on, I apologize."
Bunning's campaign reported having $150,000 on hand as of the most recent Federal Election Commission filing — far less than the $1 million to $2 million that political experts suggest the senator would need by the end of the first quarter to mount a successful run.
During Tuesday's call, Bunning again suggested that Republican leaders are trying to recruit a challenger.
Last month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee told The Washington Post that a meeting with state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, was a "courtesy visit" and that the party "would back Bunning in a contested primary" — a position the NRSC chairman, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, has repeatedly stressed.
Bunning has complained that comments by McConnell and Cornyn questioning the junior senator's re-election plans undermine his campaign efforts.
Bunning said he has not since spoken with Cornyn and only exchanged a brief greeting with McConnell during a recent political dinner.
Earlier this month, Bunning cursed at reporters during a telephone press call and refused to release the results of an internal political poll.