WASHINGTON — When Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is feted at a ritzy Washington fund-raiser later this month, he'll be voiding a promise made last year to shun money from lawmakers who supported government bank bailouts.
Paul, a favored son of the Tea Party movement, pledged Aug. 31 to reject campaign contributions from any U.S. senator who voted for a bank-industry bailout last year and challenged his opponents in the primary election to do the same.
The Bowling Green eye surgeon issued the challenge after learning that his key Republican opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, was slated to attend a Washington fund-raiser co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and several other senators who voted for the controversial bailout in 2008.
"This isn't about holding politicians to an impossibly high standard of agreeing with everything one's supporters say or do," Paul said at the time. "But a primary focus of my campaign is that we need Republicans in office who will have the courage to say no to federal bailouts of big business."
On Monday, Paul's campaign operatives focused on his attempts to mend the libertarian-leaning candidate's relationships with establishment Republicans.
Paul "has said many times that his first call after the primary would be to Mitch McConnell," said campaign chairman David Adams, adding that Paul realizes he'll need the support of various factions within the party.
Paul's June 24 fund-raising dinner will be at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, with tickets ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. During the primary, Paul's fund-raising powerhouse relied heavily on smaller grass-roots donations.
A liberal Lexington-based political blog, Barefootandprogressive.com, reported over the weekend that Paul had removed from his campaign Web site references to his 2009 pledge to reject contributions from senators who supported the bank bailouts.
Paul's about-face is typical of the realities that candidates who run on anti-establishment platforms face when seeking higher office, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia.
"He's coming to terms with the fact that establishment Republicans have serious doubts about him, and he needs them," Sabato said. "He'll lose in the general (election) unless he unites the mainstream Republicans and the Tea Party people."
A spokeswoman for Paul's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 2 general election, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, criticized Paul's flip-flop on Monday.
"He continues to say one thing yet does another," said Allison Haley.