Tom Cotton’s Senate bid boosted by big-name GOP contributors

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Even before Rep. Tom Cotton was a candidate for Senate, he was raising money like one.

By the end of June, a month before he actually announced his Senate bid, the Arkansas Republican’s campaign had more than $1 million on hand.

Even more impressive, Cotton had already attracted a panoply of prominent Republican donors from across the country who would not look out of place at a presidential fundraiser — an early sign of a strong, durable fundraising network.

James Donovan, who handled personal investments for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, donated the maximum amount, $5,200, to Cotton, as did his wife. Paul Singer, a hedge fund founder and major Romney contributor, also gave Cotton the maximum as did Dan Senor, Romney’s former senior foreign policy adviser.

Senor hosted a fundraiser at his New York home for Cotton in late June, which raised more than $100,000 for Cotton’s campaign. The event was attended by another Republican boldfaced name, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who notably bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s 2012 Republican primary campaign before supporting Romney in the general election.

Senor and Cotton crossed paths again more recently in Israel, where Cotton traveled with other House Republican freshmen. “Had a good run early this morn in Jerusalem with @TomCottonAR,” Senor tweeted. Cotton’s campaign said he did not engage in any political activities during the trip.

Due in no small part to Cotton’s hawkish foreign policy and national security credentials — he served in Iraq and Afghanistan — his list of early contributors is packed with alums from former President George W. Bush’s campaign and White House.

Brian Gunderson, chief of staff to Condoleezza Rice when she was secretary of state under Bush, donated $2,600 to Cotton. Annie Dickerson, who worked for Bush’s 2004 campaign, gave the $5,200 maximum. Kathryn Wheelbarger, one-time counsel to former Vice President Dick Cheney, also maxed out. Benjamin Ginsberg, an attorney on both Bush campaigns and Romney’s failed 2008 primary campaign, gave $1,000.

Bush and his wife, Laura, each gave the maximum amount directly to Cotton, marking the only campaign contributions they have made so far this year.

A spokesperson for Bush did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for Cotton confirmed that he met Bush “earlier this year,” but declined to give further details about the meeting.

Cotton’s list of contributors shows that he’s received a considerable amount of campaign cash not just from the high-profile Republican establishment but from the GOP’s conservative flank, which is so often at odds with the establishment Republicans. The Club for Growth, a cash-rich conservative advocacy group, has already contributed heavily to Cotton’s 2012 congressional campaign and endorsed him again this election cycle.

Cotton will need that kind of broad support. His opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for re-election in 2014, but he also has a massive campaign war chest — $3.1 million as of late June with additional fundraisers still in the works with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner