POLITICS
06/11/2010 09:38 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mitch McConnell: Rand Paul Fundraiser To Be Hosted By Senate Minority Leader

(AP) - Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul, whose antiestablishment fervor has endeared him to tea party activists, will collect campaign cash at a pricey fundraiser in the nation's capital hosted by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is offering his fundraising prowess after opposing Paul in the primary. The June 24 event includes a reception and dinner at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Individual tickets go for $1,000 with sponsorships at $5,000 per group, Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said.

Benton didn't offer a prediction Thursday on the total amount that will be raked in but said, "We expect people to be very generous and we expect the event to be very successful."

Paul faces Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in what's expected to be a high-spending fall campaign.

Conway's campaign said the fundraiser was an example of Paul's hypocrisy by cozying up to Washington insiders he criticized during the primary.

Paul, the son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a former presidential candidate, has portrayed himself as an outsider in berating Congress as free-spending and overreaching.

Benton said there's no "credibility issue" for Paul in bad-mouthing the Washington establishment while heading to the capital to benefit from a high-dollar fundraiser.

"Money will not influence Rand," Benton said in a phone interview. "Just because you donate to Rand doesn't mean that you get special favors. He's not that kind of candidate."

Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said he didn't think Paul risks alienating support from tea party enthusiasts by benefiting from a fundraiser likely to attract Washington insiders.

"I think they're pretty set on him," Sabato said. "They like him. They're going to forgive a lot because they believe that deep down in his core he's with them. They also understand he's got to do some things to patch up the rift with McConnell and the mainstream, establishment Republicans."

Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, defeated McConnell's hand-picked candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, in last month's primary election.
At a GOP unity rally days after the primary, McConnell urged Kentucky Republicans to unite behind Paul.

Paul raised eyebrows during a primary campaign debate when he said that if elected he might not support McConnell for Republican Senate leader.

Benton said Thursday the issue hasn't come up and called it "irrelevant" because he said McConnell has already lined up the votes to win re-election among his Senate Republican colleagues as their leader.

"It's almost impossible to see a situation where Rand wouldn't vote for Mitch McConnell," he said.

Benton said the fundraisers are "just the start" for Paul's campaign. During the primary, Paul tapped into the same Web-based fundraising tactics used by his father during the 2008 campaign for president.

"He is going to have to have sufficient amounts of money to get the message out and talk about cap and trade, 'Obamacare,' forced unionism, broken government and excessive spending in Washington," Benton said.

Conway spokeswoman Allison Haley offered up the Washington fundraiser in saying that "Paul's hypocrisy knows no bounds."

"Over the past few weeks we have seen Rand Paul cozy up to the same Washington handlers he railed against in the primary," she said in a statement. "They've put him on a short leash and are now hosting fundraisers on behalf of his campaign."

Paul has two Kentucky fundraisers planned later this month - June 29 in Lexington and the next day in Louisville. The events will be co-hosted by Kentucky's two Republican senators - McConnell and Jim Bunning - and Kentucky's four Republican congressmen, Benton said.

Tickets for each event will be a minimum of $250 per person, with various sponsorship levels, he said.

Paul and Conway are competing to replace Bunning, who is retiring.