LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)— Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul is seeking fundraising help from GOP lawmakers who voted for the massive 2008 financial bailout, flip-flopping on a campaign promise to shun those lawmakers.
The libertarian-leaning Paul, who condemns taxpayer-backed bailouts of the private sector, will benefit from a Thursday night fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, D.C. Nine of 12 GOP senators listed on invitation voted for the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008. Tickets to the event went for $1,000 per person, with sponsorships up to $5,000 per group.
During the primary, Paul pledged not to accept contributions from any senator who had voted for the financial bailout. That promise was included on his campaign website at the time but has since been removed.
The first-time candidate slammed his main primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, for taking campaign cash last year at a Washington fundraiser hosted by a number of senators who backed the bailout.
That was then, but now the Paul campaign is welcoming support from lawmakers it once shunned.
"We considered that the primary was a fight over the direction and the soul of the Republican Party," Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said this week. "By Rand taking that hard stance in the primary, we think that those ideas won."
Now that Paul is the nominee, "it is great to see so many leaders lining up behind" him, Benton said.
Paul's campaign anticipates that most of the Republican senators listed on the invitation will contribute, Benton said.
Paul's Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, criticized the about-face.
"Rand Paul made a pledge when he needed to win the primary," said Conway spokeswoman Allison Haley. "But now that the bailout senators are offering him money, the pledge goes out the window."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will be a host of the fundraiser for his fellow Kentuckian, though McConnell endorsed Grayson in the primary.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said the fundraiser reflects an understanding by Paul that he needs establishment Republicans "more than he thought he did for money and guidance."
"It tells me he wants to win ... and in order to win you have to make your peace to a certain degree with the establishment," Sabato said.
Grayson held his own Washington fundraiser last September, and the invitation listed nearly two dozen GOP senators – about twice the number mentioned on Paul's invitation, which was supplied by the campaign.
Sabato said the smaller number might be a fallout from recent comments by Paul that drew controversy, but said not too much should be read into the disparity.
"Let's see if they come on board," he said. "There might be some hesitation because of his comments about the civil rights bill. People are going to see how this shakes out, whether he really settles down as a candidate."
Paul drew a harsh backlash with remarks last month to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that he has misgivings about the Civil Rights Act. Paul told Maddow he abhors racial discrimination but suggested that the federal government should not have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if owners don't want to.
Paul has been an outspoken critic of federal bailouts, and his campaign website says they "reward inefficient and corrupt management" and "rob taxpayers" while piling up more debt.
"Even more importantly, any bailout of private industry is in direct violation of the constitution," the site says. "It is a transfer of wealth from those who have earned to those who have squandered."
J. Todd Inman, a Republican activist from Owensboro in western Kentucky and a Grayson supporter, didn't criticize Paul for the about-face, but said it can raise questions in the minds of voters about what other positions Paul took that applied only to the primary.
"They're doing what they feel they need to do to win," he said. "I think there are a large number of people who have frustration with campaigns over things like this."
WATCH: Rand Paul's campaign ad "Machine," vilifies politicians who voted for the bailout.
Associated Press writer Janet Cappiello Blake in Louisville contributed to this report.