POLITICS

Kentucky Senate Race Attracts High-Profile Donors

07/28/2010 10:28 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

FRANKFORT Ky. (AP) Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, one of the most closely watched in the nation, has been bolstered with out-of-state money, some from people better known outside political circles.

Democrat Jack Conway received contributions from television talk show host Maury Povich, former Walt Disney Co. chief executive Michael Eisner and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Morgan Trent, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Republican Rand Paul's roster, though shy of TV personalities, lists hundreds of donors.

University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said out-of-state contributors can be a help and a hindrance to the candidates. They need the money to pay for expensive television advertising, but it could turn off some Kentucky voters.

"There's the matter of voter perception," Rhodebeck said. "Some voters don't like the idea that non-Kentuckians are influencing the course of the campaign."

Both Conway and Paul raised more than $1 million between April and June, according to reports posted online by the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

Both candidates have been beneficiaries of political fundraisers in faraway places. The Conway campaign had fundraisers in California and Canada. Paul has had fundraisers in New York and Washington.

Neither side is apologizing for reaching beyond Kentucky for cash.

"We are very grateful for the generosity and encouragement of our supporters who believe in Jack's message of bringing accountability to Wall Street and Washington, cutting the deficit and creating jobs and opportunity for Kentucky," said Conway spokeswoman Allison Haley. "This successful fundraising effort is a clear message that voters want a senator who will put Kentucky first."

Conway received $4,800 from Povich, $3,600 from Eisner and $1,000 from Trent.

The Paul campaign criticized Conway for taking money from "liberal elites" to fund his campaign.

"It's not surprising to see that liberal elites, trial lawyers and other special interests lining up to fill Jack Conway's pockets, as Jack will clearly back their agendas at the expense of Kentucky values," said Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton. "Dr. Paul, on the other hand, receives tremendous support from everyday grassroots Americans who share Rand's concern about unsustainable debt and spending and his commitment to real reform in Washington."

Paul, a political newcomer, had leaned heavily on online donors to his father's unsuccessful 2008 presidential race. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, had sought the Republican nomination and had a nationwide database of potential donors.

University of Kentucky political scientist Don Gross said the contributions from far-flung places reflects the hunger for campaign cash.

"The races have gotten so expensive, you can't depend entirely on in-state donors anymore," Gross said.

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