As he builds a grass-roots political operation in 50 states ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is also courting longtime Republican Party benefactors, collecting funds for his political-action committee and his 2016 Senate campaign. In the first quarter of this year, those two groups collectively raised $1.6 million, according to sources familiar with Paul’s financial report.
Paul’s haul includes $1.1 million for Rand Paul 2016, the freshman senator’s reelection campaign, and about $500,000 for Rand PAC, his political-action committee, which pays for Paul’s extensive political travel and supports like-minded Republicans. These figures are similar to Paul’s fundraising numbers from the fourth quarter of last year, when his Senate campaign raised more than $1 million.
Most of the dollars were ladled up at events hosted by Rand Paul Victory, a joint committee that pools donations and disperses money to the PAC and Paul’s reelection campaign. The umbrella organization, which is run by Doug Stafford, Paul’s political strategist, is seen as the basis for a presidential campaign.
Two years before the GOP primaries, Paul’s camp has $2.7 million on hand, an approximate $600,000 increase from the previous quarter.
Sources close to Paul spoke on the condition of anonymity, in order to discuss Paul’s finances before they are filed.
Even though Paul and other Republican hopefuls are far from making final decisions about their political futures, these totals are part of candidates’ pre-primary positioning, signaling to donors and operatives the strength of a potential contender’s machine. Paul especially is working to prove to the GOP elite that he has more than the “liberty network” behind him, the libertarians that backed his father, former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), during his unsuccessful White House bids.
A significant amount of Paul’s first-quarter take came from an Atlanta event in January, attended by investor Lane Moore and Nate Morris, a Paul ally and Kentucky businessman who once bundled funds for George W. Bush. Jack Oliver, another former Bush donor, who is aligned with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, was also there.
Other high-dollar affairs of note include a recent gathering at the Club for Growth’s retreat, and a fundraiser hosted by former ambassador Cathy Bailey, a former Bush mega-donor, in Palm Springs, Fla.
In the coming months, Paul will continue to raise money and make stops in early primary states as a dry run before potentially launching a presidential campaign next year, hosting fundraisers and seeking support. This weekend, he will be in New Hampshire, appearing a conservative summit, and he will be in Iowa in June for the state GOP convention.
For the moment, Paul is consistently at or near the top in polling. A CNN/ORC International survey in March found that 16 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican were likely to support him, putting him at the front of the Republican field. Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee, was second, at 15 percent.