He’s not quite the iconoclast Ted Cruz is, but Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will need a lot more money from mainstream corporate donors if he wants to mount a serious bid for the White House.
Paul, the second Republican to officially declare that he’s running for president, after Cruz, has a devoted following among small-government libertarians and home-state industries such as Big Coal. But Paul has snagged little corporate money, which isn’t surprising given some of the policies he advocates.
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He’s a leading critic of the Federal Reserve and is raising money to help “audit the Fed money bomb” through a political-action committee he controls. Business leaders generally oppose such intervention with the nation’s central bank. Paul has also bashed Wall Street, sounding more like the first-term President Obama than a big-business Republican. “We cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street,” he said last summer during a campaign-style swing through New Hampshire. "Corporate welfare should once and for all be ended.”
Still, Paul has managed to raise more than $14 million since first being elected to the Senate in 2010. Here are his top 10 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics:
Club for Growth, the conservative political-action group. Donations to Paul since 2009: $106,515.
Mason Capital Management, a hedge fund with offices in New York and London: $44,200.
Alliance Resource Partners, a coal producer with a significant presence in Kentucky: $40,650.
Senate Conservatives Fund, a private political-action group founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint: $32,085.
National Right-to-Work Committee, a private anti-union group: $27,500.
Corriente Advisors, a Texas-based hedge fund: $24,200.
Impala Asset Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund: $21,700.
Bluegrass Committee, a political-action group run by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian: $20,000.
Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by conservative activists Charles and David Koch: $17,000.
Employees of the University of Kentucky: $16,500. (Universities and colleges cannot donate to political campaigns or form PACs, but individuals affiliated with those institutions can.)
The vast majority of Paul’s donations come from individuals, including a lot of small contributions from ordinary citizens throughout the country. That’s the same fund-raising strategy employed by Paul’s father, the retired Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who ran for president three times. A shortage of big-money contributions consigned Ron Paul to the fringe of the 2012 presidential campaign, however, and his son will likely face the same problem without a bigger spigot of cash.
In fact, Rand Paul has been wooing Silicon Valley titans and wealthy entrepreneurs to help bridge his funding gap, hoping to tap into libertarian sentiment and grab the attention of kingmakers uninspired by more mainstream candidates such as Jeb Bush. Paul appeared recently at the South by Southwest festival to talk tech policy, as one example. Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, was a big supporter of Paul’s father Ron. Sean Parker, another billionaire tech entrepreneur, has already given modest amounts to Paul and causes he supports. There’s a lot more where that came from, and Paul no doubt hopes he’s the man to get it.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman
Clarification: A previous version of this article listed the University of Kentucky among Paul's top 10 donors. Donations to campaigns actually come from individuals associated with the schools as universities are not permitted to contribute to candidates directly.