Some GOP donors willing to give to many, just not Paul

Paul: Opponents Want An Attack So They Can Blame Me

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the biggest donors and fundraisers in the Republican Party, still uncertain who should get their support in 2016, are sprinkling their money around a presidential field that grows by the day.

The largesse born of their indecision has a notable exception: Rand Paul.

The Kentucky senator has aggressively tried to raise money around his effort to curtail the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency, emailing supporters and posting messages on social media imploring people to "celebrate this victory" with their cash.

In doing so, he's exacerbated the perception among some of the GOP's most generous donors that his positions on foreign policy make him an unacceptable choice for the White House. This is especially so to those who consider an aggressive posture abroad and support for Israel paramount.

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Rand Paul
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Some GOP donors willing to give to many, just not Paul
DES MOINES, IA - FEBRUARY 1: Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) speaks during a caucus day rally at his Des Moines headquarters on February 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Presidential hopeful was accompanied by his wife, Kelly, mother, Carol Wells and his father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Pauls were there to thank all the staff and volunteers for all their hard work in Iowa. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump, right, acknowledges US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), left, prior to signing H.J. Res. 38, disapproving the rule submitted by the US Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Department of Interior's Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, 'addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites,' according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives for a classified briefing on the airstrikes launched against the Syrian military, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rand Paul speaks at a campaign rally in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and wife, Kelly, arrive on the red carpet for the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul talks to supporters at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to the media about repealing Obamacare after playing golf with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Governor Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich pose together onstage at the start of the debate held by Fox News for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rand Paul speaks at the New Hampshire GOP's FITN Presidential town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul takes a photo with Scott Blum of Monroe, Iowa, after speaking at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) speaks about Obamacare repeal and replacement while flanked by members of the House Freedom Caucus, during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is currently working on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) fires an AR-15 rifle at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Dirksen Building featuring testimony by David Friedman, nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel, February 16, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Rand Paul and Kelley Paul attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol File Magazine)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 15: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the House Freedom Caucus news conference on Affordable Care Act replacement legislation on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Behind Sen. Paul from left are Rep. Tom, Garrett, R-Va., Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Kelley Paul and her husband, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, at the National Gallery of Art on September 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 6: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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"I do not know of a single person in Mitt Romney's donor network who will be with Rand Paul," said Phil Rosen, a Manhattan attorney and top fundraiser for the 2012 Republican nominee. Rosen said he met with Paul and politely told him he wouldn't be supporting him "because of his isolationist and libertarian policies."

Rosen hasn't settled on his choice in next year's primary contest but expects to decide soon from a short list. Other prominent donors are doing the same, with some willing to give money to multiple candidates in the early stages of the campaign, but not to Paul.

Among them: Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, New York hedge fund pioneer Michael Steinhardt and Ken Abramowitz, founder of a venture capital firm in New York. All three have given money to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who announced his presidential campaign on Monday by saying he wants "to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us."

Those donors, like many of the Republican Party's biggest spenders, are looking for the strongest candidate on foreign policy, especially on the protection of Israel. That's become the centerpiece of not only Graham's campaign, but also is a featured aspect of the bids of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

"Graham in particular has a terrific record in Congress and is experienced and articulate," said Steinhardt, who is also giving to former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The weight of donor opposition to Paul hit his campaign soon after he launched it in April, when a politically active nonprofit, the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, began a $1 million television advertising campaign against him in the four early primary states. The nonprofit can raise unlimited money and is not legally required to disclose its donors.

Several other groups are prepared to pounce on Paul if they sense he is gaining traction in the race. Among them is a group led by John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations who recently decided against running himself, but plans to push for strong national security policies from the sidelines.

"I've spoken to well over 1,000 major Republican donors and can remember only one who agreed with Rand Paul on foreign policy," Bolton said. "The views he represents are a tiny, tiny minority within the Republican Party."

Unlike several of the other Republican candidates for president, Paul doesn't have an obvious billionaire - or group of billionaires - backing his campaign, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie does with Home Depot founder Ken Langone and Rubio does in car dealer Norman Braman.

Campaigning in South Carolina last week, when he spoke about his fight against renewing the NSA's authority to collect Americans' phone records in bulk, Paul said he isn't concerned about the big donors lining up against him. But he said he wouldn't turn down their money.

"If you know some billionaires, and you want to send them our way, we're happy to talk to them," Paul said. "It's more about votes than it is about dollars, and I think we're going to have plenty of money to compete."

Paul said he's counting on small-dollar donations raised primarily online, the kind he's tried to drum up during the debate that has resulted in at least the temporary suspension of the NSA's authority to collect Americans' calling records.

He's attracted enthusiasm outside the usual Republican circles, particularly from college-aged voters with a distaste for military engagement and others who put civil liberties at the forefront of their concerns.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who isn't aligned with any 2016 candidate, said what Paul lacks in traditional deep-pocketed donor enthusiasm, he could make up for in smaller contributors.

"He's not going to have a traditional campaign because he's not going to be a traditional candidate," Luntz said. "That comes with advantages and disadvantages."

Paul's campaign said it raised more than $1 million online in his first 24 hours as a candidate, but wouldn't say how much it has raised around the NSA issue. It will report on its finances next month.

Officially announced candidates for 2016:

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All officially announced 2016 Presidential candidates
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Some GOP donors willing to give to many, just not Paul

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (D)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York (D)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R)

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former CEO, Businesswoman Carly Fiorina of California (R)

(Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Former New York Governor George Pataki (R)

(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (R)

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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