FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidates have been quick to criticize each other for their histories with the 2008 Wall Street bailout. But that hasn't stopped them from taking campaign contributions from companies that benefited from the program.
While it represents only a fraction of their overall fundraising, Kentucky's three major Senate candidates have accepted more than $229,000 in contributions from companies that benefited from the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell received the vast majority of the money. That includes donations from the companies themselves and the companies' employees.
The bailout has been a central part of the Republican primary between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Bevin has criticized McConnell's vote to approve the bailout in 2008. And McConnell has blasted Bevin for hypocrisy, nicknaming his Republican challenger "Bailout Bevin" for signing a document in 2008 that called the bailout a "positive development."
But donors from companies that benefited from the bailout clearly prefer McConnell. The Senate Republican leader has raised more than $200,000 from bailout companies or their employees. That's slightly more than 2 percent of the $10 million McConnell, a 27-year incumbent, has raised since 2013.
Bevin, who launched his campaign last year, has raised $2.7 million altogether, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Goldman Sachs was McConnell's biggest donor among the bailout banks, giving him more than $50,000 since January 2013. JP Morgan was second with more than $29,000, followed by American Express, Bank of New York Mellon and Morgan Stanley. Those companies received $54.4 billion from the government bailout, according to a database compiled by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica.
"Mitch McConnell's bailout friends are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into this race to reward McConnell for his crony capitalism and to keep their gravy train rolling," Bevin spokeswoman Sarah Durand said.
Bevin, meanwhile, has accepted nearly $6,000 in contributions from companies that benefited from the bailout. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has accepted more than $20,000. The McConnell campaign declined to comment for this story.
Despite the Bevin campaign's optimism, the Louisville businessman remains a longshot to upset McConnell. The most recent NBC News/ Marist poll showed Bevin trails McConnell by 32 percentage points. The GOP primary is Tuesday.
McConnell, Bevin and Grimes are all crisscrossing the state in advance of Tuesday's primary. Grimes is in the middle of a 50-county bus tour touting her plan to raise the federal minimum wage. McConnell will hold several events on Saturday followed by a fly-around on Monday where he will have seven campaign stops in eight hours. Bevin's "New Generation of Leadership" bus tour has nine stops planned before Saturday.