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Rep. Cotton raises more than $4.28 million to fund Senate bid (Updated)

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Campaigns in Arkansas are well underway. Proof that they are more in campaign mode than fundraising mode is the lack of candidates announcing fundraising numbers following the end of the first quarter on March 31.

Of the federal candidates running in the Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith areas, only U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tommy Moll, R-Hot Springs, and former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, D-Dardanelle, have announced fundraising hauls (as of close of business April 15). Other campaigns may have filed their reports, but the reports have not appeared online and announcements have yet to be made.

Update: Following publication of this article, Sen. Pryor's campaign sent a press release detailing his first quarter fundraising totals. Those totals can be found at the bottom of this story.

Cotton, the freshman member of Congress who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's re-election, reported raising $1.35 million during the first three months of 2014.

That brings Cotton's total amount raised to nearly $4.284 million since he entered the race in the Fall of 2013. In announcing his cash haul, the Harvard Law graduate and former Army Ranger said the large amount raised during the quarter will give his campaign the momentum it needs as he challenges the well-funded Pryor, who is seeking a third term in the Senate.

"I am incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support from Arkansans from every corner of our state. Last week I announced our campaign's 75-county grassroots effort, and our fundraising success will only bolster our momentum going forward. Arkansans are ready for a Senator who will put our interests before President Obama’s partisan agenda."

The figure for last quarter is an improvement as his campaign picks up steam going into the general election. For all of 2013, Cotton only reported contributions of $3.288 million. His first quarter haul being nearly a third of that total and bumps Cotton's total raised by 46.73%.

For his part, Pryor raised $5.179 million for all of 2013, though his campaign failed to reply to an e-mail seeking information on his first quarter 2014 totals. While Pryor has had the clear financial advantage over Cotton, it has done little to provide much room in the polls between the men. The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College poll shows Pryor and Cotton in a statistical dead heat, with Pryor polling at 45.5% to 42.5% for Cotton.

OUTSIDE MONEY
An interesting dynamic for both men, though no data is available to determine how it is effecting the choice of likely voters, is the heavy advertising taking place by outside groups. A report by OpenSecrets.org shows that during the race for U.S. Senate so far, nearly $3 million has been spent on advertising by outside political groups and the ads are generally attacking each candidate rather than speaking in favor of either.

In the case of Cotton, only $238,501 has been spent on outside ads supporting his candidacy, while $1.772 million has been spent on attack ads against the Congressman.

The numbers don't look much better for Pryor, with only $1,000 spent in favor of the Senator, while nearly $1 million has been spent on attack ads against the candidate.

The biggest spenders so far have included the 501c group Patriot Majority USA, which has spent $1.078 million in opposition to Cotton's campaign. The next largest group is the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC that has spent $567,098 million in opposition to Cotton's candidacy.

Conservative super PAC Club for Growth Action has spent about $527,858 to support Cotton and attack Pryor, while the Senate Conservatives Action super PAC has spent $319,796 attacking Pryor.

4TH DISTRICT MONEY
A race that has seen relatively little media attention or advertising is the race to replace Cotton in the 4th Congressional District. The only two candidates who had announced fundraising totals by close of business Tuesday were Democrat James Lee Witt, a former Yell County judge and director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton administration, and Republican Tommy Moll, a newcomer to the political scene who is challenging Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, for the Republican nomination next month.

Moll, who has never sought elected office before, reported raising more than $115,000 during the first quarter, bringing his total fundraising to $539,000 with more than $392,000 cash on hand.

Contrast that to Westerman, who had only raised $217,540 for his campaign during 2013. As of 5 p.m., April 15, Westerman had not released first quarter fundraising numbers.

Witt, on the other hand, has no primary opponent and raised more in the first quarter of 2014 than Westerman raised in all of 2013. The former FEMA director announced raising $268,802 during the first quarter, with a total raised so far of more than $500,000. The figures do not include money raised earlier this month from a Hot Springs fundraiser featuring former President Bill Clinton, who was raised in Hot Springs and had Witt in his administrations when he was Arkansas governor and president.

For his part, Witt — who hasn't held elected office since the 1980s — called the financial support of his campaign humbling.

“The support we’ve received so far in this campaign has been tremendous,” Witt said.  “While it’s humbling to have the support of so many fellow Arkansans, it’s also an encouraging sign of a strong campaign that continues to grow.”

“Folks across the 4th District recognize that my campaign for Congress is different,” Witt added. “I’m not running to promote one party over another or to score political points.  Instead, I’m running to be an honest and independent voice for Arkansas – someone who understands firsthand the challenges facing our families, someone you can trust to really focus on creating new jobs and new opportunity, someone who knows how to work with anyone who’s willing to work together to make a difference for our state and our country.”

PRESS RELEASE FROM PRYOR'S CAMPAIGN
Today, the Pryor for Senate campaign announced a strong $1.22 million haul in the first quarter of 2014, maintaining Pryor’s cash advantage over his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton. Pryor’s $7.45 million total raised this cycle has given him the resources to define Cotton early and effectively, as evidenced by a string of recent polls showing Pryor leading in a race many national observers have only just begun to realize will remain competitive through election day.

In just the past week, three consecutive public polls have shown Pryor with a lead over Cotton, as did another poll released in March.

Advertisement:

April 8: Mark Pryor Leads Tom Cotton in New Poll - U.S. News

April 10: New numbers in Arkansas Senate battle - CNN

April 14: Third Poll In A Row Shows Mark Pryor Leading Tom Cotton - Talk Business Arkansas

April 15: 4 New Polls Show Incumbent Dem Senator Leading GOPer In Arkansas - TPM

“Mark’s message is already resonating with Arkansans, who continue to be deeply skeptical of Congressman Cotton’s reckless votes against Medicare, affordable student loans and equal pay for women,” said Jeff Weaver, Pryor for Senate campaign manager. “Mark’s path to victory is clear because of the grassroots support we’re seeing from across the state of Arkansas. Every day it’s becoming more apparent that voters are tuning in and seeing this race for what it is: a choice between Mark’s steady leadership as a responsible voice for Arkansans and Tom Cotton, a congressman who consistently puts his own ambitions ahead of what’s best for seniors, students, women and working families."

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