Thad Cochran has made a lot of important friends during his 35 years in the Senate — and they haven’t forgotten about him as he stares down a challenge from the right.
Former Senate colleagues Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) and Steve Symms (R-Idaho) all donated to the Mississippi Republican during the first three months of the year, as did the leadership PACs of two of Cochran’s colleagues, Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, according to newly filed campaign finance documents.
The lawmakers donating to Cochran come mostly from the party’s deal-making wing, evidence of the yawning ideological gap between the six-term Republican senator known for his soft touch and backroom power and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a controversial former radio host who is backed by conservative groups like Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth.
Cochran has said that he isn’t familiar with the tea party several times on the campaign trail, aligning himself with Republicans like Dole, the 1996 GOP presidential nominee who now doubts whether he could serve in today’s GOP. The former Senate majority leader gave Cochran two separate $1,000 donations in January and March. That’s a small percentage of the $1.7 million Cochran raised in the first quarter of this year but evidence of the strong ties he maintains with the GOP establishment.
Packwood and Domenici each gave Cochran $1,000 in February, while Symms gave $500 to Cochran in March and has given $1,000 total to Cochran. Domenici is currently a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center while Packwood and Symms are both lobbyists.
Cochran’s current colleagues are also trying to keep him in office. Ayotte’s Kelly PAC cut Cochran a check for $2,500 on March 31 and has given Cochran a total of $5,000. Kirk’s Lincoln PAC also gave $2,500 to Cochran on March 31 in addition to $1,000 previously given to the incumbent senator. Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) gave a total of $4,500 to Cochran from his leadership PAC and his official reelection accounts.