By Sam Youngman
WASHINGTON – Trial lawyers, anti-gun rhetoric and Harry Reid. Oh my.
As McConnell, the U.S. Senate Minority Leader looks for ways to tie Grimes to President Barack Obama and Democratic policies enormously unpopular in Kentucky, Grimes’ fundraiser in Sin City could help McConnell’s efforts.
Ticket prices at the Bellagio event run from $5,200 for a host to $500 for a “friend.”
Republicans have already seized on the location of the event, screaming about Grimes’ intentions to “hob nob with Harry Reid’s cronies,” and the hosts of the fundraiser could cause even more heartburn for Grimes.
According to the fundraiser invitation, obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the hosts of the event are both trial lawyers, one with a history of making anti-gun remarks that might not play well in the Bluegrass.
Mike Papantonio, a senior partner at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A. and one of the event’s co-hosts, has been outspoken in his criticisms of the National Rifle Association (NRA), comparing the group to prostitutes during an interview on MSNBC.
“All the NRA is, it’s, you can almost equate it to, the industry, think in terms of the street and their, a street pimp and their working girl,” Papantonio told MSNBC host Ed Schultz in January. “I mean, the working girl is the NRA, the pimp is the industry that has people like Wayne LaPierre and the NRA and their talking heads out pimping for, really, out working the streets for them.”
In 2012, Papantonio became president of the National Trial Lawyers Association, a group consistently targeted by Republicans.
Grimes has hit the fundraising circuit hard, working to overcome McConnell’s significant head start and the almost $10 million he had raised through the second fundraising quarter. The candidates’ third-quarter numbers are due to be publicly released by next week.
In late September, Grimes reportedly raised $1 million at a Los Angeles fundraiser hosted by Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation.
“Alison is the nation’s youngest Secretary of State and a no-nonsense fighter for jobs, health care and the civil justice system,” the invitation reads. “She’s leading in the most recent polling but needs our support.”
Grimes is also scheduled to attend a fundraising luncheon on Friday with Reid, an event that has enraged McConnell. Traditionally, Senate leaders do not help each others’ opponents so as to maintain a productive working relationship in the Capitol.
Charly Norton, a spokeswoman for Grimes, said in a statement that “unlike Sen. McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes cannot be bought.”
“Alison strongly supports the Second Amendment and will always work to protect Kentuckians’ right to bear arms,” Norton said in an email.
She added that criticisms from Republicans represent “another desperate McConnell attempt to distract from the fact that he is a walking embodiment of Washington’s dysfunction.”
“People across the country and across the political spectrum are tired of McConnell’s failed leadership,” Norton said. “He has no problem filling his campaign coffers with money from K Street and represents big money special interests that allow him to thrive in corruption-soaked Washington.”
McConnell has enjoyed fundraising support from Washington lobbyists, including a Sept. 26 fundraiser hosted by some of K Street’s most prominent.
McConnell also is no stranger to Vegas fund-raisers.
In 1997, he and then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., flew to Las Vegas on the corporate jet of Steve Wynn, owner of Mirage Resorts, to kick off a series of GOP fund-raisers. Subsequently, casinos in the American Gaming Association gave more than $2 million to the NRSC during McConnell’s chairmanship in 1998 and 2000, up from $375,000 for the 1996 races, according to a 2006 Herald-Leader report.