Image: Rand Paul
Ed Reinke  /  AP
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is shown during an interview at his campaign headquarters in Bowling Green, Ky. Paul's campaign has held high-profile events as well as turning to the internet for fundraising efforts.
updated 7/1/2010 3:56:15 PM ET 2010-07-01T19:56:15

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky raised $1.1 million in the three months overlapping his primary victory and the start of the fall campaign, marking his best fundraising performance yet.

The money taken up between April and June was slightly higher than the amount Paul collected in the third quarter of last year, when he edged past $1 million in contributions, the Paul campaign said Thursday. The tea party favorite exceeded $600,000 in contributions in each of the prior two quarters.

The recent quarter included a final push for cash before Kentucky's late May primary, when Paul easily beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson for the GOP nomination. It also gave an early glimpse of Paul's fundraising prowess ahead of the November vote.

Paul campaign official David Adams told The Associated Press that contributions to Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, poured in from "regular people who just want the government to balance the federal budget and follow the U.S. Constitution."

But the amount also included money raised from a high-profile fundraiser last week hosted by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian, at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington. Tickets went for $1,000 per person, with sponsorships up to $5,000 per group.

Adams said he didn't know how much was raised at the Washington event.

Paul, a libertarian-leaning candidate who casts himself as a political outsider, backed off an earlier campaign pledge to avoid tying his fundraising to GOP lawmakers who voted for the 2008 bank bailout. Nine of 12 GOP senators listed on the Washington invitation voted for the $700 billion bank bailout.

University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck called Paul's fundraising total an "impressive figure" in what's shaping up as a big-spending Senate race between Paul and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.

Paul and Conway are competing for the seat of Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who is retiring after two terms.

The quarter also marked a time of controversial statements Paul made about the Civil Rights Act and a defense of BP PLC after scathing government criticism of the oil giant's handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Rhodebeck said Paul's fundraising performance shows his comments apparently didn't inflict long-term damage on his ability to raise campaign cash, noting his showing could give him more fundraising momentum.

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"Money often begets more money," she said.

Paul, the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, borrowed a page from his father's political playbook by tapping the Internet for campaign cash.

Rand Paul banked $172,000 on Monday in a Web-based fundraiser that drew contributions from more than 2,000 people over a 24-hour period. The campaign said the average donation was less than $90.

Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, turned to the Internet to help finance his unsuccessful run for president in 2008.

Conway spokeswoman Allison Haley declined to comment on the amount the Democrat, a proven fundraiser himself, raised in the quarter.

Both candidates face a July 15 deadline to file campaign-finance reports for the quarter.

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