Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $250,000 contribution to a super PAC that supports U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election is tied to Graham's strong support for Israel and his record of results in Washington, the PAC's controller said.
But Bloomberg is also an outspoken advocate of gun control, which could come back to haunt Graham in a state filled with voters seen as pro-Second Amendment.
One area of wiggle room, however, is that federal election restrictions prohibit the political action committee that received the Bloomberg cash from coordinating with the Graham campaign on any delivery of message or in coordinating spending.
The West Main Street Values PAC, which operates out of Lexington, is partly run by former state Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, who on Tuesday said the Bloomberg money came in support of Graham's continued long-term service in the Senate.
"It's got nothing to do with Lindsey," Dawson said of the PAC.
By definition, a super PAC is considered an independent political action committee that can raise unlimited amounts of cash from corporations, unions and individuals. But it is not allowed to contribute or directly coordinate with a candidate.
"I ask everybody for a million dollars, if I can," Dawson added, saying that "I was glad and proud to take it."
Dawson pegged the donation to the recognition that Graham remains a staunch supporter of Israel and is known to speak out against Iran's ambitions, while defending the American military position.
"A lot of supporters come from the Jewish community," said Dawson.
The $250,000 donation came to light as part of Tuesday's federal election reporting closing date that covers the second quarter of the year.
Separately, Graham's camp reported Tuesday that it has about $2,711,174 cash on hand after the primary fight, down from the more than $7 million he had during the most heated part of the campaign.
His Democratic opponent in November, state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, trailed far back, listing only $51,109 in cash on hand.
Both men faced party primaries last month, though Graham's was far more confrontational as he successfully turned back six challengers to win the GOP nomination with 56 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff.
Hutto faced only marginal competition from newcomer Jay Stamper, who the Democratic Party leadership did not support.
Elsewhere on the November Senate ballot, Libertarian Victor Kocher only recently officially filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, while independent Thomas Ravenel is new to the field, having formally entered on Monday.
Bloomberg's donation came on top of another $250,000 donation he gave earlier to help another veteran Senate Republican who - just like Graham - was targeted by tea party candidates. That money went to a super PAC that supported Mississippi incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran during his recent GOP primary duel and eventual win against tea party favorite Chris McDaniel.
Political observers say Bloomberg's support of Cochran and Graham probably isn't that big of a deal to most voters and shouldn't be much fodder heading to November now that the biggest in-party threats to the incumbents are gone.
"He's already won the primary," Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said of Graham's status.
Huffmon added, however, that the Bloomberg money would probably be more of a factor in six years, should Graham win another term in November and then go on to face a field of other conservatives in what would be the 2020 GOP primary.
"This will be added to the list in the future of conservative Republicans who say Lindsey is not conservative enough by saying: 'Look, he takes money from people opposed to gun rights,' " Huffmon said.
Media reports in April estimated Bloomberg planned to spend as much as $50 million on the 2014 elections while aiming to push new gun control measures.
Meanwhile, Dawson's PAC raised a large deal of money for its pro-Graham advocacy campaign. In May the group announced that it had made a major television ad buy of almost $80,000 on a broadcast and cable TV ad called "Keeping our Military Strong."
The commercial showed images of terrorists and hostile world leaders, and accused President Obama of gutting the military while crediting Graham for his work promoting national defense.
"The West Main Street Values PAC has raised more than $425,000 to support Graham in his bid for re-election," the PAC announced at the time.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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