CREDIT: Allen West Guardian Fund website
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D) this November, has repeatedly vowed not to fund-raise off the Benghazi tragedy. On Friday, he told Fox News host Neil Cavuto that he personally would not raise money on the issue for his own campaign. “I won’t do that,” he pledged, “but every Republican and Democrat alike is going to have to decide how they’re going to conduct their campaigns and also how they’re going to approach this matter.” But this Saturday, he is hosting a fundraising lunch with former Congressman Allen West (R-FL), who has consistently sought to use the 2012 attacks as a tool to raise money for his leadership PAC.
Few have exploited Benghazi more consistently than West. West has blasted out multiple emails to potential donors asking them to help him elect “14 hard charging conservatives to Congress who defend America – starting with a full Congressional Investigation on Benghazi.” Cotton is one of just four endorsed “2014 candidates” listed on the PAC’s website and West has said he is “building up an arsenal to defeat the left’s attacks against Tom” and others. Over the past two weeks, West claimed both the Donald Sterling racism controversy and the Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria are merely distractions from the more important Benghazi issue.
Additionally, Cotton has benefited from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republican conference. It recently sent out a fundraising solicitation that read: “Americans deserve the truth about Benghazi and its clear Democrats will not give it to them. Donate today and elect a Republican Senate majority.” The House GOP campaign committee, for which Cotton has co-chaired a major fundraising effort, has used a similar approach.
Cotton took to the House floor last week to slam the “fake outrage” of Democrats who object to the politicization of the investigation. “When I was leading troops in Iraq in 2006, men and women who were being shot at and blown up by al-Qaeda, where was the outraged as they fund-raised endless off the Iraq War?” he asked, noting that “Four Americans lost their lives that night in Benghazi. They deserve justice and the American people deserve the truth.”
But while Cotton is correct that Democrats used Iraq as a campaign issue during the Bush years based on their promises to try to end the Iraq War, Republicans did as well. In 2006, the National Republican Senatorial Committee ran ads suggesting that Democratic war opponents had voted against “advanced body armor for our troops” and “up-armored Humvees.” Two years later, it attacked Democratic candidates over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) view that the Iraq War had been lost — calling it an example of “reckless moves for political gain.”