INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Dan Coats' bumpy campaign for his former Senate seat goes on, in large part on his own money after he loaned his campaign $200,000, even as his staff denies any fundraising troubles just days ahead of the primary.
Coats, who was recruited to seek the seat by national Republicans who envisioned him as a strong fundraiser, made the loan on April 22, federal campaign finance records show. That's less than two weeks before Tuesday's primary in which he faces four other candidates for the Republican nomination.
Pete Seat, a Coats spokesman, said Wednesday that the loan was temporary, "to bridge that gap between the pledges and the deposits — with fundraising events that were scheduled and folks who pledged to attend but the money hadn't been deposited yet."
While Coats has outraised his opponents, he hasn't reached the levels many predicted. He has faced criticism for having not yet filed a report on his personal finances that was due April 4. And both his opponents and voters have raised questions about his years away from the state and Washington ties. Coats worked as a lawyer and lobbyist after leaving the Senate in 1999 following 10 years in office.
Coats had raised $446,000 through April 14, which included a $25,000 contribution he made to the campaign soon after he entered the race in February for the seat Democrat Evan Bayh is giving up.
It is uncommon for a candidate with previous election success such as Coats to put so much of their own money into their campaign, said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.
"Such a major infusion of cash from his own pocket can definitely buy a lot of airtime, buy a lot of advertisements," he said.
State Sen. Marlin Stutzman, one of Coats' primary opponents, said the loan showed that Coats was concerned about winning the primary.
"He's loaning himself some money and running to Washington to raise money from his old buddies out there," said Stutzman, who gave $31,000 to his own campaign.
Seat said Coats wasn't expected to give any more money to the campaign and disputed the suggestion that he hasn't been able to raise enough contributions in Indiana.
"We've seen some great momentum in the last week or two," he said.
Seat also said Coats' financial disclosure report was being reviewed for accuracy and would be filed before the primary. He said he hadn't seen the preliminary report and didn't know what it would say.
Stutzman said Coats was experienced enough that he should have had the disclosure report filed by now.
"To me, it looks like he's hiding lobbying income that he doesn't want public right now," Stutzman said.
The winner of the Republican nomination will likely face Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth in the November election. The state Democratic Central Committee is expected to formally nominate Ellsworth on May 15.