By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It pays politically to have a son in the movies.
Fourth Congressional District Democratic candidate Nick Clooney raised nearly $500,000 during the first three months of the year, a figure boosted by the fund-raising efforts of his actor son, George Clooney.
Clooney, the only Democrat in the race to replace incumbent Rep. Ken Lucas, reported raising $478,281 and finished the first quarter with $425,316 cash on hand.
It's believed to be a record for fund raising in one quarter in the district, which stretches from Ashland in the east to near Louisville in the west. The 24-county district includes all of Northern Kentucky.
Lucas, a Boone County Democrat not seeking a fourth term, set the previous record in the fall of 1998, when he reported raising $268,000.
"I am grateful to the people of the 4th District for investing in my campaign," Clooney said in a statement. "I will continue to do my best to earn their trust."
Clooney raised more than twice as much as Republican Geoff Davis, a Boone County business consultant running in the May 18 primary. Davis reported raising $217,966 and had $610,935 cash on hand.
Kevin Murphy, a lawyer and Erlanger Republican, did not have his report tallied Thursday.
John Kelly King, a Republican chiropractor from Union, also did not file a report Thursday.
Only going to continue
Since entering the race in November, Clooney, a media personality who has never run for office, has raised about $533,000.
"Since end of November, Nick has raised more than half-a-million dollars," said Bob Doyle, Clooney's Washington-based political consultant and fund-raiser.
"We'll eventually pass Geoff Davis in raising money," Doyle said. "We obviously raised more than double what he raised during the quarter, and that is only going to continue."
Clooney raised about half of his money at four fund-raisers last month in Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Hollywood that featured appearances by George Clooney. The well-known actor and sometime political activist grew up in Augusta.
Neither Murphy nor Clooney released their full Federal Election Commission reports, which list individual and Political Action Committee donors.
Clooney's campaign said in a news release that 57 percent of his contributors are Kentucky residents.
But at least some of his money came from actors who are believed to have contributed to the campaign during the West Coast fund-raiser held at George's home.
"There's no question George helps," Doyle said. "We don't shy away from that, because George loves his dad and wants to help his campaign.
"But this report shows that Nick is an especially strong candidate, that he is running a vigorous, well-financed campaign that is going to beat back his challenger after the (May 18) Republican primary," Doyle said.
Davis said he has maintained a consistent fund-raising pace, collecting more than $200,000 in each of the last three financial reporting periods.
"Our successful first-quarter fund-raising effort is proof positive of our broad base of support across the 4th Congressional District," Davis said in a statement. "We'll continue to work hard to build a winning coalition and to raise the funds necessary to communicate our positive message to voters."
Bruising GOP primary
The Clooney campaign said Davis is also being forced to spend money because of the GOP primary race.
Clooney still has 80 percent of the money he has raised compared with 44 percent for Davis.
"Clearly, Nick Clooney has the most to gain from this bruising Republican primary," said B.J. Neidhardt, Clooney's campaign manager.
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