U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton speaks during a televised debate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 14, 2014.
Danny Johnston/AP

Tom Cotton’s mysterious friends

Diligent political observers know there are often interesting tidbits in campaign-finance reports, and one appears to have popped up in Arkansas.
 
Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R) U.S. Senate campaign has paid $322,963 to something called Right Solutions Partners LLC for “fund-raising consulting.” That wouldn’t ordinarily be especially interesting, since congressional candidates in both parties routinely write big checks to DC-based consultants.
 
But Jonathan Martin reported that this one is a little different.
[H][ere’s the catch: It’s not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year.
 
However, the address, 1717 K Street Northwest, is where the Washington office of the law firm Arent Fox is located, and a Republican campaign finance lawyer at the firm signed the organizing papers with the city. When I called that lawyer, Craig Engle, he initially said he did not set up Right Solutions Partners. Then he amended that, saying, “I remember being part of the organizing of it.”
 
But he said he forgot who asked him to set up the entity and quickly moved into lawyer-political speak, saying he could not get into for whom he was and was not working. He said he would try to get more information, but, alas, little was proffered. In a subsequent email, Mr. Engle said only that Mr. Cotton’s campaign was not a client of Arent Fox, and that he had alerted the campaign to my inquiries.
The far-right congressman and his campaign team wouldn’t respond to the New York Times’ inquiries, but they did share some additional information with a conservative media outlet.
 
The Washington Examiner reported that Solutions Partners LLC may not appear to exist, but it does – it’s home to Erika Sather, a Republican fundraiser, who created the firm.
“We have a contract with Erika Sather to pay Right Solutions,” Cotton campaign spokesman David Ray told the Washington Examiner. “When she sends us an invoice, it’s payable to Right Solutions, LLC.”
 
Her past clients include Republican Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. She previously worked for the Club for Growth, in the group’s finance department.
 
The Cotton campaign pays Sather a mixture of monthly retainer and commission on money raised, which is a standard arrangement between fundraising consultants and campaigns.
That helps shed some light on the story, but it still seems odd that a DC-based campaign firm has no website, no office address, and in a busy election cycle, no other clients.
 
For that matter, why didn’t Team Cotton answer the question about the arrangement when the New York Times first posed it?
 

Arkansas and Tom Cotton

Tom Cotton's mysterious friends