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File | The Journal Gazette

Donnelly recruits GOP supporters

Two months after the formation of Republicans for Donnelly, membership has grown from six to about 60, according to a campaign official for Joe Donnelly, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana.

The group was begun by supporters of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who was defeated by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the May 8 GOP primary election.

Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly's campaign, said more than 50 people had signed up online to join Republicans for Donnelly.

"We encouraged people to sign up for the group online as a grass-roots organizing tool -- not a fundraising tool," Shappell said in an email.

Mourdock campaign spokesman Christopher Conner said in an email about Republicans for Donnelly: "Several of the individuals they originally list as Republicans actually had voted in several Democratic primaries. I am sure some of that is still the case."

Asked whether Mourdock is receiving support from Democrats, Conner noted that Mourdock lives in Vanderburgh County, which has "a very strong Democratic tradition, and where he was a two-term commissioner and carried twice as treasurer."

Politico reported Tuesday that Lugar financial backer Doug Rose hosted a dinner party the previous evening in his Carmel home to raise money for Donnelly, who represents Indiana's 2nd District in the U.S. House. Guests were asked to contribute up to $1,000 to Donnelly's campaign.

Politico described Rose, the head of an Indianapolis real estate firm, as "an Indiana businessman who has donated to both political parties."

According to CampaignMoney.com, Rose gave more than $6,600 in campaign contributions to Donnelly's House campaigns from 2008 through 2011.

The website shows Rose has given money to the campaigns of Indiana Democrats Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill and Hoosier Republicans Marlin Stutzman, Mike Pence, Dan Burton, Mark Souder and Lugar, among others. He has donated to Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain.

Politico published the invitation for the Carmel fundraiser. Probably the best known of the 19 hosts was Jeff Smulyan, leader of Emmis Communications, which owns radio stations and magazines. Smulyan has contributed money largely to Democratic candidates, but he also has given to a few GOP campaigns.

Shappell said none of the fundraiser hosts was a member of Republicans for Donnelly.