Jul 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Stacey Abrams' blockbuster fundraising driven by out-of-state money

Data: Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

In one of the highest-profile gubernatorial battles in the country, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams is leveraging a vast pool of out-of-state money.

Why it matters: Abrams' fundraising profile — which consists of huge backing from wealthy coastal Democrats and a massive base of small-dollar support — is more typical of a leading national candidate than a gubernatorial contender.

Driving the news: Abrams' campaign and leadership committee have reported receiving about $7 million from Georgia donors, or just over 14% of the nearly $50 million they've combined to raise this cycle.

  • Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's campaign and leadership committee have brought in more than $26 million from in-state donors, or 83% of their $31.5 million total since Kemp began fundraising in 2019.
  • A substantial chunk of Abrams' in-state raise — a $1.5 million donation to her leadership committee — came from Fair Fight, a voting policy group founded by Abrams herself.

Zoom out: If the trend holds, Abrams would be the only Georgia gubernatorial nominee from either party since at least the 1990s to receive a majority of campaign funds from out of state, according to an Axios analysis of campaign finance records.

Yes, but: Abrams has reported more than 30,000 contributions from Georgians this year alone.

  • That's more than double the number of in-state donations to Kemp during the same period, though the governor’s campaign was barred from raising money for three months this year while the Georgia legislature was in session. His committee could, however.
  • Abrams is also entering the critical final leg of the campaign with more than double Kemp's cash on hand.

Of note: State law only requires the disclosure of contributor information for donations over $100.

  • Abrams has raised nearly $6.7 million from small-dollar, "unitemized" donations — compared to about $567,000 for Kemp — meaning her in-state haul is likely higher than her itemized totals indicate.
  • Even if every penny of that unitemized total came from Georgia, however, her in-state haul would amount to just over a quarter of her total fundraising.

The big picture: Abrams' celebrity, which has skyrocketed since her 2018 race, has given her access to a new realm of donors, including names like Leonardo DiCaprio and Melinda Gates. A group of entertainment industry luminaries held a Los Angeles fundraiser for Abrams in June.

  • She's reported getting more money this cycle from California than any other state.
  • Out-of-state donations have grown with her national profile: during Abrams' 2018 run, she got about a third of her campaign cash from Georgia, per an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review.

Abrams has also taken full advantage of the new leadership committee structure, which allows unlimited contributions to an entity that can coordinate directly with campaigns.

  • Top donors to her leadership committee, One Georgia, include California philanthropist Karla Jurvetson and a PAC bankrolled by financier George Soros. Each provided $2.5 million.

What they're saying: Alex Floyd, a spokesman for the Abrams campaign, said they are "proud to have more Georgia donors than any other candidate in this race."

  • "Even after Brian Kemp and his right-wing allies rigged our campaign finance laws to give himself unlimited money, our grassroots supporters have fueled our campaign from every corner of the state.”
  • Floyd was referring to the leadership committee structure Georgia Republicans created last year, allowing certain officials and candidates to fundraise without limits.

The intrigue: Republicans see out-of-state support as one of Abrams' biggest liabilities.

  • Kemp's campaign has tried to paint her as someone who's been busy "courting liberal billionaires in New York and California" since their 2018 race.
  • "Georgia will never be on Stacey's mind," Kemp said at his May primary victory party. "Her radical ideas are meant to please people in New York, California and Chicago who are funding her campaign."

Between the lines: Abrams' team has preemptively quashed speculation about a 2024 presidential run if she prevails this year.

  • If she doesn't — or has a change of heart — her massive fundraising base could rival nearly any Democrat in the country.

Reporting was contributed by Axios' Nicki Camberg.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Gov. Brian Kemp's campaign and leadership committees brought in more than $26 million from in-state donors, or 83% of their $31.5 million total since Kemp began fundraising in 2019. An earlier version incorrectly calculated more than $27 million from in-state donors, or nearly 84% of their almost $33 million total since Kemp began fundraising in 2019, because of a double-counting of $1.37 million in contributions.

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