Jan 20, 2022 - Politics

Kemp and Perdue clash over campaign finance law

Animated gif of two elephants involved in a tug of war with their trunks
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This week, Gov. Brian Kemp filed an ethics complaint against primary opponent former Senator David Perdue, alleging that his campaign improperly coordinated with a political action committee, which solicited money and phone numbers on Perdue’s behalf. That’s a no-no in campaign finance law.

  • A Perdue spokesperson called the complaint "laughable and desperate."

Why it matters: This complaint connects back to a larger fight brewing between Perdue and Kemp about what Perdue calls an “uneven and discriminatory campaign finance structure” that benefits Kemp.

  • Last week, Perdue sued Kemp over a new law that he argues “grants special fundraising and expenditure privileges to the incumbent governor…while denying those privileges to Senator Perdue.”

Flashback: Last year, the General Assembly passed the law that allows the incumbent governor, lieutenant governor, party nominees and majority and minority caucuses to create “leadership committees.”

  • These committees are not subject to three standard campaign finance regulations: a $7,600 limit per donor for statewide races, a prohibition against fundraising during the legislative session, and a prohibition against coordination between candidates and political action committees.

What they’re saying: As to whether the new structure is unfair to Perdue, Kemp tells Axios that non-incumbents have had “an unfair advantage over me because they can raise money during the legislative session.”

  • This is also an argument Kemp’s lawyers made in their response to Perdue’s lawsuit. Overturning it, they said, would tilt the scales in Perdue’s favor since he would be able to fundraise during the session.
  • Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said he sees merit in Perdue’s argument because the leadership committee law creates a “two track” system that “benefits the incumbent purposefully and disadvantages everybody else.”

The big picture: Kreis said that, perversely, if Kemp’s complaint alleging improper coordination is correct, “then David Perdue’s lawsuit claims seem to be strengthened.”

  • Meaning, it highlights “how one-sided the law is for challengers running for office:” Kemp is able to coordinate with a political action committee while Perdue cannot.
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