Updated Jul 13, 2022 - News

Georgia Democrats maximize new era of campaign finance

Illustration of a giant dollar sign bursting through a brick wall.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Georgia has entered a new "Wild West" era of campaign finance, and Stacey Abrams has proven herself to be its most effective user.

Driving the news: Georgia’s new "leadership committees" — fundraising entities that aren't subject to limits on state campaign donations — were created by Republicans.

Why it matters: The state law, which Kemp signed last summer, heralded a new era for Georgia campaign strategy. Now, campaign fundraising from wealthy donors is essentially free of traditional constraints.

  • Crucially, these limit-free leadership committees are able to coordinate directly with campaigns.

By the numbers: The largest contributors to Abrams' committee include $2.5 million from a George Soros-backed group and $1.5 million from the PAC of the voting rights policy advocacy group Abrams founded, Fair Fight Action.

  • In previous election cycles, when donations to campaigns from any committee were limited to $7,600, a group like Fair Fight would not have been able to directly support an entity controlled by the campaign in an unlimited way.

Now, not only did Fair Fight's PAC make a contribution to One Georgia, but One Georgia is, in turn, receiving tens of thousands of dollars' worth of Fair Fight staff time for their work on the campaign's committee.

  • Contributors include an array of Hollywood names, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, as well as Melinda Gates and national unions including IBEW.

The other side: Kemp's leadership committee received its biggest contribution directly from Kemp's campaign account, followed by a Kemp-aligned Super PAC and national conservative donor Elizabeth Uihlein. The committee has spent much of its money on advertising and canvassing expenses.

💭 Axios' politics reporter Lachlan Markay's thought bubble: "Abrams' leadership committee success flips the script for political fundraising.

  • Nationally, Republicans tend to rely on independent political groups bankrolled by high-dollar donors, while Democrats lean more heavily on "hard" money raised through a robust grassroots fundraising operation.
  • The huge out-of-state contributions to Abrams' leadership committee underscore her — and the race's — high national profile."

What they're saying: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, who cosponsored the leadership committee bill, said the volume of Democratic funds isn’t surprising. But now those contributions and the coordination between groups, he argues, are easier to see. As he told Axios: "Everybody can see what's in the pot."

  • "But it's nice to know and look and see here's exactly what's going on. Here's how the money is flowing from one pot to another," he said.
  • Alex Floyd, a spokesman for Abrams' campaign, told Axios in a statement they've known the campaign would "be an uphill battle running against an incumbent governor who gave himself unlimited money to run for reelection. But we are grateful to have supporters from all across our state who are committed to building One Georgia where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, no matter their background, zip code or access to power.”

Meanwhile, other new leadership committees, including for the lieutenant governor candidates and the state majority and minority caucuses, have been created as well. But none has raised near as much money as Abrams or Kemp.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Stacey Abrams' campaign.

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