Log In

The suddenly moneyed Georgia Democrats (Updated)

Free access to myAJC for AJC subscribers.


The Democratic Party of Georgia has narrowed the Georgia GOP's financial lead. After the first three months of this year, the Democrats had $520,000 cash on hand compared with $624,000 for the Republicans. This, after the Democrats at one point last year had only about $15,000 in their account. In the first quarter alone, the DPG raised about $385,000.

So, where'd all that Democratic money come from?

Well, a great deal of it came from qualifying fees paid by candidates for state offices. (No qualifying fees for the 18 Democratic candidates for federal office were reported; that should have added almost $94,000 to the total.) Those aren't really donations, so let's take those out.

About half of the rest came from PACs, companies and individuals outside Georgia. Over one-sixth came from other contributions by Democratic elected officials or candidates. A quarter came from in-state labor unions, PACs and corporations.

And that leaves a grand total of $6,000 given by two -- yes, two -- Georgians who aren't running for public office.

To put that in perspective: One man from Philadelphia, the heir to a family investment-banking fortune, gave twice as much to the Democratic Party of Georgia during the first quarter as all non-politicians from Georgia combined.

How does that compare with Georgia Republicans? They raised less overall, mostly because they brought in far less from out-of-state donors and in-state candidates -- set those aside, and the two parties were within $3,000 of each other.

Proportionally, the Republicans were similar to the Democrats in terms of out-of-state donors (roughly half) and in-state corporations or PACs (about one-quarter). But instead of getting most of the rest of their money from elected Republicans, they got it from unelected, individual Georgians: More than 80 such people gave almost $21,000.

That's more than 80 individual donors in Georgia for the GOP, compared to those astonishing two for the DPG.

You would think a major political party in a state as large as Georgia would have to try, to make an effort, to avoid raising money from more than two in-state people who aren't politicians.

A quarterly report is, of course, just a snapshot in time. But this particular snapshot, especially in combination with the fund-raising numbers from Jason Carter's gubernatorial campaign, is being framed as a sign Georgia Democrats are back on par financially with Georgia Republicans.

Judging by these pictures of how Georgians themselves are giving to the parties, though, the Democrats aren't quite there.


ADDED on April 11: I left out of the original post that these figures come from state campaign-finance filings. The state parties also raise money for their federal accounts. I did search yesterday for the DPG's federal accounts on the Federal Election Commission's website, and I found nothing. It turns out, that's because their federal filings don't include the word "Democrat" in their name. Rather, the DPG files federally as the "Georgia Federal Elections Committee." Which is not terribly transparent for a system designed to increase ... transparency. But then again, they're hardly the only group to seek as much cover as possible within the system.

All of that to say: Federal filings for January and February (March reports haven't yet been filed) show a slightly better picture for the DPG. In addition to those two individuals, 15 other non-politicians from Georgia gave a total of $5,676 to the DPG's federal account. (I am counting Elena Parent, a past legislator and current candidate, as a politician, even though she had not yet qualified for office when she made her gift.) So, for those keeping score at home, we're now at 17 folks giving the DPG $11,676, pending the party's federal report for March.

I also looked at the Georgia GOP account (more helpfully listed as "Georgia Republican Party") and found an additional 14 non-politician Georgians who had given $5,730. Add that total to $2,955 in federal donations from people I'd counted on the Georgia GOP's state list, and the party's combined federal and state donations from 87 non-politician Georgians come to $29,594.

Why do parties collect money in federal and state accounts? In short, there are fewer restrictions on how federal donations may be used.

In both federal and state accounts, there are also small gifts that don't have to be itemized. I included this in a first draft of the OP but ended up cutting it because it seemed overly technical without adding much insight. But, since I'm updating the post now, here goes: The DPG reported (in the same timeframe we've been talking about throughout this update) $35,532 in non-itemized gifts. The Georgia GOP reported $102,544 of such gifts. We could make assumptions about the source of the gifts, such as the likelihood that they're small gifts from individual Georgians, but they're merely assumptions. We don't know how many people gave, or where they live. That lack of clarity is why I left this information out originally, but now you have it.

Most Read