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Georgia Senate: Loeffler to put $4M behind a wave of new ads

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler arrives with President Donald Trump at Dobbins Air Reserve Base when the president came to Atlanta to visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler arrives with President Donald Trump at Dobbins Air Reserve Base when the president came to Atlanta to visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler will reserve about $4 million worth of airtime for a trio of new ads pushing back on criticism about her stock transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ads label the scrutiny from opponents, including Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, as “liberal lies” and claim she’s “unfairly targeted all because she’s a strong conservative woman.” One of the spots geared for conservative outlets directly ties her to President Donald Trump.

Replete with American flags and dubbed with uplifting music, each ad highlights Loeffler’s response to the pandemic, noting that she’s donated her pay to coronavirus charities and used her private plane to return stranded travelers to Georgia.

“Kelly Loeffler is all about Georgia,” says the narrator in one of the clips. “And it shows. Everyday.”

The most overtly political ad of the trio, “Strong,” opens with grainy images of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a narrator intones:

“The liberals unfairly target President Trump every day. Just like they’re unfairly targeting conservative Kelly Loeffler. But they’re both standing strong.”

The ad buy comes as she faces a formidable threat from Collins, a four-term Gainesville congressman, in a November special election that also features three prominent Democrats. That 21-candidate race will almost certainly head to a January 2021 runoff between the two top finishers.

Collins recently nabbed several prominent endorsements, and an internal GOP poll obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows him with a large lead over Loeffler in the free-for-all.

He's also tried to capitalize on reports about her stock transactions, accusing her of "profiting off the pandemic" as the economic toll of the pandemic escalated.

Loeffler maintained that she did nothing wrong and that her investments were handled by independent advisers who informed her of trades only days, sometimes weeks, after they occurred.

She and her husband Jeff Sprecher, whose company owns the New York Stock Exchange, also said they would invest in mutual and exchange-traded funds to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. They released financial disclosures Friday logged with notes that aim to head off new attacks.

The ads are part of Loeffler's strategy to counter Collins, who was spurned by Gov. Brian Kemp last year despite a push by Trump to tap him to the post. Since then, Loeffler has raced to get in Trump's good graces, and he's lauded her several times.

While the left, media and her opponents play politics, Kelly will not be distracted by their false attacks,” said her spokesman, Stephen Lawson. “Instead, she remains laser-focused on helping Georgians emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

Collins’ aide Dan McLagan panned the commercials as a “Robin Hood argument: ‘Yeah, I stole from your retirement accounts with my insider trading but I’m giving some of my profits to people and making TV ads about it.’”

The volley also offers a reminder at Loeffler's vast bankroll. Financial disclosures show she's likely the richest member of Congress, and she's pledged to spend at least $20 million on her bid to fill out the remaining two years of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson's term.

The ads will launch Tuesday statewide on broadcast, cable, radio and digital outlets:

Watch “Georgia First:”

Watch “Untrue:”

Watch “Strong:”

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