A powerful Washington organization that backs U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler took steps to undermine a fundraiser for her Republican challenger, leading his campaign to lash out at the group in some of its most bruising terms yet.
The March 3 fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins was to be hosted by five music industry officials, according to an invite obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But his campaign aides said they were forced to scrap the fundraiser to “protect donors” after the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent an email to top aides to GOP senators warning them to steer clear of the event.
“It is being hosted by organizations that – while they do support some Republicans – give disproportionately to Democrats, including impeachment managers Hakeem Jeffries, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff,” read the email from Kevin McLaughlin, the NRSC’s executive director.
He included a lengthy breakdown that detailed campaign contributions from each of the industry associations who were set to co-host the fundraiser. They showed the groups predominately gave to Democratic candidates.
“I wanted to make you aware of it in case any of them are trying to meet with any of you or your staffs,” McLaughlin wrote in the email, which was sent Tuesday.
An aide to Collins, who has cultivated close ties with the left-leaning industry because of his work on copyright protection legislation, pointed to House ethics rules that say members and staff are "prohibited from threatening punitive action" because of campaign contributions.
“This is as close to illegal as you get without the handcuffs, but it’s actually helping us,” said Dan McLagan, a spokesman for Collins. “It’s creating new donors who are ticked off at the heavy-handedness.”
U.S. House ethics rules only apply to lawmakers and staffers who work in the chamber.
The two Republicans are engaged in a bitter brawl that has divided the party and left President Donald Trump searching for ways to avoid an even nastier November special election.
Loeffler has vowed to spend at least $20 million to win the free-for-all race, which features three prominent Democrats as well as Collins, who was Trump’s initial favorite for the seat.
The two have scrambled to lock up support from prominent Georgia leaders, national figures and Washington-based groups that can pump money into the race. It's even spilled over into a behind-the-scenes fight over vendors pressured by the NRSC to boycott his bid.
>>More: Loeffler vs. Collins fight sets off dash for GOP support
>>More: Collins won't accept Trump's intel post, vows to stay in Georgia Senate race
>>More: Georgia elections chief sets qualifying for US Senate seat for next week