When the Georgia Life Alliance needed an emcee for its annual gala in October, the conservative anti-abortion group turned to one of its favorite politicians: U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
A few weeks later, though, the alliance stunned the Republican congressman when it announced it would spend at least $3 million on an ad blitz to back U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent whom Collins is challenging in November.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Collins questioned how a group that struggled to raise significant cash unveiled an expensive initiative to support Loeffler, a wealthy executive who is financing her own campaign.
“What I think is happening is they got a large infusion of cash from Kelly. They’ve hardly raised $50,000 and then they suddenly announce a $3 million ad buy?” he asked. “It’s more than fishy. They can deny it all they want. I guess they thought I’d be quiet and not say anything about it.”
He sees it as the latest escalation in a bruising Republican battle over the seat that has so divided Georgia conservatives that some party leaders worry it could pave the way for a Democratic upset in November’s free-for-all race.
The alliance announced its $3 million campaign in late January, starting with a radio ad promoting Loeffler and U.S. Sen. David Perdue. The ad said the GOP duo, who are both on the November ballot, will “stop Washington liberals undermining our pro-life reforms with their impeachment witch hunt.”
It also sent mailers to conservative voters that praised Loeffler for her first votes in January, lauding her for votes that “confirm strong conservatives to the bench, while supporting pro-life measures that limit abortions after 20 weeks and prevent tax dollars from funding abortions.”
Joshua Edmonds, the group’s executive director, said the group has not received any donations from Loeffler. He refused to disclose who financed the campaign, saying it would “compromise the thousands of donors who support the pro-life cause and put us at a disadvantage” with abortion rights groups.
‘This one hurts’
Federal tax records show the organization has never amassed that kind of cash before.
The alliance raised about $80,000 in 2017 and ended the year with less than $10,000 in the bank. It didn’t have to file a detailed report in 2018 because it collected less than $50,000. The group hasn’t filed its 2019 report yet, though Edmonds said it raised nearly $250,000 last year.
The group is running the ad campaign through a separate 501(c)4 group that has raised less than $50,000 every year since it was created in 2016.
In a statement, Edmonds said that rewarding the anti-abortion stances of Perdue and Loeffler “in no way diminishes the pro-life partnership” it has with Collins.
“We hate seeing politics get in the way of relationships,” he said. “GLA has maintained a good relationship with our friend Doug Collins and we have always been deeply grateful for his pro-life leadership in the U.S. House.”
Loeffler, who was endorsed by the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said through a spokesman she’s “proud to work with groups like Georgia Life Alliance to protect the innocent unborn and most vulnerable among us.”
“Doug Collins is spending his time attacking Georgia Life Alliance - and that’s a shame,” said Stephen Lawson, a Loeffler aide.
The bitter brawl between the two has forced Republican officials to take sides and left President Donald Trump searching for ways to avoid a nasty November special election. But for Collins, the alliance’s support for his rival is particularly stinging.
He has a long history with the organization, which has showered him with several awards, including the “federal legislator of the year” honor in 2016.
That same year, the group urged conservatives to trust Collins’ commitment to anti-abortion legislation with a blog that asserted “every dollar spent on campaign mailers to attack the consistently pro-life votes of Doug Collins and (Republican U.S. Rep.) Barry Loudermilk is a wasted dollar.”
In the interview, Collins pointed to several measures he sponsored in the state Legislature and Congress to restrict abortions that won praise from the alliance.
“This one hurts. I helped them get started a few years ago. I never thought they’d lose their credibility over money,” he added. “It’s so blatant. They became transactional and, undoubtedly, they put themselves up for sale.”
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