The Jolt: Stacey Abrams takes heat for defense of Michael Bloomberg’s cash-rich campaign

El candidato presidencial dem?crata Mike Bloomberg aparece en un mitin de campa?a en el National Constitution Center el martes 4 de febrero de 2020. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
El candidato presidencial dem?crata Mike Bloomberg aparece en un mitin de campa?a en el National Constitution Center el martes 4 de febrero de 2020. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Credit: TOM GRALISH

Credit: TOM GRALISH

News and analysis from the AJC politics team

Former New York mayor and current billionaire Michael Bloomberg will make his debut as a Democratic presidential candidate tonight on a Las Vegas stage.

We've got an Insider in place, with some advice for the 9 p.m. confrontation sponsored by NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo, and the Nevada Independent newspaper.

For the first time, Bloomberg will be stepping out from behind hundreds of millions of dollars in TV and internet ads that he’s launched across the county. No doubt his rivals will poke him about “stop and frisk,” a policy that allowed NYC cops to stop and search millions of men of color without cause.

But it is the billions that Bloomberg is prepared to spend on his campaign that is dropping jaws, and creating some very specific tension within Democratic ranks.

Take Stacey Abrams, for instance. The former Democratic candidate for governor is getting clobbered by supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for her Monday comments on ABC's "The View" that defended Bloomberg for pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of his own fortune into the campaign. From ABC News:

Abrams defended Bloomberg's colossal campaign spending, saying, "I think that for once we actually know where the money is coming from."

"Every person is allowed to run and should run the race that they think they should run, and Mike Bloomberg has chosen to use his finances. Other people are using their dog, their charisma, their whatever," she added. "I think it's an appropriate question to raise. But I don't think it's disqualifying for anyone to invest in fixing America."

It’s a complex topic for Abrams, who has made it known she’s willing to serve as a vice president to whichever Democrat emerges as the nominee.

Bloomberg donated $5 million to Abrams' Fair Fight voting rights group -- the largest single donation received by the organization. Bloomberg was later given a primo speaking slot at a voting summit she held in Atlanta. More "The View" appearance:

"I am grateful to any person who contributes to Fair Fight. We have more than 100,000 contributers. His check just had a few more zeroes it – and we appreciate that, because as I said, I'm not endorsing anyone…."

But in fact, Bloomberg’s donation has ruffled feathers in her own organization.

After an audio recording of Bloomberg defending stop-and-frisk policies emerged, Andre Fields, the political director of Abrams' Fair Fight Action organization, tweeted of Bloomberg: "Some of us know the true terrorist he is."

It was quickly deleted.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who has endorsed Bloomberg, is in a similar position. A Bloomberg group, Everytown USA, pumped millions of dollars of support into her candidacy in 2018, and is prepared to do so again.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, who has also endorsed Bloomberg, said one factor in her decision was "the investment in infrastructure he was making here. Nobody ever does that for us – the staffers, the offices, the issue ads."

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Meanwhile, an adviser to Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg told CNN on Tuesday that the former New York mayor would sell his company, Bloomberg LP, if elected president. Also that he would release his tax returns as a candidate.

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A couple of days ago, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins hit on a now-familiar attack on Sen. Kelly Loeffler: He warned that Democrats can win if Republicans are left with a "fake conservative" with a history supporting Stacey Abrams.

It was a reminder of Loeffler's 2018 appearance midcourt at a WNBA game with Abrams, who at that moment was Brian Kemp's archrival in the race for governor and a nemesis to Georgia Republicans.

But Collins, too, was once close with the Democrat. Pictures now floating around social media show Abrams and Collins at various stages of embrace, including when both served as state lawmakers and ahead of Abrams’ testimony in the U.S. House last year. Here’s one:

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Collins and Abrams were familiar enough that Abrams named a character in one of her romance novels "Doug Collins." He was a young lawyer she described as lovable, if annoying, to the protagonist.

Asked for a comment, Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said timing is everything.

“Which [photo] has a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and campaign signs in it? There’s a picture of me and Hillary Clinton somewhere, but I didn’t throw a campaign event for her,” said McLagan, who worked for Clinton’s Republican Senate opponent in 2000.

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"A battle royale." That's the title of the Democratic Party of Georgia's video game-themed online ad poking fun at the bitter Republican rift between U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

The party swiped the title from a quote from Brian Robinson, the GOP operative who used that phrase to describe the Republican-on-Republican side of the bipartisan contest. Watch it here.

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An Atlanta woman who has written books about her criminal exploits and was featured on reality TV is among 11 people who President Donald Trump granted clemency on Tuesday.

Angela Stanton served a six-month house arrest sentence in 2007 after participating in a car theft ring, according to a White House statement about her pardon. The statement points to her recent work assisting inmates upon release from prison as justification for her clemency.

"I'M FINALLY FREE!!!! @realdonaldTrump did it," Stanton wrote on her Instagram account.

The White House also notes that Stanton received support from Alveda King, a prominent Trump surrogate who is also the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. (Stanton herself has also been a vocal Trump supporter.) King sent an email publicizing the pardon and said Stanton is her goddaughter.

Stanton's tell-all book was widely discussed on the "Real Housewives of Atlanta." In it, Stanton accused one of the cast members of being her former partner-in-crime who avoided charges. Stanton and Phaedra Parks ended up in a years-long legal battle, although both sides eventually agreed to drop their suits.

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Over at the Georgia Recorder, Maggie Lee reports on a Republican leader in the state Senate who's about to become very lonely:

So State Sen. Jeff Mullis said Tuesday he wants a ban on any new testimony from people who have lied to him and other lawmakers during hearings on legislative business. Hearing testimony tends to come from the usual assortment of paid lobbyists, underpaid advocates and, on occasion, the general public.

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As the recent fracas between lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp over the budget shows, the real fights in the state Capitol are over information -- who has it, and how freely is it distributed.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Dunwoody, posted this Tweet -- with a photo of the letter she sent to the governor:

I am a State Senator. One of my duties is to confirm hundreds of board appointees made by the Governor. To vet these appointees, I asked the Governor for bios. He refused, saying I must make an Open Records request. I am a Senator, not a rubber stamp.

Shortly after we posted the above, gubernatorial spokesman Cody Hall sent us this:

"For gubernatorial appointments, our office issues a press release with short biographies...All this information is readily available on our website, and we will gladly provide Senator Harrell with this information.

"We regret any misunderstanding and offer our assistance to anyone who seeks information from our office."

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Earlier this month, the state of Georgia settled a federal lawsuit filed by Puerto Ricans – who are U.S. citizens – who were denied driver's licenses because of their birthplace. Even more training may be needed, if this 11alive piece is any indication:

Mataya and her husband had just moved from Virginia to Dunwoody, Georgia.

One of the first things they did after their move, was to apply for a Georgia driver's license in Norcross. 

"The guy behind the counter made copies of all of my documentation, and he handed them back to me. He said, 'Your immigration status can not be verified today,'" Mataya said.

Mataya was adopted from South Korea as an infant by a U.S. couple. She’s been a U.S. citizen since she was 7 years old. And she had a Virginia driver’s license.

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In Marietta last night, the Georgia chapter of the ACLU held another forum on operations at the Cobb County jail, where seven inmates have died since 2018. Click here to watch the proceedings. 

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A retired Army major from Georgia has been appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

William Jordan Gillis currently serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon. Before that, he was a consultant for ScottMadden. While serving in the Army, Gillis earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart during tours in Iraq.

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