Atlanta’s corporate elite behind Reed’s infrastructure campaign

Some of Atlanta’s biggest corporate players are backing Mayor Kasim Reed’s $250 million infrastructure bond effort, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars into an 11th hour get-out-the-vote campaign.

Citizens for Better Infrastructure, an independent committee formed last month, raised $432,750 dollars in March from several key business allies, according to campaign disclosure records.

In what’s expected to be a low turnout election, voters go to polls Tuesday to decide whether to greenlight two separate bonds that will address a billion-dollar backlog of needed repairs to the city’s roads, bridges, sidewalks and buildings. The first, worth $188 million, will be spent on transportation. The second bond, about $64 million, will fund municipal buildings and recreation centers.

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, a board of top CEOs and academic leaders often tapped to assist with Reed’s initiatives, are the single largest contributors to the campaign, giving $225,000 in March.

Many ACP members, such as Delta CEO Richard Anderson, served on a blue ribbon commission last year to help the city identify cost-savings measures to pay for the bonds.

Jeff Portman, president and COO of AmericasMart and chairman of the infrastructure committee, said ACP is heavily involved in the effort because of the impact the funds will have on Atlanta’s quality of life.

“This is about job growth for our workers, easing traffic congestion for our drivers, and improving our parks and facilities for our families, without raising taxes,” he said in a statement Monday. “That helps every resident in Atlanta and helps our members, too.”

As of last week, Citizens for Better Infrastructure spent about $323,000 on direct mailings, robocalls and media advertisements to encourage voters to approve the referendum. The committee also launched a social media campaign in late February, postings photos of the group’s efforts.

“We formed a committee to ensure the passage of the referendum, to make certain that voters are fully educated about the benefits,” said Robert Highsmith, Reed’s longtime Holland & Knight attorney who serves as treasurer.

Among other notable contributions:

  • $30,000 from longtime developer John Portman, as well as $35,000 from AmericasMart.
  • $25,000 loan from airport concessionaire, Jackmont Hospitality. Jackmont is led by Dan Halpern, a longtime Reed supporter, ACP member and chairman of the Atlanta Housing Authority. Jackmont also contributed $5,000 outright. The loan was repaid, according to the committee’s expenditure filings.
  • $25,000 from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
  • $20,000 from Holder Construction, a partner in a joint venture overseeing construction of the new $1.4 billion Falcons stadium.

In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Reed said the committee is targeting 35,000 to 45,000 “super voters” to ensure victory on St. Patrick’s Day.

“There are a lot of unhappy people who vote all the time,” Reed said of potential opposition. “You have to make sure your electorate looks like your polling data.”

The infrastructure committee filed its disclosure ahead of schedule over the weekend. Among the expenditures, the group paid a California-based Campaign Group LLC $275,000 on television and radio commercials.

Campaign manager Justin Giboney, an attorney with Atlanta’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, was paid $7,000.

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