U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s former governor, is doing his part to get the state Republican Party’s on stronger financial footing. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Ex-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue gives big to help troubled GOP finances

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s first Republican governor, made a big contributions last month toward getting the state GOP on stronger financial footing.

Perdue PAC, a federal fund started a decade ago with money left over from his successful 2006 re-election campaign, donated $55,000 left in the account June 29 to the Georgia Republican Party, according to recently filed campaign disclosures.

The contribution came a few weeks after GOP convention delegates elected Perdue’s former chief of staff, John Watson, to run the party. Watson also served as chairman of Perdue PAC.

The timing couldn’t be better for Watson, who is trying to shore up finances in a party that has dominated at the ballot box but struggled financially.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this year that despite Donald Trump’s victory in November and the party’s continued dominance in state elections, the Georgia GOP ended January with $38,000 in the bank and $317,000 in debt.

The party’s finances have been troubled the past few years, and candidates for GOP chairman this year pledged to fix the problem. The latest report, through June 30, showed the party with $221,000 cash on hand, but the debt was close to $400,000.

That doesn’t mean the party’s political apparatus is completely broke. Separate GOP funds run by House and Senate leaders and a Republican lobbyist have nearly $2 million banked.

Perdue had $787,000 left over after his 2006 re-election and all the bills were paid, so his team created Perdue PAC.

Even though Perdue couldn’t legally run for a third term, Perdue PAC continued raising money, taking in $400,000 in 2008 alone, for instance. The contributions often came from lobbyists and special interests who had a big stake in what Perdue did during his second term.

Perdue PAC spent money on polling, fund-raising, office space and on maintaining a Web site to promote the governor. It also contributed more than $350,000 to candidates over the years.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s team has followed Perdue’s lead, creating political action committee-like funds to raise money from deep-pocketed donors to push his agenda. One of those helped fund the unsuccessful campaign last fall to pass a constitutional amendment allowing the state to take over public schools, a top priority of Deal’s second term.

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