Capitol Recap: Out-of-state donations no longer taboo for Georgia Republicans

Between July and September, more than half of the itemized donations to Republican Herschel Walker’s U.S. Senate campaign -- generally those exceeding $200 -- came from outside of Georgia. State Republicans used to criticize Democrats for collecting big contributions from donors in other states, but trends show the GOP is now also looking for money beyond Georgia's boundaries.
Caption
Between July and September, more than half of the itemized donations to Republican Herschel Walker’s U.S. Senate campaign -- generally those exceeding $200 -- came from outside of Georgia. State Republicans used to criticize Democrats for collecting big contributions from donors in other states, but trends show the GOP is now also looking for money beyond Georgia's boundaries.

GOP hopefuls grow more reliant on donations from other states

Georgia Republicans used to slam Democrats for collecting campaign contributions from outside the Peach State.

Back in 2014, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal tagged his Democratic opponent, Jason Carter, as a “limousine liberal” because 10% of his donations had arrived with a California postmark.

But now that elections in Georgia are no longer the one-sided affairs of recent years, running for office has gotten pricey. The two Democrats in this year’s U.S. Senate runoffs, for example, combined to raise more than $300 million.

GOP candidates have realized they need a new revenue stream, and that means fishing for contributions from out of state.

It didn’t just start this year.

At this point in the 2020 election cycle, Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue had gone outside Georgia’s boundaries to collect about 45% of his itemized campaign donations, generally contributions of more than $200.

The trend continues.

Here are findings about the GOP’s U.S. Senate race that came out of a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of thousands of donor records between July and September:

  • Herschel Walker — until recently a longtime resident of Texas — received contributions from all 50 states, with more than half of the itemized donations coming from outside Georgia.
  • One-third of the contributions to Kelvin King came from donors in other states.
  • Roughly $1 out of every $5 that Latham Saddler collected came from outside of Georgia.
  • Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black did it differently. Only a small fraction of his donations were from other states.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock — the man Walker, Saddler, King and Black all hope to unseat — has spent more time building an out-of-state contribution network, and it shows. Roughly 85% of his donations were from outside Georgia.

Still, his campaign also points to the $1.3 million Warnock collected from Georgians during the past quarter, saying that outperforms any other statewide campaign in history at this stage in a race.

Here’s how a couple of other notable Georgia Republicans did:

  • Rich McCormick, the emergency room physician who lost a tight race to Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th Congressional District in 2020, raised roughly two-thirds of his cash for a rematch in 2022 from outside the state.
  • U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome took in only about 8% of her itemized donations from inside Georgia.

Within the party, the source of the money appears to matter less and less.

“When you’re in a gun fight, you don’t care where your ammo was manufactured, only that it works,” said John Watson, the former chairman of the Georgia GOP. “Same, increasingly, goes for campaigns on both sides of the aisle.”

Caption
Florida Repubican U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz, left, and Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speak at a May rally in Florida. The Put America First political action committee that funded their appearance across the country has seen its cash reserve dwindle, according to Mother Jones magazine. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Florida Repubican U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz, left, and Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speak at a May rally in Florida. The Put America First political action committee that funded their appearance across the country has seen its cash reserve dwindle, according to Mother Jones magazine. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Caption
Florida Repubican U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz, left, and Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speak at a May rally in Florida. The Put America First political action committee that funded their appearance across the country has seen its cash reserve dwindle, according to Mother Jones magazine. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Contributions slow down for Greene and Gaetz tour

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome may have to stick closer to home.

Mother Jones reports that the stream of money has dried up for the political action committee that had paid for her recent travels across the country with Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz promoting their views from the right side of the spectrum on a range of issues, including false claims that the presidential election was stolen.

The Put America First PAC got off to a quick start, raising $360,000 in its first two months. But that pile of cash has dwindled to $13,000, according to the PAC’s latest campaign finance report.

Greene and Gaetz held a rally in Iowa back in August, but other events that had been planned for over the summer were canceled.

Even the Iowa event didn’t work out as hoped. While it drew headlines, it didn’t attract cash.

The liberal magazine reported that Put America First spent $159,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30 while raising $57,000.

The magazine also pointed out that while Greene remains among the U.S. House’s most successful fundraisers, the pace of donations had dipped.

She collected $1.5 million from July through September and spent about $1.1 million over the same period, with much of the expense related to her fundraising operation. She ended the quarter with $3.3 million in cash on hand.

Greene raised $3.2 million during the first three months of the year, and in June she reported having $2.8 million in the bank.

Buckhead Democrats push back on ‘Buckhead City’

Violent crime is something supporters have cited frequently in their call to let Buckhead break off from Atlanta.

It’s also a reason that opponents of a “Buckhead City” highlighted this past week for keeping Atlanta intact.

State Rep. Betsy Holland, a Democrat who represents Buckhead in the state House, said law enforcement officials have told her the loss of tax revenue from that wealthy area — one study suggested that for the city of Atlanta, it could be as much as $116 million a year — could have a damaging impact on the Atlanta Police Department and, thus, lead to more crime throughout the metro region.

State Sen. Sonya Halpern, a Buckhead resident, says she understands “the fear” many in the area feel. She was at a Peachtree Battle Avenue grocery store only minutes before a fatal shooting there. But she said the answer to the problem is a new mayor, not a new city.

Legislation that would enable a Buckhead breakaway — if that’s what its residents vote to do in November 2022 — is set to receive a Senate committee hearing but no vote during the special General Assembly session that starts Nov. 3.

Roughly a dozen GOP state senators have backed the legislation sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta. None of them represent Buckhead or even Atlanta.

Democrats who represent Buckhead and the rest of Atlanta turned a spotlight on the problems they see with the proposal, saying it would foster “legislative chaos.”

State Sen. Jen Jordan, who represents a slice of Buckhead, pointed to the impact the measure could have on public schools in Buckhead, which would still be owned and operated by Atlanta Public Schools. Children from Buckhead would become ineligible to attend the schools that were built for them. (A study also showed APS could lose $232 million in annual revenue if Buckhead were to depart.)

Expanding the picture was state Sen. Nan Orrock of Atlanta, who warned that although some Republican legislators are backing the bill, that may not be true of all their GOP brethren in the General Assembly.

They wouldn’t want to see it happen to cities and towns in their own districts, she said.

“All of these legislators, regardless of party, understand the realities back in their districts and they wouldn’t want this bulldozer coming at them in their communities,” Orrock said.

Bill White, a recent arrival from New York who has taken the point position in the push for a Buckhead exit, responded to the press conference by accusing the Democrats of employing “hyperbolic drivel and scaremongering.”

Caption
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, shown with his wife, Lydia, is running an ad for his U.S. Senate campaign that attacks Herschel Walker, a fellow Republican in the race, for supporting a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. “Herschel Walker sides with (President Joe) Biden and (Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael) Warnock — Herschel supports amnesty — and citizenship for illegals,” Black says in the ad.

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, shown with his wife, Lydia, is running an ad for his U.S. Senate campaign that attacks Herschel Walker, a fellow Republican in the race, for supporting a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. “Herschel Walker sides with (President Joe) Biden and (Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael) Warnock — Herschel supports amnesty — and citizenship for illegals,” Black says in the ad.
Caption
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, shown with his wife, Lydia, is running an ad for his U.S. Senate campaign that attacks Herschel Walker, a fellow Republican in the race, for supporting a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. “Herschel Walker sides with (President Joe) Biden and (Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael) Warnock — Herschel supports amnesty — and citizenship for illegals,” Black says in the ad.

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Black hits Walker on immigration

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black moved to take advantage of the gap on immigration between Herschel Walker, the apparent GOP front-runner for the U.S. Senate, and his best-known supporter, former President Donald Trump.

Black, who is also running as a Republican to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, launched a radio ad accusing Walker of supporting “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

The ad focuses on remarks Walker made to USA Today in August 2015, when the paper pointed out that he “does not agree with Trump’s most controversial position: deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.”

The article added that “Walker said he would like to see a plan that enables immigrants to earn citizenship.”

In his ad, Black says, “Herschel Walker sides with (President Joe) Biden and Warnock — Herschel supports amnesty — and citizenship for illegals.”

Walker’s campaign responded in a statement that didn’t walk back the candidate’s earlier comments. Instead, it stressed the need to secure the border to prevent a worsening “humanitarian and illegal immigration crisis.”

One of Walker’s biggest advantages, at least on the Republican side, is his connection to Trump, who remains popular with the state’s GOP base and encouraged the former University of Georgia running back to enter the Senate race.

But they don’t line up entirely on immigration, a chief issue for Trump in his successful campaign for president in 2016 when he called for construction of a wall on the nation’s border with Mexico.

Black is trying to build his own wall between Walker and Trump’s supporters as immigration seems likely to be a big issue again during the 2022 campaign. Republicans — including Gov. Brian Kemp, who has made two visits to the southwest border this year — have been calling attention to a surge in migrant crossings. U.S. immigration agents have apprehended more than 1.7 million unauthorized migrants at the border since October 2020, the highest total ever, according to The Washington Post.

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Stacey Abrams' group Fair Fight is launching a seven-figure ad campaign calling for Georgia to expand Medicaid. Abrams, who has not said whether she will seek a rematch next year against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, campaigned on the issue in the 2018 governor's race.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Stacey Abrams' group Fair Fight is launching a seven-figure ad campaign calling for Georgia to expand Medicaid. Abrams, who has not said whether she will seek a rematch next year against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, campaigned on the issue in the 2018 governor's race.
Caption
Stacey Abrams' group Fair Fight is launching a seven-figure ad campaign calling for Georgia to expand Medicaid. Abrams, who has not said whether she will seek a rematch next year against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, campaigned on the issue in the 2018 governor's race.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

Abrams group revives push for Medicaid expansion

Democrat Stacey Abrams hasn’t said whether she will seek a rematch with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022.

But Fair Fight, an advocacy group that Abrams founded, is now reviving an issue she ran on in 2018: a proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

The group is launching a seven-figure ad campaign urging Georgia to add hundreds of thousands of its residents to the state-federal public health program for the poor and disabled.

Medicaid expansion has been at the heart of health care policy discussions in recent elections. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in 2019 showed that 71% of Georgians support expansion.

Democrats have maintained that in addition to providing coverage to more Georgians, expansion under the Affordable Care Act would help financially struggling hospitals and their communities. A handful of prominent Republicans have joined them in seeking expansion.

Kemp and other Republicans, however, have been resistant.

They say funding Medicaid expansion would wind up being a financial burden, particularly if the federal government ends a matching program that pays 90% of the cost. They also say expansion would take state dollars from priorities such as public safety or education.

As a substitute, Kemp offered a program called Georgia Pathways, which would add coverage for an estimated 50,000 Georgians in need over two years and include a work or activity requirement.

But Democrats and health care advocates say Georgia Pathways, which received a waiver from the Trump administration, would still leave more than 350,000 Georgia adults without insurance.

The Biden administration has now put Kemp’s plan on hold. It would prefer to see Georgia join the 38 states that have already expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act.

Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have sought more funding to close the Medicaid gap as part of social services legislation now in the works in Congress. Whether they succeed, though, is uncertain as negotiations continue over that measure.

Caption
Georgia is changing the formula it uses through its Childcare and Parent Services Program to provide subsidies to low-income families to help pay child care tuition. The change should add about 10,000 families to the rolls. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia is changing the formula it uses through its Childcare and Parent Services Program to provide subsidies to low-income families to help pay child care tuition. The change should add about 10,000 families to the rolls. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Caption
Georgia is changing the formula it uses through its Childcare and Parent Services Program to provide subsidies to low-income families to help pay child care tuition. The change should add about 10,000 families to the rolls. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

State to spend federal money to help with child care

Help is coming for 10,000 of Georgia’s low-income families trying to pay for child care.

The state, starting next month, will use federal money to expand the Childcare and Parent Services Program, which currently helps pay child care tuition for 50,000 children.

Families are currently eligible for subsidies through the program if their incomes top out at 50% of the state median income. Under the expansion — which will run through Oct. 1, 2024 — the cutoff will be set at 85% of that amount.

The threshold varies by family size and is being updated by the federal government.

As of last month, 85% of the state’s median income was about $68,000 for a family of four, according to the state.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Amy Jacobs, the commissioner of the state Department of Early Care and Learning, announced the expansion. It will be funded with money from the American Rescue Plan Act that congressional Democrats passed this year.

Georgia legislator appears on Oath Keepers membership list

State Rep. Steve Tarvin, a Republican from Chickamauga, is one of 48 state and local government officials from across the country who appeared on a list of Oath Keepers that ProPublica obtained.

Tarvin, chairman of the House Interstate Cooperation Committee, told ProPublica that he signed up for the militia group at a booth in White County in 2009 when he was running for Congress.

He said he didn’t view Oath Keepers as a militant organization at that time and that he continues to stand by the pledge he signed to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

Tarvin also said he wasn’t aware the group was involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. More than 20 members and associates of the Oath Keepers have been arrested and charged in the deadly attack.

ProPublica obtained a list of more than 35,000 members of the Oath Keepers from a whistleblower group that initially received the information from an anonymous hacker.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, announced that he will seek an 11th term in the U.S. House, representing the 13th Congressional District. The district currently covers parts of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton and Henry counties, although that could change during the General Assembly’s special session on redistricting.

— Meagan Hanson, a former state legislator now running as a Republican in the 6th Congressional District, has won endorsements from Georgia Public Service Commission Chairwoman Tricia Pridemore and Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw.

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