Georgia governor’s race sees Abrams, Kemp rake in big out-of-state money

With a well-honed national fundraising machine and big-donor connections, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams took in about nine of every 10 campaign dollars she collected over the past three months from outside the state she hopes to run.

That trend has held since her 2018 gubernatorial race against Brian Kemp, which she narrowly lost while setting fundraising records.

What may be more surprising is that Kemp, who is running for re-election next month against Abrams, has also raised big money from out-of-state donors this time around, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of campaign disclosures filed for the July 1-Sept. 30 period.

The AJC review of Kemp’s campaign and leadership committee reports filed last week shows that he received about $16 million — or 54% —of his donations from out-of-state donors for a race that has been in the national spotlight for months.

That’s largely a function of the state’s leadership committee law, which the majority Republican General Assembly passed in 2021. The law allows a few select candidates — including the nominees for governor — to raise unlimited contributions from donors.

Statewide candidates are currently allowed to raise $7,600 from individual donors for the primary and again for the general election. Those limits don’t apply to leadership committees controlled by Kemp and Abrams.

So deep-pocketed out-of-state donors and groups have poured money into Georgia, some donating more than $1 million at a pop.

The AJCreviewed about $36 million in contributions raised by Abrams and her committee and about $30 million raised by Kemp and his committee during the July 1-Sept. 30 reporting period. Those contributions listed addresses. Campaigns don’t have to individually report some smaller donations.

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

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Credit: Isaac Sabetai

Both campaigns can point to thousands of donors to say they have a broad base of support. Incumbent governors typically get more money from Georgians because local lobbyists, business groups and people interested in legislation or state funding typically donate to the incumbent. That is true again this year.

But both candidates’ leadership committees are getting some big donations from out-of-state contributors.

Kemp’s committee received $7.5 million in the past few months from the Washington D.C.-based Republican Governors Association. It got a $1 million donation from Las Vegas resident Miriam Adelson, wife of the late casino magnate and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. It received $5 million from GOP megadonor Timothy Mellon of Saratoga, Wyoming, grandson of banking tycoon Andrew Mellon.

His biggest leadership committee donor in Georgia - besides his own campaign - during the period was Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and another Republican megadonor, who gave $750,000 to Kemp’s Georgians First committee.

Credit: Isaac Sabetai

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Credit: Isaac Sabetai

In the latest period, Abrams’ One Georgia received $3.4 million from the Washington D.C.-based Democratic Governors Association (which had previously contributed more than $1 million) and $2 million from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, who was listed as being from Santa Cruz, Calif. A Wilmington, Del. political action committee financed by Democratic megadonor George Soros gave $1 million (on top of $2.5 million earlier). Her committee also received $1 million each from big Democratic donors Karla Jurvertson and Regan Pritzker, both from California.

The biggest Georgia contribution during the period came from Fair Fight, the voting rights group Abrams founded after losing the 2018 election to Kemp. The group was listed as contributing more than $1.4 million worth of in-kind contributions, including research, consulting and staff work.

Washington D.C. was the biggest source of contributions to Kemp’s Georgians First committee during the July-Sept. period, followed by Georgia. For Abrams’ One Georgia, it was California, followed by D.C.

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