Gov. Brian Kemp’s reelection campaign filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against its Republican rival, David Perdue, alleging that the challenger’s effort to oust the incumbent is getting an illegal boost from a new fundraising committee.
Under state law, political action committees and so-called “independent committees” that can raise and spend unlimited contributions are not allowed to directly coordinate their efforts with a candidate’s campaign.
But Kemp officials said the website for the Georgia Values Fund asks donors to provide cellphone numbers to get Perdue campaign alerts, updates and news, and it instructs donors to mail contributions to Perdue’s campaign, giving them a mailing address for where to send checks.
The page includes a photo of Perdue, a former U.S. senator, with ex-President Donald Trump, who has endorsed him in his race to oust Kemp.
“From shady stock trades to blatant campaign finance law violations, David Perdue has a long history of breaking the rules to benefit himself,” Kemp campaign spokesman Cody Hall said. “The Perdue campaign’s actions are clearly against the law and directly reflect the repeated lack of ethical conduct of Perdue himself.”
Perdue spokeswoman Jenni Sweat responded: “This is laughable and desperate. Sen. Perdue is not associated with any state PACs, and we can’t speak to the independent activities of outside groups.
“The person who should be investigated for ethics violations in this race is Brian Kemp. Using his power as the incumbent governor, Kemp changed Georgia law in an attempt to rig this race in his favor.”
Earlier this month Perdue filed a lawsuit challenging a controversial state law approved last year that has given Kemp’s reelection campaign a huge financial boost not available to his GOP challengers.
The law — approved during the 2020 General Assembly session along partisan lines — allows Kemp and a few other top lawmakers and party nominees to create special committees that can raise unlimited contributions from donors, including during legislative sessions.
Kemp signed Senate Bill 221 — the leadership committee bill — into law without any public notice in May. Facing what will almost certainly be the most expensive gubernatorial reelection fight in Georgia history, his campaign quickly created the Georgians First Leadership Committee in July and has been raising big money from Capitol donors ever since.
Challengers, such as Perdue, are not allowed to form such leadership committees under the Georgia law unless they win their party’s nominations.
“That’s unconstitutional and corrupt, and it just goes to show that a 20-year career politician like Kemp will do anything to save himself. Kemp knows he’s going to lose that lawsuit, lose his slush fund and lose this election,” Sweat said.
The difference in what Kemp’s committee can raise and what individual candidates for office can collect is substantial.
Statewide candidates, such as those running for governor, are currently allowed to raise $7,600 from individual donors for the primary and again for the general election, and $4,500 for runoffs. Lawmakers can raise $3,000 per election cycle from individual donors for the primary and again for the general election and $1,600 for runoffs.
Those limits don’t apply to leadership committees that only Kemp, the eventual Democratic nominee for governor and a few legislative leaders can create. So, for instance, a company or business association seeking a tax break from the General Assembly could give $100,000 or more to such funds and do it while lawmakers are considering the tax break or while the governor is deciding whether to sign it into law.
His leadership committee can also coordinate its efforts with his campaign, something PACs and “independent committees” are not allowed to do legally.
In defending the law, Kemp’s camp will likely argue that Perdue’s Georgia Values Fund is doing the same thing as his leadership committee — raising unlimited contributions and coordinating its efforts with his campaign.