Kemp can’t run for reelection, but he’s still raising big money

Campaign reports filed this week show that Georgians First, the leadership committee of Gov. Brian Kemp, center, raised $1.7 million in the most recent period even though he can't run for reelection. The leadership committee for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, right, raised $832,000 in the same period. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Campaign reports filed this week show that Georgians First, the leadership committee of Gov. Brian Kemp, center, raised $1.7 million in the most recent period even though he can't run for reelection. The leadership committee for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, right, raised $832,000 in the same period. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Gov. Brian Kemp can’t run for a third term and he is a little less than three years away from leaving office. But his fundraising machine continues to pull in big money — mostly from folks with Capitol interests — to help him push his political agenda.

Campaign reports filed this week show Kemp’s leadership committee — Georgians First — raised $1.7 million in the most recent period, and it has taken in about $6.7 million since the beginning of 2023, when he started his second and final term in office.

The report shows the committee has $5.1 million in the bank that the governor can use to influence state politics and policy, and burnish his national reputation.

Kemp may not be done with politics when he leaves office — he could run for the U.S. Senate. But in the meantime, his committee has been busy, most recently going after 21-year-old C.J. Pearson, a Donald Trump follower running for a state House seat in the Augusta area.

Kemp and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones — who is expected to run in 2026 to replace the governor — have both made extensive use of the leadership committee law Republican lawmakers approved in 2021 to allow a select few officials to raise unlimited contributions while other candidates have donation caps.

The law was passed to give Kemp a head start in raising money in anticipation that he’d face a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who had set fundraising records when they faced off in 2018. Kemp defeated Abrams again in 2022.

As is typical among top state officials, most of the money they raise comes from lobbyists, companies, business associations and individuals interested in Capitol policy or funding. Or both.

One big donor in the most recent disclosure was Altamaha Investment Holdings, a Macon-based care home company, which gave $200,000 to Kemp’s committee. Other nursing home companies and owners gave at least $42,500 during the period.

Kemp’s proposed midyear and fiscal 2025 budgets include an increase of more than $200 million in payments to skilled nursing centers. Nursing home companies are traditionally among the biggest contributors to top state candidates.

The committee received $50,000 from the major health insurance company Elevance, formerly known as Anthem, one of the providers offered to the 600,000-plus Georgia teachers, state employees, retirees and dependents covered by the massive State Health Benefit Program. Elevance had previously contributed $85,000 to the fund.

Kemp’s committee also received big contributions from road builders — the governor is touting a proposed $1.5 billion in new spending on roads — horse racing supporters, hospital companies and other medical providers.

His committee reported a $100,000 contribution from Donald Leebern III, president of Georgia Crown Distributing, whose family has given mega money to the campaigns of governors for decades. Leebern has given $500,000 to the committee since its inception in 2021.

The committee also received $15,000 from Kelly Loeffler, whom Kemp appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2019. Loeffler narrowly lost a bid for a full term in a 2021 runoff election. Loeffler had previously donated about $370,000 to the committee in cash and in-kind services.

Auto dealer Mark Hennessy, a Trump GOP elector in 2020 whom Kemp named to the Board of Natural Resources in 2023, gave $15,000 during the period. He’s previously contributed $185,000.

Jones’ leadership committee reported raising $832,000 in the same period, again with much of it coming from Capitol interests and from some of the same donors who contributed to Kemp’s committee. Jones’ committee ended January with $771,000 in the bank.

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