U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has already pledged to spend at least $20 million of her own fortune on her November bid for another two years in Washington. Now she’s getting timely backup from a free-spending outside group.
The newly-formed Georgia United Victory spent more than $1.5 million on a two-week flight of ads that begin airing Tuesday. The first volley takes direct aim at U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, her Republican arch-rival in the messy special election.
The ad features a drove of pigs wallowing in the mud as a narrator, with a hint of Bill Clinton’s twang, blasts Collins’ support for past spending plans that include “pork barrel projects.” (Most of the GOP congressional delegation also have similar votes on their record.)
“Doug Collins - he’s even given us a bad name,” said the talking hog with the Clintonesque-rasp.
The group radiates with support from Gov. Brian Kemp’s orbit. His former aides are said to be among its advisers, and its chaired by Martha Zoller, a one-time Kemp staffer who has a history with Collins. She was defeated by him in a bruising 2012 runoff for the Gainesville-based U.S. House seat he’s held for four terms.
As if to drive the point home, the group’s acronym spells out its allegiance: G-U-V.
The support from Kemp’s sphere of influence comes at an important moment. Once down by double-digits in polls, recent surveys show Loeffler deadlocked or ahead of Collins. And Kemp, who picked Loeffler over Collins for the open seat, has much political capital on the line.
[Why Kemp picked Loeffler over Collins]
With 21 candidates on the same ballot, the two are competing for a spot in a January runoff along with a group of Democrats that includes Raphael Warnock, the party-backed pastor, educator Matt Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver.
As they scrap over conservative votes, Loeffler has pivoted even further to her party’s base. She’s enthusiastically embraced President Donald Trump, derided Collins as a “career politician” and recently shifted her campaign to level attacks against the Black Lives Matter movement.
[Loeffler opposes WNBA's plan to spread Black Lives Matter message]
More than $60 million has been spent on ad buys in Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate campaigns, much of it reserved for Loeffler and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in November. A pro-Perdue super PAC called One Nation recently placed an $8 million ad buy for TV spots this month.
Though Collins has kept pace with Loeffler in fundraising, she’s dwarfed his presence on TV. He recently launched a burst of cable TV ads – his first of the campaign - for roughly $25,000. She’s spent roughly $15 million this campaign on media buys – and that number will quickly grow.
Zoller, a conservative radio host, didn’t say who was financing the PAC. But she said that neither Loeffler, likely the richest member of Congress, or her husband Jeff Sprecher, who runs the financial firm that owns the New York Stock Exchange, contributed to the group.