The Jolt: A federal decision on an Illinois rep could affect Democratic fundraising in Georgia

06/18/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Congresswoman Nikema Williams makes remarks during a COVID-19 vaccine mobilization rally at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, June 18, 2021.(Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
06/18/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Congresswoman Nikema Williams makes remarks during a COVID-19 vaccine mobilization rally at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, June 18, 2021.(Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A federal ruling on an Illinois congresswoman could have far reaching effects here in Georgia.

On Thursday, the Federal Election Commission issued an advisory opinion stating that U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly cannot raise state and local campaign funds in her appointed position as the chairwoman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

The congresswoman had already limited her fundraising to federal races and can continue to raise those funds for the party.

We’ve been watching for this decision because a nearly identical arrangement exists here in Georgia, where U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams serves in congress and chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia simultaneously.

The two cases are so similar, in fact, that in a letter to the FEC, lawyers for the Illinois Democrat cited Williams and her position chairing the state party as precedent for Kelly’s concurrent jobs.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reported the news about Kelly.

“A little over four months after winning her battle to be Illinois Democratic chair, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly was barred Thursday from raising money for state and local races — a decision one federal election official feared reduces the job to “a purely honorary role."

In a 5-1 vote, members of the Federal Election Commission upheld language in a draft opinion released last week that would allow a special committee to solicit money for state elections but prohibit Kelly from being engaged in that fundraising or picking the members of that committee.

Federal officeholders are barred from raising or spending money in non-federal elections unless the amount is within limits set under federal campaign finance law. Kelly will be able to raise money for federal campaigns, such as House or Senate races.

FEC Commissioner Trey Trainor expressed concern about the decision.

“Essentially, what we're doing in this advisory opinion is turning the party chairmanship in Illinois into a purely honorary role, without the power to direct a very large portion of the activities that the Democratic Party of Illinois engages in," Trainor said.

- Chicago Sun-Times

Fundraising is a key piece of the role for any party chair. We reported yesterday that the Georgia GOP posted a big number earlier this month, raising $1.3 million since the beginning of February, with just under $890,000 came from outside of Georgia.

The Democratic Party of Georgia did a fraction of that, reporting raising just $285,000 in the same reporting period, with $587,000 in the bank.

As the FEC began its review of Rep. Kelly’s role in April, Sachin Varghese, the Democratic Party of Georgia’s general counsel, told the AJC the organization has ensured Williams is following the rules.

“With regard to Congresswoman Williams’ position as chairwoman, the DPG is complying with all applicable law,” Varghese said in a statement. “Day-to-day operations of the DPG are the responsibility of executive director Scott Hogan.”

The party had no comment Thursday in response to the FEC’s final decision.

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POSTED: The AJC’s James Salzer flags that Georgians will soon be able to to apply for the state’s federal COVID relief dollars.

From his piece:

Georgia is about two weeks away from taking applications from governments, nonprofits and business groups seeking a piece of the $4.8 billion the state is receiving as part of the federal COVID-19 relief plan.

Lawmakers, agency directors and lobbyists on Thursday listened to a presentation from Gov. Brian Kemp's budget office detailing how the process will work once applications start coming in Aug. 1.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Read the entire article for details on how, when and what Georgians will be able to apply for.

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Saturday marks one-year since of the passing of the late Rep. John Lewis. One of your Insiders is headed to San Diego to witness the christening of the U.S. Navy Ship John Lewis.

Readers have asked us for more details about the ship: It’s the first of a fleet of six new oilers. The entire class of ships, as well as the ship itself, are named for Lewis. They will be dispatched across the globe to refuel other Navy vessels. That’s right; even the USNS John Lewis has a nonviolent mission.

The city of Nashville, where Lewis got his start as a civil rights activist, is also marking the occasion with a host of events today and Saturday, culminating with the renaming of a street to Rep. John Lewis Way.

The city of Atlanta also an event in the works for later this month.

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We told you yesterday about the surprise Wednesday statement from Donald Trump wading into Georgia’s GOP primary for lieutenant governor, saying he won’t “support to endorse” state Sen. Butch Miller.

Miller appeared on the Martha Zoller Show on Gainesville radio station WDUN to respond.

“We had a little incident overnight,” Miller joked to Zoller of the former president’s statement. “I didn’t realize I was on the radar screen but apparently, I’m making somebody nervous. And that’s not a bad thing.”

The “somebody” is most likely Miller’s fellow state senator, Burt Jones, who has been prepping a statewide run for sometime. Although Jones flirted with the idea of running for governor, he’s been assumed to be headed into the LG race lately. That’s an assumption largely confirmed by Trump’s late-night statement, since Jones (with his father) have met with Trump would likely be the Trump pick for that race.

Zoller also asked Miller about an inaccurate statement from Trump the pro tem refused “to work with other Republican Senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the state.”

In reality, Miller played a central role in pushing the state’s far-reaching election overhaul through the Senate. When Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan dramatically boycotted a Senate vote on an election bill that Duncan said went too far, it was Butch Miller who stayed to oversee the vote instead.

“I believe that he has been misinformed, either intentionally or, incidentally,” Miller said of Trump. “And I think it’s probably intentionally by people who have their own motives. And let me tell you something, Martha, I’m making people nervous, or they wouldn’t be reacting like this.”

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11/25/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia � Fulton elections supervisor Richard Barron makes speaks with media following a press conference where he mad remarks about the county�s second Presidential Election Day recount during a press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center, Tuesday, November 25, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
11/25/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia � Fulton elections supervisor Richard Barron makes speaks with media following a press conference where he mad remarks about the county�s second Presidential Election Day recount during a press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center, Tuesday, November 25, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Republican lawmakers are suddenly asking Fulton County elections chief Richard Barron plenty of questions.

Butch Miller, the candidate for lieutenant governor, demanded Thursday that Barron answer a slate of queries in a letter co-signed by nearly two dozen of his Senate GOP colleagues.

And this morning, House Speaker David Ralston wrote Barron with an “urgent recommendation” that his office ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to conduct a probe of how Fulton County handled the November presidential vote.

Continues Ralston:

“The GBI will follow the evidence wherever it may lead to determine if any irregularities or willful fraud occurred. The professionals at the GBI have the expertise and resources necessary to perform such an investigation. Furthermore, as sworn law enforcement officers, they have the trust of the public to ensure that the law was followed.”

The scrutiny stems from recent findings that nearly 200 ballots were initially scanned twice before a recount, which added 121 net absentee votes to Donald Trump’s total.

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In other Fulton-related fallout: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called on the embattled elections official to resign and state Sen. Burt Jones, a future candidate for lieutenant governor, urged a state Senate committee investigate Raffensperger’s “documented failures.”

Separately, David Belle Isle – another Raffensperger challenger – sent supporters an outraged email upset that YouTube apparently banned a video of one of his NewsMax interviews.

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The Atlanta Dream WNBA team received the “Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year” Award from ESPN during a ceremony this week. The team donated the $100,000 prize to the New Georgia Project voter registration group.

The team was recognized for its political activism during last summer’s protests following the death of George Floyd and later on issues of voting and civil rights.

In a press release on the team’s official website, it describe the players’ role during the U.S. Senate race without mentioning the name of the former team owner, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whom they campaigned against:

“The women of the Dream refused to be used as political pawns and put their careers and livelihood at risk by taking the unprecedented action of endorsing their then owner’s opponent – Reverend Raphael Warnock – for the U.S. Senate. That endorsement helped elect the first Black Senator from Georgia and flip the Senate, changing the course of history in America.”

The Sports Humanitarian Awards will be televised on ABC on July 24.

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U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter speaks at the Georgia GOP convention at Jekyll Island on Saturday, June 5, 2021. (Photo: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution)
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U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter speaks at the Georgia GOP convention at Jekyll Island on Saturday, June 5, 2021. (Photo: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

Whether U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter runs for the U.S. Senate or decides to seek re-election to the House, Democrats are already eyeing his seat.

Democrat Wade Herring, an attorney in Savannah, has raised nearly $114,000 in about a month’s time.

Herring was formerly part of a political action committee, the Citizens Facts PAC, that criticized Carter after he voted to reject the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden on Jan. 6, the Savannah Morning News reported.

The First District seat has gotten more competitive over the years, but Carter has held it since 2014 and won in 2020 with 55% of the vote.

It’s unclear if GOP legislators will work to create more favorable boundary lines for the Republican during this year’s redistricting process.

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Now that the second quarter fundraising deadlines are out of the way, you’ll be seeing more of Georgia’s statewide candidates in their natural habitat on the campaign trail.

Latham Saddler, one of three GOP candidates looking to replace U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, announced 11 stops around the state for a South Georgia swing he’s scheduled for next week.

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From the personnel moves department, Macy McFall has been promoted to chief of staff in Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s office.

McFall previously served as Duncan’s deputy chief of staff. She replaces John Porter, who will continue to serve in an advisory role to the office.

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Since it’s Friday, we’ll send you into the weekend with a little light reading:

  • Our Washington Insider Jamie Dupree’s latest column in the red ink piling up in Washington;
  • The Political Insider’s Wednesday column on the Major League blame game that surrounded the All-Star game;
  • An early read of the Political Insider’s Sunday column, with the latest dispatch from the Georgia Politics Road Trip. This one comes from Macon, where they’re fighting their own battle against violent crime with cops, bulldozers, fruit, and a new mayor with big ideas. Stay tuned for our next dispatch from Gainesville.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.