At a recent Q&A with a candidate for Governor of Georgia, one concerned citizen echoed a sentiment being felt throughout the Greater Atlanta area- a region recently bombarded with political advertising- when she asked “what will you do to keep out-of-state money from pouring into our elections?”
The question is certainly understandable and it underscores the countless frustrations that stem from a race that became the most expensive in our nation’s history- nearly doubling the previous congressional record.
Take Back Our Republic was quick to release concerns following the Georgia Sixth Congressional District result that saw Republican Karen Handel narrowly defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff. The reasons why are obvious and plenty:
- Nearly $57 million was spent supporting Ossoff or Handel. That overall number spent on the race tops $60 million if the campaigns that fell short of the runoff election are included.
- A shocking 96.6% of Jon Ossoff’s campaign donations came- not just from outside the district- but from outside the state.
- In fact, residents of California gave 9x as much to Ossoff as Georgians. The citizens of San Francisco alone gave 4x more than the entire state of Georgia to the Democrat’s campaign.
- As Take Back Our Republic Executive Director noted, the majority of Jon Ossoff’s funds came from Act Blue- which allows unverified credit card contributions.
- Outside groups, capable of raising unlimited funds, spent $27 million on the campaign.
Given these facts, and the blistering negative ads that blanketed airwaves, it is easy to understand why Georgians are frustrated.
In fact, Ossoff himself expressed a desire for reform. “The role of money in politics is a major problem and particularly the role of unchecked anonymous money,” Ossoff said regarding spending in the race. “There have been super PACs in Washington who have been putting up tens of millions of dollars of attack ads on air for months now. When you have that kind of an environment, it’s necessary to raise the resources to fight back.”
Now, Ossoff is far from a victim, but it is easy to see why he would be frustrated. To some, he modeled what some would look for in terms of “grassroots funding.” As much as 65% of his donations came from donors giving $200 or less. Moreover, the vast majority of money supporting him, 76.2%, came from his campaign- required to raise money within limits, disclose its donors, and put a campaign disclaimer on ads (meaning the campaign and the candidate are easily identified and in control of the message).
He also saw his opponent benefit from $18.8 million in outside group support, most of which was aimed against him. The NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund fueled much of that, spending $13.2 million to help Handel.
Nevertheless, those on the Right are correct to point to Ossoff’s out-of-state money as evidence that his support was not locally based. Moreover, there are significant reasons for concerns about the unverified nature of his contributions.
Jon Ossoff, though at a smaller figure, also benefitted from outside spending. In fact, $7.5 million was spent by outside groups to help Ossoff. This funding was largely ideological, with Planned Parenthood emerging as the leading spender on his behalf and one that has been heavily talked about in the aftermath.
In the realm of campaign finance, there are no heroes stemming from the Sixth Congressional District. It’s a sad story and one that embodies why groups like ours are clamoring for reform. However, while there are no winners here, there can be solutions that stem from the growing questions- like the one asked in the forum previously mentioned- and concern among citizens.
We would love to hear from you. What concerns you most about the Sixth Congressional District race? The incredible amount of money as a whole? Outside group spending? Unverified contributions? Out-of-state funding? Join the conversation on Facebook and continue to check Take Back.org for the latest thoughts on reform.