GOP has outside spending advantage in Georgia runoffs

Two dozen outside groups have each spent $1 million or more on the runoffs

Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler has benefitted from outside groups spending millions to attack her opponent in the Senate runoff, Democrat Raphael Warnock.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler has benefitted from outside groups spending millions to attack her opponent in the Senate runoff, Democrat Raphael Warnock. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 22, 2020 at 7:00am

Outside groups in both parties have been flooding Georgia’s airwaves with millions of dollars of ads in the Senate runoffs, with Republican groups spending more than twice as much as their Democratic counterparts. 

Both parties have descended on the Peach State for the two Jan. 5 contests that will determine control of the Senate. Should former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff unseat GOP Sen. David Perdue and pastor Raphael Warnock defeat appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Democrats will control the chamber with Kamala Harris, as vice president, casting tie-breaking votes.

Outside groups have spent more than $196 million on the Georgia runoffs since the Nov. 3 election, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission as of late Monday afternoon. Of that outside spending, $133 million has been spent to help the two Republicans. Outside groups aligned with Democrats have spent $63 million. 

That money comes from some very wealthy donors — including Loeffler’s husband — writing multimillion-dollar checks. It also comes from labor unions, donors with more pedestrian incomes, and from hidden sources because some of the groups that disclose their donors report getting money from other groups that don't.

The candidates are also spending their own money, and must file reports by midnight Christmas Even showing their contributions and spending. On Friday, the ad tracking firm AdImpact reported that ad spending in both runoffs has surpassed $450 million, with much of that coming from the candidates themselves. The two Democrats have spent a combined $159 million on ads, compared to the two Republicans’ $91 million.

That’s good news for Democrats being outspent by GOP outside groups, since candidates pay lower TV ad rates. But the outside spending disparity is still a concern to some Democrats, with just two weeks to go until election day.

So who have been the outside players in the Georgia runoffs? Below is a roundup of the two dozen outside groups that have each spent $1 million or more since Nov. 3.

Big spenders 

Senate Leadership Fund: The super PAC, aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has so far spent the most of any single group in the runoffs, dropping $32.1 million. Most of that money, $30 million, has been spent opposing Ossoff, mainly on TV ads. Since the November election, wealthy GOP donors have continued to give to the group, five of whom contributed $5 million or more. The largest individual contribution came from Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who contributed $15 million to SLF on Nov. 12.

American Crossroads: The GOP super PAC is a close second to SLF, spending $30.6 million on both runoffs so far, mainly on television ads attacking Warnock. The group was founded in 2010 by Karl Rove, the aide to former President George W. Bush who is now leading the joint fundraising effort for the Georgia runoffs. Since Election Day, the group’s top contributor has been SLF, which contributed $18.6 million to American Crossroads, according to a post-general election campaign finance report.

Peachtree PAC: SLF is also connected to Peachtree PAC, a new super PAC that popped up for the Georgia runoffs. The new group has so far spent a combined $15.7 million against both Warnock and Ossoff. Since Peachtree PAC is a new group that files monthly campaign finance reports, its donors will not be clear until after the January races. 

Georgia Honor: This group is affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. Georgia Honor is focused just on the special election, and has spent $15.8 million so far. All of its funding has come from SMP. As of Nov. 23, the end of the post-general reporting period, SMP’s largest single donations since Nov. 3, totaling $2.5 million, have come from Fair Fight, a group founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Majority Forward, SMP’s nonprofit arm that does not have to disclose its donors, contributed $2.5 million. Unions and small-dollar Democratic donors are responsible for the rest of SMP’s funding. 

The Georgia Way: This group is also affiliated with SMP but is focused on Perdue’s reelection. The Georgia Way has spent $12.2 million opposing Perdue, also mainly on TV ads. As with Georgia Honor, funding for The Georgia Way has all come from SMP transfers. 

Other GOP groups

Aside from the big spenders, 10 other GOP groups have spent $1 million or more on the Georgia runoffs. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, leads the pack. It has spent nearly $8 million so far, mainly on ads attacking the two Democrats.

Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC tied to the Koch network, has spent $7.1 million so far, mainly on an extensive field program and digital ads. Political arms of other well-known conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association, the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, have also been spending in the runoffs. Other spenders include Women Speak Out PAC, the political arm of the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony’s List, and the Republican National Committee. 

The National Victory Action Fund has also spent to support Perdue and Loeffler, after spending to help other Senate Republicans this cycle. The group is backed mainly by wealthy Illinois businessman Ken Griffin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Protect Freedom PAC, which was founded by campaign staffers of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, is also spending in the runoffs, mainly attacking the Democrats.

Georgia United Victory, a new super PAC launched in October, has spent $4.5 million since Nov. 3. The group is mainly funded by Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. The group initially launched attack ads against Rep. Doug Collins, Loeffler’s chief GOP rival in the open primary, but since Election Day, it has been spending in both races. So far, the group has spent $2.3 million to bolster Loeffler and $2.2 million on Perdue’s behalf, largely in. the form of digital ads and texts and phone calls. 

Other Democratic groups

Aside from the groups affiliated with Senate Majority PAC, nine other groups have spent more than $1 million so far to help the Democrats in Georgia, where the party has not won a Senate race in two decades. AB PAC, which is tied to American Bridge, a liberal group focused on opposition research, has spent $4.8 million on ads attacking the two GOP senators. 

Black PAC, which works to boost Black voter turnout, has spent $4.1 million on behalf of both Warnock and Ossoff, with canvassing efforts, digital ads and direct mail. VoteVets, a liberal group focused on veterans’ issues, has spent $1.8 million on digital and TV ads. New South Super PAC, which is affiliated with the grassroots group the New Georgia Project, has spent $1.2 million on the runoffs, mainly on canvassing. Mijente PAC, a Latinx grassroots group, has spent $1.1 million on canvassing, digital and radio ads. 

Labor unions have also been engaged in the runoffs, with four groups tied to unions spending $1 million or more on the races, also mainly on voter turnout efforts. Take Back 2020, a super PAC tied to the UNITE HERE hospitality workers’ union, has spent a combined $3.9 million supporting Warnock and Ossoff, also mainly on a canvassing effort. Working People Rising, a super PAC funded in part by the AFL-CIO, has spent $1.4 million on canvassing and postcards supporting the two Democrats. Working Power PAC and United We Can, both also union-aligned groups, have each spent $1.2 million on the runoffs since Nov. 3.

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