Capitol crowd money bets on familiar faces

“The bottom line is…our customers want to know who’s going to win,” Martin said. “It’s always easier to fundraise for the candidate you think will win.”

Neill Herring, who lobbied the Capitol for the Sierra Club for decades, dubbed it “the stampede effect.”

“They don’t want to be caught giving something to someone without power. Why take a chance? said Herring, who does not donate to candidates. “If you are part of a herd, it is better to be one of many who are wrong than among the few who was right.”

In a review of campaign disclosure reports filed in July and early October, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that dozens of lobby groups contributed to Jones’ campaign after his primary victory.

Most of the vested interests went to Kemp and Jones, almost none to Democratic gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams or Bailey.

Abrams, a champion fundraiser in Georgia’s last two gubernatorial contests, receives about 90% of her campaign funding from out of state. That has made her a target for Republicans who call her the candidate for Hollywood elites and limo liberals, though she also set records for the number of individual donors, many of whom give nearly $10 or $20 to that time.

Kemp and Jones, meanwhile, have received more of their money from within the state, and particularly from where they practice politics when not running for office.

During the most recent reporting period for which records were available — ending September 30 — Kemp’s executive committee raised more than $2.5 million from lobbyists, trade associations they represent, public contractors and business owners seeking to pass legislation. At least half of the money Jones’ board has raised comes from the Statehouse mob or their clients.

And his separate campaign fund raised about $400,000 from those special interests after beating Miller in the Republican primary.

It is not a question of party. When Democrats Zell Miller and Roy Barnes ran for governor in the 1990s to 2002, people like Martin and groups like the car dealership lobby and highway contractors donated to their campaigns.

Democrats were in charge of every office at the time, and special interests knew who could help or hurt them.

When you have chosen the wrong candidate, it could cost you dearly, both financially and in terms of passing laws.

Martin recalls that in 1990, powerful House Speaker Tom Murphy backed Lauren “Bubba” McDonald for governor of the Democratic primary. No one at the Statehouse wanted to be on Murphy’s bad side. But McDonald got around 6% of the vote, and Miller eventually won in a runoff. This meant that any Capitol interests that had backed Murphy’s nominee had to try to reconcile with the future governor.

Twelve years later, lobbyists were slipping checks under the door of Republican Sonny Perdue’s campaign headquarters the night he upset Barnes, becoming the state’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction.

Lobbyists and professional associations are not the only ones with ties to incumbents. Democrats say Kemp’s campaigns have raised $4 million from people he has appointed to various state boards, much of it from coveted panelists who run Georgia’s university system, recommend judges to appoint and govern the Department of Economic Development.

In the months leading up to their appointment by Kemp to the Board of Regents, two new members and their families donated approximately $300,000 to his campaign efforts. They recently paid another $150,000.

But it’s the lobbyists and business groups who have a lot at stake in General Assembly sessions who are most eager to ingratiate themselves with incumbents or those they hope to win over.

New-car dealerships — one of Martin’s customers — have fought for years to make sure electric vehicle makers like Rivian, which plans to operate a plant east of Atlanta, don’t are not allowed to sell directly to Georgian consumers. Tesla has a small exception, but others still have to sell their vehicles through car dealerships.

Earlier this year, the car dealership lobby put its campaign donations behind Miller in his bid for lieutenant governor. Miller had been credited with helping block direct-to-consumer billing, which opponents say would hurt large employers in many small communities.

In the latest available campaign materials, the group gave Jones’ campaign $7,600, along with an additional $50,000 to his executive committee. Jones originally signed the pro-Rivian legislation this year, before removing his name from the list of backers.

Dealers also donated to Kemp’s campaign and leadership committee. Individual car dealerships also donated a lot of money to the executive committees of the two candidates.

The horse racing lobby – hoping to win legislative approval for racetracks in Georgia – gave Kemp’s board of directors $15,000 and Jones $50,000 during the three-year reporting period. month ending September 30. The campaigns have received significant contributions from the coin-operated gaming industry – which has faced new regulatory legislation in recent years – and the film industry, which has a strong stake in protecting massive tax breaks.

Herring, the environmental lobbyist, said of the special interest contributions: “I think it’s mostly defensive. They won’t want to take a risk and tick someone off when they have a project going. And they still have a project going.

Martin said some of his clients — particularly out-of-state businesses — were reluctant to donate to Jones and other candidates because of their role in backing Trump’s bid to quash the elections. 2020 election results.

“They’re tuned into this election integrity stuff, and they’re not at all excited about giving,” he said. “They have expressed concerns about these candidates, particularly Jones.”

While most of the betting money on Capitol Hill is on Kemp and Jones, Martin acknowledged that lobbyists would spend some serious ‘makeup’ money donating to Democratic challengers if they end up winning the election. .

Herring said of Abrams, “If she wins, Trip and the others are all going to write her big checks.”

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