ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams is asserting that she should be allowed to immediately begin using a fundraising vehicle that would allow her to raise unlimited contributions, because she is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Abrams could sue to gain access to a leadership committee, a type of fundraising committee approved by lawmakers last year. The committees can raise unlimited funds, while top individual contributors to Abrams’ direct committee would be limited to giving $7,600 for the May 24 primary election and another $7,600 for the November general election.
Under the law, the governor and lieutenant governor, their major party opponents, and both party caucuses in the state House and Senate can form the committees. The committees can coordinate with candidate campaigns, unlike most other political action committees.
After signing the law, Kemp created the Georgians First Leadership Committee, raising $2.3 million through January. That’s in addition to the $7.4 million the incumbent raised for his direct committee from July 1 through Jan. 31.
Normally, Abrams wouldn’t be able to start a leadership committee until after the Democratic primary. But after qualifying closed with no opposition, she filed to start the One Georgia leadership committee on Wednesday.
But state Democratic Party chair and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams tweeted Friday that the party now considers Abrams its nominee.
In an email, Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission attorney Robert Lane said state attorneys were working to see whether an affidavit from Williams was “legally sufficient” to declare Abrams the nominee.
David Emadi, executive secretary of the ethics commission, said the commission doesn’t determine whether someone is a party’s nominee or not.
He said the commission is awaiting guidance from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, both Republicans “regarding whether someone may be considered the nominee before any actual votes are cast or elections certified, and what, if any, effect that would have on that particular election.”
Abrams’ campaign argues she must be allowed to compete on an equal footing with Kemp. Abrams already raised $9.2 million between declaring her campaign in December and the Jan. 31 end of the reporting period.
The leadership committees have already been a subject of legal contention in the Republican primary. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue sued in federal court, saying Kemp’s committee gave the incumbent an unfair advantage.
U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen ruled in February that Kemp couldn’t spend any more money from the committee during the primary, although he could keep taking in money for the general election. That was only a temporary ruling while Perdue’s lawsuit proceeded challenging Kemp’s committee as unconstitutional. Kemp is appealing the ruling.
Some state lawmakers sought to hobble the committees by banning them from raising money during legislative sessions, in the same way Kemp and incumbent lawmakers can’t take donations for their direct committee during sessions. However, the Senate didn’t act before a key deadline on a bill by Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Cumming Republican, effectively killing it.
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