Stacey Abrams, the unopposed Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking permission to utilize her leadership committee, a type of political committee available to the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor that may raise and spend unlimited funds in support of their respective campaigns. Governor Brian Kemp, the likely Republican nominee for governor, has been raising funds into his leadership committee for several months. As the incumbent, Governor Kemp could legally form and begin using his leadership committee last July, and Abrams argues that she should not have to wait until after the primary election to begin using hers.
For background, a “leadership committee” is a new campaign finance vehicle in Georgia, created last year, that is available only to the incumbent Governor, Lieutenant Governor and their respective general-election opponents (i.e., any party nominee for Governor or Lt. Governor “selected in a primary election”), as well as to the majority and minority caucuses in the state Senate and House of Representatives. Leadership committees are considered advantageous compared to other types of political committees because of their ability to accept and spend unlimited funds (unlike a political action committee) and coordinate such spending directly with any campaign they support (unlike an independent committee). For more information on leadership committees and how they compare to other political committees, please check out this earlier post.
Last month, a federal court ruled that Governor Kemp could not use his leadership committee’s funds against former Senator David Perdue, who is challenging Governor Kemp in the Republican primary to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in November. Under Georgia law, Perdue is not allowed to have a leadership committee, whereas Kemp is, a status leading the court to side with Perdue, finding that Kemp’s leadership committee would give him an unfair advantage if used against Perdue in the primary. The court’s ruling, however, held that Governor Kemp’s leadership committee, Georgians First, could continue to fundraise and use those funds in other races, including in the upcoming general election for governor, should Kemp win the Republican primary.
Now that the qualifying period has ended, Georgia’s 2022 elections are set, as no other candidates can qualify to run at this point. Abrams, the only Democratic candidate for governor, contends that she has secured the Democratic nomination, even though the primary election has not occurred, and thus should not have to wait until May 24, the date of the primary, to utilize her leadership committee, One Georgia. For that reason, Abrams has asked the court for an emergency order authorizing her use of the committee, stating that she “will suffer ongoing and irreparable injury” until such authorization.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with campaign finance and election law. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.