A federal judge ruled Thursday that a fundraising committee associated with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign cannot begin raising unlimited campaign contributions.
Abrams and One Georgia, the leadership committee she registered in March, filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and other state officials arguing that a state law passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp last year afforded the incumbent an exclusive and unconstitutional fundraising advantage. Kemp, who defeated Abrams in the 2018 governor’s race, is seeking a second term this fall.
The law lets the governor, the lieutenant governor, party nominees for those positions and the majority and minority caucuses in the state House and state Senate to form committees that can raise unlimited cash, including during legislative sessions.
Abrams is not yet her party’s nominee for governor, though she is running unopposed in the May 24 Democratic primary. US District Judge Mark Cohen found therefore that Abrams was not eligible to the same fundraising authority. “Granting Plaintiffs’ requested relief … from taking any enforcement action against One Georgia if they raised unlimited contributions before the primary, would require this Court to effectively rewrite the … Statute to recognize Abrams as the Democratic Party nominee before she has been selected in a primary,” Cohen ruled Thursday.
The judge also suggested he would have been more open to halting Kemp’s fundraising advantage rather than allowing Abrams the same ability, writing that the “exclusive remedy” Abrams sought was in “contravention of state law.”
A campaign spokesperson for Kemp declined to comment on the ruling. Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said in a statement following the ruling that it was “more urgent than ever” for supporters to “give whatever they can” through Abrams’ campaign website.
William Perry, the founder of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, described the judge’s ruling as the likely accurate interpretation of the fundraising law but said the law itself should raise suspicion because it has the potential to erode the public’s trust in politicians and the political process.
“The problem is the way Georgia law is written. Unfortunately, there are no bones about the controlling party, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, writing laws to their advantage. And this is an unfortunate example of that,” Perry told CNN.
Kemp’s opponent in the Republican primary, former US Sen. David Perdue, had also challenged Kemp’s fundraising advantage in court. In that case, Cohen ruled Kemp could continue to raise money through his leadership committee but could not use the funds against Perdue in the primary and instead had to reserve the money for the general election.