Following the special election primary for a vacant House seat in Georgia, media figures are repeating President Donald Trump’s spin highlighting out-of-state donations that helped Democrat Jon Ossoff. The focus on Ossoff’s fundraising, however, ignores the disproportionate advantage the Republican Party and Republican candidates got from outside groups in the race.
Ossoff Heads Into Runoff For Georgia Special Election
NY Times: Democrat Jon Ossoff Heads To Runoff, “Throwing A Scare Into Republicans.” Democrat Jon Ossoff will face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff to fill a vacant House seat Georgia, The New York Times reported. The Times noted that Ossoff “narrowly missed winning outright in a heavily conservative House district ... throwing a scare into Republicans in a special congressional election that was seen as an early referendum on President Trump.” From the April 19 report:
Jon Ossoff, a Democrat making his first bid for elective office, narrowly missed winning outright in a heavily conservative House district in Georgia on Wednesday, throwing a scare into Republicans in a special congressional election that was seen as an early referendum on President Trump.
Mr. Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote, just short of the 50 percent threshold needed to win the seat, and he will face Karen Handel, the top Republican vote-getter, in a June runoff. [The New York Times, 4/19/17]
Trump Highlights Ossoff’s Out-Of-State Fundraising
Trump: Ossoff Received “Major Outside Money.” In two tweets, President Donald Trump noted that Ossoff received “major outside money” and claimed that the race is now “Hollywood vs. Georgia.”
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job Karen Handel! It is now Hollywood vs. Georgia on June 20th.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
Media Adopt Trump’s Spin And Highlight Ossoff’s Out-Of-State Funds
Fox’s Scott Brown: Ossoff Is “Being Supported By All That Outside Hollywood Money.” Fox contributor Scott Brown lamented that Ossoff is “being supported by all that outside Hollywood money.” Fox correspondent Dagen McDowell agreed and said that “it's just comical when these Hollywood celebrities … come in and pour money into these races.” From the April 19 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria:
SCOTT BROWN: I don't think any of those blue-dog moderate Republicans are going to vote for somebody who doesn't even live in the district and who’s being supported by all that outside Hollywood money. So it's going to be tough uphill battle, I believe, obviously for the Democrats in this Georgia race.
DAGEN MCDOWELL: Senator, it's Dagen McDowell, it's just comical when these Hollywood celebrities, with Sam Jackson, for one, voicing that radio ad for Ossoff, when these celebrities come in and pour money into these races. I always point back to Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was running against Mitch McConnell, where you had massive fundraisers. And the likes of Ben Affleck, Tom Hanks, and Leo DiCaprio pouring money into that race and it didn't work either. And Southerners, particularly, have a problem when -- we can call it “southern tourism,” when people start sticking their nose in our business. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 4/19/17]
Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: “Hollywood Elites … All Donated Money” To Ossoff, And “Ninety-Seven Percent Of The Money That He Raised” Was From Outside His District. Fox co-host Ainsley Earhardt suggested that “Hollywood elites … all donated money” to Ossoff, adding, “Ninety-seven percent of the money that he raised came from outside of that area.” Co-host Ed Henry also asserted that “over $8 million” in “outside money” went to Ossoff. From the April 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): If you were watching mainstream media yesterday, you knew that that special election down in Georgia's sixth district pretty much was the most important election of our lifetimes because the Democrats were desperate to essentially have a referendum on Donald Trump and they wanted a guy screen left, Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old documentary filmmaker. They wanted him to win and they pumped millions and millions of dollars into it. He had to hit 50 percent. He fell a little short and so now we’re runoff with that woman right there.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): So he ran, not on policy, but on the fact that he won -- it was referendum on President Trump. He wants to run against President Trump's policies. And that's what he kept saying. So all these Hollywood elites heard about this. They all donated money. Ninety-seven percent of the money that he raised came from outside of that area.
ED HENRY (CO-HOST): I think it’s important to kind of get a look at the road ahead because the next few weeks are going to be intense because when you talked about that outside money flowing in, over $8 million to the Democrat, you’re going to see Hollywood say, “Hey, we’ve got a shot here.” Even more money is going to pour in over the next few weeks. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/17]
CNN’s Alison Kosik: “Ossoff Did Raise $8.3 Million For His Campaign, Much Of It From Out-Of-State Donors.” CNN co-host Alison Kosik, while reporting on one of Trump’s tweets, said that Ossoff “did raise $8.3 million for his campaign, much of it from out-of-state donors.” From the April 19 edition of CNN’s Early Start:
ALISON KOSIK (CO-HOST): Jon Ossoff did raise $8.3 million for his campaign, much of it from out-of-state donors. [CNN, Early Start, 4/19/17]
CNN’s David Briggs: “An Estimated 97 Percent” Of Ossoff’s Donations Came “From Out-Of-State Donors.” CNN co-host David Briggs, while reporting on one of Trump’s tweets, pointed out that “an estimated 97 percent” of Ossoff’s campaign funds were “from out-of-state donors.” From the April 19 edition of CNN’s Early Start:
DAVID BRIGGS (CO-HOST): Well Jon Ossoff did raise $8.3 million for his campaign, much of it from out-of-state donors. An estimated 97 percent of it. [CNN, Early Start, 4/19/17]
Fox’s Griff Jenkins: “The Majority Of Ossoff’s War Chest Came From Out Of State.” Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins, while reporting on one of Trump’s tweets, said that “the majority of Ossoff’s war chest came from out of state.” Jenkins added that “only about one in 20 donors were from Georgia.” From the April 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends First:
GRIFF JENKINS: The majority of Ossoff’s war chest came from out of state. Only about one in 20 donors were from Georgia. And even actor Samuel L. Jackson made a cameo. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 4/19/17]
But Republicans Have Had The Advantage When It Comes To Outside Spending In The Race
Center For Public Integrity: “65 Percent Of All Non-Candidate Money Spent So Far … Has Gone Toward Opposing Ossoff.” A report from the Center for Public Integrity found that “about 65 percent of all non-candidate money spent so far — $5.8 million —has gone toward opposing Ossoff.” From the April 17 report:
But outside organizations have rushed in to make up the difference: about 65 percent of all non-candidate money spent so far — $5.8 million —has gone toward opposing Ossoff.
The Republicans, though, are getting far more outside help. The Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee, both headquartered in Washington, D. C., have funneled millions into Georgia, mostly in the form of television advertisements to either boost a candidate they like or malign one they don’t. [Center for Public Integrity, 4/17/17]
ProPublica Found Three Biggest Outside Spending Groups Are Backing Republicans Or Opposing Ossoff. According to a ProPublica analysis, three of the five biggest groups outside the district that are spending money on the race are the Congressional Leadership Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and Ending Spending Inc., all of which are working to defeat Ossoff. [ProPublica, accessed 4/19/17, accessed 4/19/17]
CREW: Dark Money Groups Are “Pouring Money Into The Race” To Defeat Ossoff. The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found that much of the independent expenditures from nonprofit groups went to supporting Ossoff’s opponents or opposing Ossoff. CREW reported that groups such as the Congressional Leadership Fund, Ending Spending Inc., ESAFund, the Susan B. Anthony List, and the Club for Growth have spent millions combined to support Ossoff’s opponents, including Handel and businessman Bob Gray, and attack Ossoff. From the April 18 report:
Ossoff’s campaign contributors are not the only ones pouring money into the race from outside of Georgia’s sixth district. Out of state dark money non-profits have contributed at least $3.75 million to super PACs active in the race and spent more than $1.8 million on independent expenditures as the total outside spending for the seat approaches $8 million.
Leading the charge is the American Action Network, a DC-based non-profit close to House Republican leadership that does not disclose its donors. Last month, the group contributed $3.5 million to its “sister” super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund. The super PAC in turn spent more than $2.5 million on independent expenditures blasting Ossoff, including ads tying him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “extreme agenda,” college debauchery, and even Osama bin Laden.
Earlier this month a third non-profit, Virginia-based Ending Spending, Inc., got more directly involved in the race than either the American Action Network or the American Policy Coalition, making its own independent expenditures. The group has reported more than $1.2 million in expenditures aiding “proven conservative” Karen Handel. A related super PAC, ESAFund, also has spent $53,327 on independent expenditures supporting Handel, but recent contributors to the super PAC have not been disclosed.
Three other non-profits have reported spending in the race, but in much smaller sums. The Susan B. Anthony List, which is based in DC, has spent $25,974 on mailers boosting Handel while People for the American Way, also based in DC, reported $4,000 in pro-Ossoff digital ads. Better Georgia, Inc., which as its names implies is based in Georgia, has also backed Ossoff with a few small independent expenditures.
Other outside spenders are also active in the race. Since jumping into the race on March 31st, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent more than $1.9 million attacking Ossoff, the Club for Growth has backed Gray with nearly $600,000 in independent expenditures, and well-heeled liberal groups MoveOn.org and End Citizens United have stepped in to prop up Ossoff. [Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 4/18/17]