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Campaign Fundraising and Spending Raises Criticism of Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Showing Different Priorities

Healthy Critique is good for both candidates but hot takes from surrogates only hurts the process.

Democratic Candidates for Governor of Georgia Show Different Priorities By How They Raise and How They Spend Campaign Cash
FreeImages.com/Jason Staten

Recent disclosures show the state of campaign fundraising and spending for candidates in the 2018 governors race.

Campaign disclosures seem to show a tight race in fundraising between the two Democratic candidates for governor: Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans have each raised over $2 million to date, signaling their vitality and support.

With nearly two-thirds of contributions reported this period being in the form of loans or personal donations, there is some question about the excitement around Evans’ campaign. An Evans surrogate recently wrote a piece titled “Funded Stacey v. Unfunded Stacey,” which mischaracterized the state of fundraising and expenditures in the Democratic race for governor. The piece didn’t simply try to make the case for why Evans is the candidate and why it’s not a big deal that she donated to/loaned her campaign $1.25 million, the surrogate contrived a strange web of petty in an attempt to undermine the opposition.

It’s one thing to critique an opposing campaign. Critique is healthy. It strengthens our process. But “Funded v. Unfunded” sounds like a wack diss track. If you’re going to be petty, at least make sure the petty elevates your purpose. Claiming that the candidate who has to donate and loan herself money is funded, whereas the candidate raising money from many sources is not funded, only elevates odd framing. If that’s your purpose, you have a problem.

Conversely, Abrams has shown an ability to steadily raise money to help expand her campaign operations and lay the groundwork for winning in November. It’s silly to claim a candidate is unfunded when they have proved that they can raise money — in other words, when they are funded.

Based on the logic in the article, compared to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, both candidates are “unfunded,” with no chance of winning. Don’t like that take? Yeah me neither.

But it doesn’t stop there! What is an entry in the Mean Girls’ Burn Book without claims of “out-of-state support is bad”? Such commentary on campaign fundraising and spending is nothing more than a recycled hypocritical Republican attack line used to deflect from the other campaign’s financial contributions. It’s also inconsistent criticism, given that “out-of-state priorities” was not a deal-breaker for the many people who organized volunteers for the Ossoff campaign including the author of “Funded Stacey v. Unfunded Stacey.”

And hey, who knew that building a broad coalition of voters was only a priority for people out of state? It’s also interesting that the “Funded” piece highlights Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as a “high-profile donor” of Evans. But the piece doesn’t mention that she also received “out-of-state support.

Note: Mayor Bottoms donated on the last day of the quarter, and donated the same amount as the author of “Funded.” It is yet to be seen if Mayor Bottoms will follow through on her “promise” to endorse. ”

Alyssa Milano, who is noted as a “high-profile” out-of-state donor for Abrams, also donated to Ossoff. During the 2016 special election, Milano came to Georgia to help with get out the vote activities, including driving people to the poll. She was also very excited like many others nationally regarding the election of Doug Jones and leveraged her social media platform to help his candidacy. People with no skin in the game donating because they believe in something better…wow they need to go away and never ever come back again! We can’t simply complain about out-of-state stuff when we don’t like a candidate. It’s either bad all of the time or none of the time.

The problem with complaining about out-of-state money or organizers or advertisements or whatever other resource is that local issues and campaigns have become national issues. Also when an issue of national importance is on a local ballot there will be instances when those out-of-region people and other resources off their help.  

Further, “outside forces” is commonly thrown around to scare off progressive forces who seek to provide individuals and communities with vital resources and tools needed to improve their lives. There are not deep money pockets here in the south funding necessary change. Organize the south has been a battle cry for years, and people are getting it done, but funding is necessary to break through the grasp on multiple institutions and spaces.

Adding to the hypocrisy of using “out-of-state forces” as an attack, which candidate do you suppose spent over $100,000 on “out-of-state” consultant Mothership Strategies?

What? You guessed Evans? You’re right. That makes the “out-of-state is bad” attack even less credible.

The fact is, many people became activated after the 2016 presidential election. Nationwide, people have developed a sense of importance by helping good candidates do good work to break through the Republican stranglehold on state and local governments. Demonizing the growing activism and organizing that is happening is a bad strategy because it threatens the hard and legitimate work being done by grassroots organizers — and, yes, people with money who feel strongly about a political fight that’s going on however far away from them.

Another big part of this is that on the left, the south has long been ignored. People are fed up with watching Republicans decimate opportunity and throw marginalized communities under the bus.

Now, some may look at Abrams’ burn rate and think, “That’s unsustainable!”

That thought faces two significant problems:

First, the way things have been done for the past 13 years has failed. Who cares how sustainable a method is if it always loses? “Hey, we lost, but at least we didn’t try a single new tactic!” That’s literally loser talk.

Second, the old rules don’t apply to change-based plans. Abrams is trying something that prior campaigns have not. Doubting it just because it isn’t the way things are done, misses the point that it’s a deliberate change from the status quo.

Critics say the Abrams campaign’s burn rate is unsustainable. It is possible they have no faith or imagination. They are either unwilling or unable to open their minds to her vision for the state. Plus, again, we have seen how not spending in certain areas and not engaging people doesn’t build the infrastructure necessary to win. Abrams’ campaign fundraising and spending serves a purpose based on her framing and vision.

After 13 years of the same basic failed strategy, the Abrams campaign is thinking outside the box. Waiting until several weeks before the primary to ramp up get out of the vote efforts is a tired strategy and doesn’t help change the culture of engagement. Critiques of campaign fundraising and spending should keep that in mind.

Whether you agree with the Abrams campaign’s fundraising and spending strategy, you should not be content with allowing distortions and purposeless petty to exist. The “Funded” piece’s argument — that it is better to hold onto money than to spend it — is not wisdom; it is fear of not raising enough money.

Anyone who looks honestly at the lay of the land regarding voting and access, and who thinks spending money engaging and building relationships with people is wrong, is content with the status quo. We deserve leaders with the forethought and vision to break through to a new model of winning. The old model hasn’t worked. Spending money to organize and engage people who have been left behind by both parties could go a long way.

Local issues and campaigns have become national issues. The blue wave to save us all is not going to just materialize. It needs to be nurtured and funded.

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing campaign fundraising and spending. There’s a lot wrong with misleading rhetoric and refusing to learn from past failures. Georgians deserve better on both counts.

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