Outside Campaign Money Pouring Into Georgia, Montana Races

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Almost $13 million in campaign spending from political party committees, super political action committees and other outside groups has poured into two special congressional election races set to be decided in the coming weeks in Georgia and Montana, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports of independent expenditures reviewed by Bloomberg BNA.

The bulk of the spending is for television advertising, though money is also being spent for digital ads, mailings, phone banks and other efforts, according to the FEC reports. The reports must be filed with the FEC within 24 hours of each independent expenditure, providing a real-time glimpse of where outside money is moving in the races.

Outside spending in the Georgia race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel already is in record territory, with nearly $10 million in total independent expenditures six weeks before the June 20 election. Bloomberg BNA’s review of FEC reports found more than $2 million in outside money—about evenly divided between the Democratic and Republican sides—has been spent in the Georgia campaign in just two weeks since the April 18 multicandidate primary.

Almost $3 million in outside spending has come in the Montana race, nearly all of it on the Republican side. The race, which pits Democrat Rob Quist against Republican Greg Gianforte, is set to be decided in a May 25 election.

In the Georgia race, about $900,000 has been spent in the last two weeks by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to the FEC. That matched roughly the same amount spent by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to House Republican leaders.

Prior to the April 18 primary, the Georgia race saw outside spending mostly on the Republican side opposing Democrat Ossoff, who had raised over $8 million in individual contributions for his campaign committee.

GOP Dominates Montana Spending

In Montana, nearly all of the $2.8 million in outside spending has been for ads opposing Democrat Quist. The folk singer and novice candidate raised more than $900,000 for his campaign by the end of March, according to the latest FEC candidate reports. Quist’s opponent, Gianforte, is a former gubernatorial candidate who has raised more than $1.6 million for his campaign committee.

By far the largest amount of outside money in the Montana race—more than $1.5 million—has been spent by the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republican leaders’ super PAC, according to FEC reports. In addition, more than $500,000 has been spent by the NRCC, the House Republicans’ campaign committee.

Only about $15,000 has been spent in support of Quist. The money has come from the Democratic-leaning nonprofit Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The Georgia and Montana races are set to fill seats vacated by Republican lawmakers who left Congress to take jobs in the Trump administration. The races—especially the Georgia contest in suburban Atlanta—are seen as potentially competitive by both Republicans and Democrats and are viewed as important to signaling the mood of the country after the first three months of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Two other races have seen less partisan competition and have drawn far less campaign spending.

A June 6 special election in California is set to leave a U.S. House seat with Democrats after it was vacated by former Rep. Xavier Becerra, who became attorney general of California.

Meanwhile, a South Carolina race to succeed former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R), who left to become Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, is seen as likely to keep the congressional seat for Republicans. The South Carolina special primary election is set for May 2, with a possible runoff election on May 16.

Just over $130,000 in last-minute outside spending in the South Carolina race was reported to the FEC for TV ads that supported Tommy Pope, one of several Republican candidates in the race.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com.

To contact the editor on this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com.

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