Political Insider

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More Democrats, Georgia corporate titans donate to Johnny Isakson's Senate campaign

We told you last week about Georgia Democrats Roy Barnes’ and Sam Nunn’s under-the-radar campaign donations to Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson -- and the story got us thinking. So we spent a little more time digging into the federal filings from the Senate campaigns to see what else we could find.

Turns out that several more Democrats came out of the woodwork to support the GOP incumbent, who's seeking a third term in the Senate this fall.

The most prominent Democratic donor we found was media mogul Ted Turner, a liberal who became one of the country's most prominent environmentalists. He gave $2,700 to Isakson in a disclosure that notably lists his occupation as the owner of Ted’s Montana Grill, of all things.

Former Democratic state Rep. Terry Coleman, who briefly served as speaker of the house in the mid-2000s and now works at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, gave Isakson’s campaign money. There’s also Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, who cut maximum check of $5,400 for Isakson’s primary and general election races. The Atlanta Falcons owner, with an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion, has donated to both Republicans and Democrats in the recent past.

Other Democrats we found:

- Liane Levetan, former DeKalb CEO and a party stalwart.

- Former state Rep. Kevin Levitas 

- Rutherford Seydel, Ted Turner's son-in-law

More broadly, Isakson’s list of major donors over the last 18 months reads like a who’s who in the Georgia business world.

We found maximum campaign donations from the corporate heads of UPS, Aflac, Southern Company, SunTrust Bank and Delta Air Lines.

Other noteworthy Isakson donors include Republican mainstays Bernard Marcus, of Home Depot fame; Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate; and Paul Bowers, the CEO of Georgia Power.

These individual donations are, of course, small ball compared to the unlimited amounts of money these donors could pour into super PACs, which can't coordinate directly with campaigns but don't have to list their donors. More than anything, it's a public declaration of support.

Compare that to Isakson's Democratic opponent Jim Barksdale. More than half of the roughly $43,000 he's raised so far has come from people also named Barksdale. Libertarian Allen Buckley, meanwhile, has logged slightly more than $9,000 in donations since he entered the race last year.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.