Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Opinion: The bad sign for Jon Ossoff in his big fund-raising haul

Note: Since I published this, I've learned the figures below, on which I based my analysis, aren't exactly right. In fact, the difference is so great that the original post can't simply be tweaked. So I've written a new post that explains Jon Ossoff's in-state fund-raising total is actually more than $500,000, not less than $100,000. Please read the full explanation here . My apologies for getting it wrong in the first place.


Much has been made of the fund-raising prowess of Democrat Jon Ossoff, who according to opinion polls is leading the field to replace Tom Price in the U.S. House representing a typically deep-red district. But the news that the vast, vast majority of his money has come not only from outside the district but outside the state is the clearest sign yet that my original theory of how this race will end is still looking pretty good.

My AJC colleagues have done some good reporting on this, but I found the following graphic from the Wall Street Journal to be particularly helpful in telling the tale:

That $8.3 million figure is not like the others, but it isn't alone. That only 3 percent of his contributions have come from Georgia is astounding -- and not in a way that bodes well for him.

First, let's understand how those "total contributions" and "percentage of out-of-state contributions" figures relate to one another. Only itemized contributions -- those donations of at least $200, which require the campaign to disclose the donor's name and information -- can even be calculated as in-state or out-of-state. And Ossoff's contributions are disproportionately non-itemized: The Republicans listed above all itemized at least 81 percent of their contributions, but for Ossoff it was only 32 percent. The non-itemized donations may or may not be from people in Georgia; we simply don't know.

But let's look at what we do know. Now that we're all clear that the "out-of-state" figure applies only to the itemized donations, let's calculate how much money each candidate has definitely raised in-state. Here's what those totals look like for these candidates (rounded to the nearest thousand):

  • Ossoff: about $79,000
  • Hill: about $331,000
  • Handel: about $339,000
  • Gray: about $108,000
  • Moody: about $86,000
  • LeVell: about $34,000

Add up the local-money totals for those five Republicans (out of the 11 Republicans in the field) and you get almost $900,000 compared to Ossoff's almost $80,000 -- a ratio of more than 11 to 1. That's incredible. Consider also that even a candidate like Moody managed to raise more local money than Ossoff, even though on the whole he has raised 1/25th of the amount Ossoff has (that's in itemized contributions; the gulf is much larger overall).

Now let's acknowledge that, from the standpoint of how this may affect the race, money is money -- and out-of-state money buys TV ads and pays staffers just as well as in-state money does (or, in the case of a self-funding candidate like Moody, personal loans). That said, if there were truly a groundswell for Ossoff in the district -- and not just simply a consolidation by his campaign of the roughly 40 percent of the district that already tends to vote for Democrats in congressional elections -- you'd expect to see much more balance* between Republican and Democratic giving locally.

All in all, the financial reporting so far represents another sign the intensity for Ossoff comes mostly from people who won't get to vote for him.


*One caveat here is that Ossoff could be getting a lot of non-itemized donations from within Georgia. But I'd argue it's extremely unlikely that Ossoff raised all or even most of $5.7 million in smaller gifts from within the state. It's far more likely that their proportion more or less mirrors that of the larger gifts.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.