Two stories analyzing the campaign finances of the two Republican contenders for governor have prompted both candidates to demand the other return a trove of cash.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of “knowingly raising money unethically” after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story revealed he received at least $325,000 in donations from business and individuals in industries he regulates ahead of the July 24 runoff.
“Kemp has talked a lot about special interest money – a topic he should know a lot about as he’s raked in cash from businesses that he has the power to investigate and that depend on his office for licensing,” said Cagle campaign manager Scott Binkley.
Kemp’s campaign said he has “gone above and beyond” what’s required by law to ensure its contributions are legal, and invoked the secret recording of Cagle in which he acknowledged supporting “bad public policy” to undercut another rival.
Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney also claimed Cagle was “bought and paid for by the special interests” in response to a second AJC story that showed the lieutenant governor received more than $240,000 from about 85 lobbyists, their family members or firms ahead of the 2018 legislative session.
“Sadly, Cagle's unethical - and illegal - behavior under the Gold Dome is status quo for the gubernatorial hopeful,” said Mahoney.
Asked about whether his tide of support from lobbyists would present a conflict, Cagle’s response was curt: “You should ask Delta.”
Delta has contributed about $22,000 to Cagle campaigns since 2006, including $4,000 to his gubernatorial bid. Cagle also orchestrated the defeat of a tax break that would have saved the Atlanta-based airline $40 million each year after it cut ties with the NRA.
“Anybody is welcome to donate to my campaign. We don’t filter,” Cagle said. “But I have a very long record of standing up for what I believe in, and for what is right for the citizens of our state.”
State Democrats are delighting in the back and forth. The Democratic Party of Georgia slammed both Republicans for the series of reports, and said nominee Stacey Abrams is busy focused on improving the economy.
“There’s a cash grab in Georgia’s Republican primary, and Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp are up for sale to the highest bidder,” said party spokesman Eric Gray. “We now know who Cagle and Kemp are really fighting for in this race: their special interest donors and political insider buddies.”