An “independent” group has raised more than $1 million to run TV ads in support of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign for governor, much of it coming from a fund run by top statehouse lobbyists, according to disclosures filed Monday.
Changing Georgia’s Future reported spending $600,000 so far, mostly on media ads, and has an additional $400,000 available to use before the July 24 Republican runoff between Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
The director of the state ethics commission said last fall that his agency will take a closer look at such groups to make sure they are not coordinating with campaigns, which is against the law.
The fund’s lawyer and Cagle’s campaign have said there is no such coordination, although one pro-Cagle fund was headed, until late last year, by the lieutenant governor’s fundraiser.
As lieutenant governor and Senate president, Cagle plays a major role in deciding what legislation receives consideration. So much of the money Cagle and the funds are raising is coming from those interested in legislation and state funding.
Changing Georgia’s Future reported raising about $780,000 in June. Of that, $500,000 came from Citizens for Georgia’s Future.
Citizens for Georgia’s Future and the Georgia Conservatives Fund, a separate group created under federal tax law that raised more than $2 million leading up to the 2017 General Assembly session, share the same CEO and CFO: top contract lobbyist Jay Morgan and nursing home lobbyist Russel Carlson.
Besides the $500,000 that came from the Citizens’ group, Changing Georgia’s Future reported receiving $100,000 from nursing home giant PruittHealth.
The Pruitt family donated $26,000 to Cagle’s gubernatorial campaign last year. The nursing home industry receives more than $1 billion in Medicaid funding each year.
Other big donors included Savannah’s Colonial Group, which donated $21,000. Colonial Group benefited from a tax break the General Assembly approved last year for owners of giant yachts needing to be retrofitted.
An additional $15,000 came from a Florida private prison firm, The GEO Group; $17,500 from two members of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, who are appointed by the governor; and $20,000 from St. Louis-based Centene, a state contractor that has been paid billions of dollars over the past five years to provide health insurance to Medicaid and PeachCare recipients in Georgia.
Many of the donors also contributed over the past few years to the Georgia Conservatives Fund and to Cagle’s gubernatorial campaign.
Morgan told the AJC in June that he and Carlson were made CEO and CFO of the Georgia Conservatives Fund in recent months to provide a “firewall” between the independent group and Cagle’s campaign.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is covering the issues and candidates in a busy election year. Previous stories have focused on topics such as gun rights, immigration and tax policy. Look for more at PoliticallyGeorgia.com as the state approaches the next political milepost, the July 24 Republican runoff for governor.