Lots and lots of money is being given to Senator Raphael Warnock in his bid to win a full term in the U.S. Senate. The Senate race in Georgia between the incumbent Democrat Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker is shaping up to be the costliest Senate race in the country and Warnock has raked in the most money of any Senate candidate.
Real Clear Politics has the Georgia Senate race as a toss-up. As of this morning, Walker is up over Warnock by 0.5 points. There is little doubt that the race will go to a run-off with neither candidate reaching 50%. Warnock has raised $37 million more than the number two fund-raiser running for the Senate this election cycle, Arizona Democrat Senator Mark Kelly. Warnock has raised $115 million to Herschel Walker’s $37 million, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia leads the nation in the race for political cash.
The money is being spent on a blitz of campaign ads on television and social media. Some Georgia residents are shocked by the personal attacks lodged in the ads. Yvonne Edman, a Democrat, from Lithia Springs says the negative attacks must stop. “The negative campaign ads are the most hideous, the worst thing that we can experience. This has got to stop.” She must be new to politics. Negative campaign ads aren’t going to stop and they only get worse as election day grows closer. Politics ain’t bean bag, as the expression goes.
Thanks to digital fund-raising, small donor donations are up. Small donations are 48% of Warnock’s total and 43% of Walker’s.
“That base of small donors is important because it shows a wide base of support,” said Suzanne Robbins, an assistant professor at the University of Florida who specializes in campaign finance. “It shows that someone is willing to open their wallet at a time when their wallet is light. And if you do that, you are going to vote.”
Warnock raised the most money from California, followed by Georgia and New York, while the largest percentage of Walker’s cash came from Georgia, followed by Florida and Texas.
Outside group money is flooding into Georgia for Warnock.
And while the candidates’ own campaign money is significant, it’s being supplemented by tens of millions of dollars gushing in from outside groups. So far, nearly $250 million has been spent on advertising in the state, according to data compiled by political strategist Rick Dent. Only one-third of that has been paid for by the candidates’ own campaigns, the data showed.
Warnock’s campaign is sinking $5.9 million into ad buys this week alone, records found.
One Democrat fundraiser in Atlanta calls Warnock a “fundraising phenomenon.” He headlines grassroots events and high-dollar events. Contributions have come in from billionaires like LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and celebrities like actresses Kerry Washington and Jennifer Garner.
Warnock has also tapped small donors through a sophisticated digital fundraising operation that allows him to reach voters across the nation, many of whom donated to his runoff bid. Like that race, this one is a magnet for national cash because of the critical role it played — and could play again — in determining control of the Senate.
Warnock has spent $71 million on ads so far. He’s had help from outside groups such as Georgia Honor, created by the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, which spent about $37 million on ads; and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which has ponied up more than $9 million. Many of the ads have attacked Walker, reviving his ex-wife’s claims of domestic violence, for instance, and allegations he paid for a girlfriend’s abortion. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has not been able to talk to these women or independently verify the allegations.)
Negative ads can backfire and some voters are moving toward Walker because they think that everyone likely has something in their past.
Walker may have raised “only” $37 million, one-third of what Warnock has raised, it is the most money raised by any first-time candidate in Georgia history. His donations are among the top dollar amounts in the nation. Walker also taps deep-pocketed donors. He has held two fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago. The events raised $1.3 million and Walker paid $200,000 for catering and the use of the venue. It seems like Trump could have footed the catering bill and waved the venue fee, though, doesn’t it? It was Trump who recruited Walker to run for the Senate in the first place and has endorsed him.
A constellation of GOP groups are helping Walker close the wide money gap between him and Warnock. The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has funneled more than $39 million into ads in Georgia. One Nation, a Republican PAC, has spent about $21 million, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has chipped in $13 million.
Some of those ads have shown body cam footage from a 2020 incident in which Warnock’s ex-wife said he ran over her foot. (Atlanta police investigated the incident, and an officer said in a police report that medical officials found no visible signs of injury to the foot. Warnock was not charged.)
On the matter of political action committees (PACs), those contributions are a relatively small percentage, with Walker having raised $574,498 from PACs, less than 2% of his total. Warnock refused corporate PAC donations in his run-off race and said he planned to do so again. Walker benefits from pro-gun rights groups and energy industry interests. Warnock’s talk of refusing corporate PAC donations is all bluster, though.
He has received thousands of dollars from political committees controlled by other Democratic lawmakers, and those committees are often funded heavily by corporate dollars. For example, New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez donated $5,000 to Warnock on Sept. 30 via his New Millennium PAC. Dozens of companies, ranging from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to aerospace and defense contractor Northrop Grumman, have cut checks to that entity.
Warnock also has collected checks from political committees tied to labor unions and industry groups, such as the agriculture co-op representing beet sugar farmers, the American Crystal Sugar Co., and the National Association of Realtors’ political committee.
He also has received donations from lobbying firms who represent corporations. Holland & Knight donated $5,000 to the campaign in August; its lengthy client list includes United HealthGroup, a major health care and insurance company, and InterContinental Hotels Group, according to the OpenSecrets database.
Politicians think voters are stupid. Warnock, for example, says he refuses corporate PAC money, yet he’s rolling in it. The Georgia Senate race may determine if the Senate goes to a Republican majority. It will likely go to a run-off election on December 6. Early voting will start Nov. 14 — just a week after Election Day.