Georgia 6th: Tide of out of state donors buoy Ossoff, Handel campaigns

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Jon Ossoff (left) and Karen Handel

Here are some eye-catching numbers for you on this balmy Monday afternoon: 96.5 and 78.

Those are the percentages of campaign donations that 6th District candidates Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) appeared to receive from people who reside outside of Georgia over the last two months.

The numbers show just how nationalized the expensive special election to replace Tom Price in the House of Representatives has become. And Ossoff’s massive fundraising haul specifically shows how the surge of anti-Trump activism on the left has helped buoy his campaign in recent months, even as he’s pivoted away from his past “make Trump furious” message.

One of the Handel’s favorite ways to attack Ossoff on the trail has been to highlight the 95 percent of donations he received from out of state ahead of the first round of voting on April 18. That trend has only continued in the two months since.

As far as we can tell, only $530,000, or about 3.5 percent, of Ossoff’s recent $15 million haul came from within Georgia — which appears to set a new national record in terms of percentage of out-of-state donations.

More than 14 percent of Ossoff’s contributions came from California and New York, states that traditionally donate more to outside campaigns. And his filings show he was aided substantially by Act Blue, the online Democratic fundraising platform that bundles small individual contributions.

Those figures, though, are incomplete. We’ll explain more below.

Meanwhile, roughly $991,000 of Handel’s $4.5 million raised in April and May came from Georgia (again, those numbers are incomplete). She was helped by donors in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, who sent her 11 percent of her campaign donations. She has held several fundraisers in the Washington area recently, which likely contributed substantially to those totals.

The numbers are striking ones. But they don’t paint the full picture. That’s because the percentages we calculated are based on what are known as “itemized contributions.” The feds don’t require campaigns to report the details of donations that are under $200. Since that constitutes the lion’s share of their contributions, particularly to the Ossoff camp, we do not have the entire story on where all the money came from.

The 95 percent figure from Ossoff’s first filing did include itemized and unitemized contributions, but the Democrat’s campaign didn’t have any comment on the latter this time around.

When asked about fundraising earlier today, Ossoff had this to say:

“At least as of the previous financial disclosure, many more Georgians contributed to my campaign than to Secretary Handel’s. And when you’ve got $20, $30 million dollars of attack ads coming in from Washington super PACs on her behalf, it’s necessary to raise the resources to defend myself. I’m proud of the fact that the campaign is powered by small dollar, grassroots fundraising.”

Team Handel also didn’t immediately have more information available its smaller donors. Spokesman Charlie Harper did send along the following:

“Jon Ossoff has said he’s going to be beholden to his small dollar donors. That’s telling, given that 98.5% of his donors are from outside of Georgia, and concentrated in liberal bastions like San Francisco and Massachusetts. That’s why he’s afraid to debate on CNN, as he can’t let those who have invested in a ‘Resistance Summer’ see that he’s pretending to be something other than he promised in his fundraising appeals.”

Note: Our figures are based on ProPublica’s cleaned-up versions of Handel and Ossoff’s Federal Election Committee data.

For more on the Sixth District race, go to myAJC.com/politics — your most complete and credible source for news and views about what is really going on in Georgia politics.

Read more of the latest on the 6th District race: 

Ossoff raises another $15M in Georgia 6th, setting new fundraising record

Putting Jon Ossoff’s record fundraising haul into perspective

Surge of 10K early votes on Saturday portends a heavy 6th District turnout

Ossoff campaign has contacted majority of Georgia 6th voters in person


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