Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Candidates' fund-raising slowed by restrictions

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/11/06

Many statewide political candidates were resting up March 31, the day after the 2006 legislative session closed. But not Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Cathy Cox and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Casey Cagle.
Cox reported collecting $57,000 and Cagle $103,000 on the day after the legislative session, the last day to collect money before the campaign finance reporting period ended.

That allowed Cox, Georgia's secretary of state, to raise more than either of the other two major candidates, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and Democrat Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, during the reporting period between Jan. 1 and March 31. And it gave Cagle, a state senator, a respectable showing against Republican rival Ralph Reed, who, unlike the lawmaker, wasn't prohibited from raising money during the legislative session.

That prohibition—state officials and lawmakers can't solicit funds during the session — made the reporting period one of the lightest of the year for major candidates.

The session started Jan. 9 and ended March 30, so there was little time for elected officials to raise money. Because of that, none of them made much headway against their rivals.

The big-money push is coming up, and Perdue remains far ahead. As of April 1, he had $8.26 million in the bank, while Taylor had $4.17 million and Cox $2.9 million.

During the latest reporting period, Cox raised $185,891, Perdue $141,985 and Taylor $98,531, according to campaign disclosure reports filed late last week. For all three candidates, the biggest "contribution" came from interest on the millions they have socked away.

Among Perdue's biggest donors was Virgil Williams, former Gov. Zell Miller's chief of staff. Williams and his company's political action committee gave $12,800 three days before the 2006 session began.

Taylor got $5,000 from prominent Columbus trial lawyer Jim Butler, a leading Democratic donor, and Taylor loaned his campaign more than $20,000 for consulting. Taylor has now put more than $1,044,000 into his campaign.

Cox received mostly small contributions, although she did take in $2,000 from Marietta Daily Journal publisher Otis Brumby, $5,000 from state Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Norcross) and $2,500 from Cathy Henson, former chairwoman of the Georgia Board of Education.

In politics, the ability to raise money — used to pay for staff, mailings and TV ads — has always been used as a way to measure a campaign's health.

Cagle, who lives near Gainesville, got to bed at 2 a.m. Friday, March 31, while the clock was already ticking on the 24 hours he had left to whittle down Reed's fund-raising lead. At about 4 a.m., a timer went off on a Cagle campaign computer and e-mails went out to a preselected list of 100 likely givers, all capable of writing big checks, formally requesting their financial assistance in the campaign.

Roughly a third of the money came over the Internet, on credit cards. The rest were checks gathered by a crew of four volunteers dashing around Atlanta. Fifty-five donors agreed to pony up. Average amount: $1,882.

Some of the largest donations came from lobbyists with whom Cagle had been dealing the night before at the Capitol. Lobbyist Clint Austin of Marietta, whose clients include BellSouth and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, was the largest donor, giving $10,000 — $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election.

"I think it speaks to the momentum of this campaign and the excitement around it. People were very, very, very eager to come on board," Cagle said. "We were dialing as fast as we could, and people were very gracious to respond."

But Reed was pressing, too. Though not under the same restrictions, the largest portion of Reed's fund-raising, nearly $140,000, came in the final five days of the period. Checks included $20,000 from Robin and Cherie Arkley of Eureka, Calif. Arkley family members are large donors to Republican causes.

In 2004, Robin Arkley, a securities investor, spent $515,000 to finance "You're Fired," a group that launched an October TV ad blitz in South Dakota aimed at toppling then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

The latest campaign reports were supposed to be in Friday, but most weren't available to the public until Sunday. And even what's available can't be searched electronically.

Perdue and the Legislature passed a new ethics law last year shifting responsibility for collecting campaign finance documents from the secretary of state to the State Ethics Commission.

The money to make the transition hasn't yet made it to the Ethics Commission. So candidates essentially sent in old paper forms, which don't allow the public to electronically search for donors or expenditures, which is important if one wants to track which industries or special interests gave to which candidates.

Checks included $20,000 from Robin and Cherie Arkley of Eureka, Calif. Arkley family members are large donors to Republican causes.

So Rob is funding Ralph Reed. You can learn more about Reed at:

This guy was in pretty deep with Abramoff.
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