Gov. Nathan Deal raised more than $600,000 in campaign cash the first six months of this year, and he spent more than half that total on travel, consultants and other expenses as he ratcheted up his re-election bid.
Campaign finance reports released Monday show that about $60,000 of the expenses went to companies with close ties to Deal, including his daughter-in-law and his chief of staff. That spending accounts for nearly one-fifth of the $336,000 the campaign has spent this year, although Deal’s aides say it’s a fraction of the governor’s $1.1 million campaign treasury.
About $49,800 was spent with Southern Magnolia Capital, a fundraising firm run by the governor’s daughter-in-law, Denise Deal. She is the governor’s lead fundraiser and has also been hired by more than a dozen lawmakers to raise money for them in recent years.
The reports show two other checks totaling about $8,500 went to reimburse chief of staff Chris Riley for political travel. Riley owned a 20 percent stake in PWWR, which operates a helicopter that Riley piloted to shuttle Nathan Deal to campaign events. Riley said the campaign disclosures followed an advisory opinion received from the state’s ethics commission after questions were raised about the campaign’s use of the aviation firm during the 2010 run.
The governor’s list of contributors reads like a Metro Atlanta Chamber event. Several of the organization’s leaders, including Georgia Power head Paul Bowers and Home Depot Vice President Carol Tome, each donated at least $1,000 to Deal’s campaign. Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Richard Anderson, the chamber’s incoming chairman, and his wife, Susan, combined for more than $15,000.
Deal also benefited from the largesse of several real estate titans, including $12,600 from Jim Jacoby, the developer of Atlantic Station, and Cousins Properties President Larry Gellerstedt, who chipped in $2,500. And the governor received $6,300 from Kelly Loeffler, an Intercontinental Exchange executive who is said to be considering a Republican Senate run. None of the four announced GOP Senate candidates gave to Deal, who said he was staying out of the race.
Even though Deal has no opponent so far, the campaign figures are telling. A hefty war chest could ward off a potential tea party challenge from his right flank and a Democratic run from his left. Democrats may wait until next year before a party candidate arises, but Dalton Mayor David Pennington has been rumbling about challenging Deal in the GOP primary for months.