AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Latest report: Georgia Republican Party still having big money problems

The political class returned to the Capitol last month for the 2016 legislative session, but it did little to ease the money troubles of the state's dominant political party.

The state GOP filed a report this week showing it had $24,000 in the bank and had $236,000 in debt after having put off payments on everything from credit cards to media consulting.

That was slightly better than its report at the end of December, when, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month, the party said it only had $11,000 in the bank and $231,000 in debt.

The report showed the party is still putting off  paying some bills.

It raised about $53,000 last month, including $10,000 from title pawn giant Rod Aycox, who gave $10,000 and Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who contributed $5,000.

Several prominent lawmakers also gave the party $1,000, including Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, who recently got into some trouble over comments he made about the Ku Klux Klan and slavery.

Election victors are usually in prime position to refill their campaign coffers — and then some — after the votes. And Georgia Republicans have notched a string of victories, sweeping every statewide office in both 2010 and 2014 while retaining big majorities in the General Assembly.

But the state GOP has been unable to capitalize on the wins, and the party’s bank account has steadily depleted over the past six years. The party, by contrast, had $2 million in the bank at the start of 2010, $844,000 in early 2012 and $425,000 in 2014.

While the state GOP is low on cash, political action committees set up to raise money to support Republican House and Senate members have thick bankrolls. Both funds raise money primarily from lobbyists, associations and individuals with interest in legislation and state funding.

The House fund reported having almost $600,000 banked after raising $316,000 in the past six months. Some of the biggest donors included cigarette maker Altria, $30,000, the state nursing home lobby, $15,000, and Wal-Mart, $15,000.

The Senate fund reported having about $318,000 in the bank after raising almost $190,000 in the last six months. The biggest donor to the Senate fund was the trial lawyers lobby, at $20,000.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.