AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Who funds Georgia's campaigns? Hint: Probably not you

The Washington-based Campaign Finance Institute has released its nationwide look at donors to state elections and Georgia ranks near the bottom when it comes to the involvement of individual donors.

According to the institute's analysis, just 0.43 percent of eligible voters contribute money to state campaigns in the Peach State. The study ranked 40 states with legislative or gubernatorial races this year. Georgia was 35th on the list.

No state had a large donor pool by any stretch of the imagination. Montana -- No. 1 on the CFI ranking -- had just 4.64 percent of the voting age population donating.

Georgia legislative and gubernatorial candidates instead rely on large individual donors and political action committees to fill their campaign accounts. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of the campaign donations to Georgia state candidates came from non-party organizations. Only four other states (Idaho, Missouri, Nevada and Oregon) relied more on corporations and interest groups for campaign donations.

Conversely, small-money donors play very little role in financing candidates in this state. The study found just 17 percent of contributions came from donors giving $500 or less. Donors chipping in at least $1,000 per candidate made up 16 percent of all donations.

That means candidates in Georgia look to PACs and large-money donors for 81 percent* of their money. In Minnesota, by comparison, 73 percent of donations came from donors contributing $500 or less.

So why is this important? Across the country many believe that politicians are too beholden to large campaign donors (see this CBS poll for instance). If those donors make up the overwhelming majority of donors -- as they do in Georgia -- is easy to see why they have a listening ear when they come to the Capitol.

How much of a problem do you think big individual and corporate donors are in Georgia? Take our unscientific poll.

* Mid-level donors giving $501-$1,000 and political parties made up the remaining 2 percent of all donations in Georgia.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Joyner’s column, AJC Watchdog, investigates topics in your community and Georgia.