ATLANTA — Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue and his campaign are challenging a new state law that they say gives incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp a huge and unfair fundraising and spending advantage in the Republican primary.
The law passed by state legislators last year and signed by Kemp allows certain top elected officials, including the governor, and party nominees, to create “leadership committees” that can raise campaign funds without limits, including during a legislative session. In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Atlanta, Perdue and his campaign allege that the law creates “an uneven election playing field” and ask a judge to declare it unconstitutional.
Under Georgia law, candidates for statewide office cannot collect more than $7,600 from an individual donor for a primary or general election and $4,500 for a runoff election. But leadership committees aren’t bound by those limits.
The new law allows for leadership committees controlled by the governor, lieutenant governor, a political party’s nominee for governor or lieutenant governor, and by the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate.
Kemp’s campaign created the Georgians First Leadership Committee in July, just after the law took effect. In the month since Perdue declared his candidacy, Kemp has already spent more than $1 million on ads attacking him, the lawsuit says.
The new law has allowed Kemp to create “a de facto second campaign committee” that disadvantages Perdue, the lawsuit says.
“When he thought no one was watching, Kemp gave himself power to raise unlimited campaign funds, while challengers have to play by different rules,” Perdue tweeted Friday. “Only a 20-year career politician like Kemp would create an unfair advantage for his own self-preservation.”
Kemp committee spokesman Cody Hall said, “David Perdue’s record of shady stock deals makes clear that he really doesn’t like playing by the rules, so this laughable lawsuit shouldn’t surprise anyone.”
The new law was generally supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. Democrats argued the legislation would increase the influence of money interests in Georgia politics since leadership committees can accept contributions during the legislative session, unlike state elected officials.
State Sen. Elena Parent, Democratic Caucus chair, tweeted Thursday: “One thing I agree with Perdue on: the corrupt ‘leadership committee’ slush fund law is bad.”
The law infringes on Perdue’s constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection, the lawsuit says. It asks a judge to declare the new law unconstitutional and to prohibit any activity by a gubernatorial leadership committee established under the law. It also asks the judge to order the state Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to revoke Kemp’s committee’s registration, order the refunding of all contributions made to it and to prohibit it from spending money to support Kemp’s reelection.
Perdue and his campaign have also filed a motion asking that the judge temporarily stop Kemp from raising and spending unlimited funds through his leadership committee while the lawsuit is pending.