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Georgia special election: one local penny for every $10 in national cash

The Congressional Leadership Fund’s ad blitz has been particularly scathing, with one spot panning Ossoff for his college glee club stylings and dressing up as Star Wars’ Han Solo. The super PAC is funded in large part by GOP megadonors such as billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson; Houston Texans owner Robert McNair and fossil fuel giants Chevron and Devon Energy.

So far, Ossoff has raised far more money than any of his 11 Republican opponents. In fact, he’s raised more than all of them put together.

But outside organizations have rushed in to make up the difference: about 65 percent of all non-candidate money spent so far — $5.8 million —has gone toward opposing Ossoff.

“This is a new experience for Georgia,” said Amy Morton, chairman of the Better Georgia, a nonprofit. “Georgians aren’t used to this saturated political environment.”

Even though Georgia’s 6th district has traditionally been safely Republican, Ossoff — a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker, small business owner and national security staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia — is making a serious bid to win without a runoff election, a feat that would require him to get more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday. Polls show him within striking distance of that mark.   

His campaign message reflects the race’s national tinge: “Make Trump Furious.” And a big chunk of his own $8.3 million campaign war chest comes from people who don’t live in the Peach State.

About $4 out of every $5 dollars Ossoff’s own campaign has raised from big-dollar donors — those giving more than $200 — come from outside of Georgia, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance records. That’s a sign of the high stakes the race has for Democrats nationwide who are eager for a win.

William Pearce, a California professor who gave Ossoff $240, said he’s hoping his contribution helps counteract megadonors who give outside groups seven-figure checks.

“I wish all politics were truly local, where local money would go to local elections, but that’s just not the system that campaign finance laws have given us,” Pearce said.

Ossoff has also raised $5.6 million from small-dollar contributors who aren’t required to publicly disclose their names or addresses.

Keenan Pontoni, Ossoff’s campaign manager, said that the average contribution to Ossoff’s campaign for a small-dollar donation is $42. Pontoni sees this average as proof of Ossoff’s grassroots support base.

In contrast Republican candidates are relying more heavily on home-grown donations, but they’re getting far fewer.

For example, just 23 percent of Republican candidate Karen Handel’s big-dollar contributions — more than $200 per donor — came from out-of-state sources, but she’s only raised $421,000. About 44 percent of the big-dollar donations Republican candidate Bob Gray received came from outside the state – he’s raised just over $230,000.  

The Republicans, though, are getting far more outside help. The Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee, both headquartered in Washington, D. C., have funneled millions into Georgia, mostly in the form of television advertisements to either boost a candidate they like or malign one they don’t.

“The NRCC has invested in this race because we intend to keep the seat out of Jon Ossoff’s hands,” NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said.

The NRCC’s partisan counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hasn’t spent money on TV ads or other pro-Ossoff messaging, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Nevertheless, the DCCC has been firing off a string of Georgia 6th-themed fundraising messages to supporters, such as one Monday with a subject line that whines: “kiss all hope goodbye.” The message reads: “It’s going to take a tremendous wave of grassroots support to fund the resources we’re rushing to Georgia TONIGHT. Will you pitch in $1 before midnight to defeat Republicans in Georgia and nationwide?”

A DCCC representative did not return requests for comment.

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