Campaign Intelligence: Super PAC spending brings home wins in Georgia primary elections

Gun Owners of America got this pro-Jody Hice ad made in the final days before the primary run-off.
Gun Owners of America made a pro-Jody Hice ad in the final days before the GOP primary run-off. Hice won the election, and will face off against Democrat Ken Dious in November for Georgia’s 10th District House seat.

A pair of pro-gun groups spent more than $9,000 in two and a half weeks on the winning candidate in a GOP House primary in Georgia. The down-to-the-wire money dump marks just one of the anti-establishment success stories from Tuesday’s full slate of primary run-off elections in Georgia.

Gun Owners of America Inc. and National Association for Gun Rights Inc. PAC threw down $4,500 and $4,647, respectively, in support of Jody Hice, a radio talk show host and former Baptist minister turned congressional candidate. Hice beat out Mike Collins in the 10th District House race, and is likely headed to Capitol Hill since the seat is reliably Republican. Sunlight’s Real-Time Federal Campaign Finance tracker tool shows that almost $2 million already has been spent on the race.

Three days before the run-off, Gun Owners of America paid a Colorado-based company to produce a 30-second television ad supporting Hice, who also got endorsements from conservative groups like the Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC and the Family Research Council Action PAC. In early July, National Association for Gun Rights – which bought radio time in June opposing Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s hotly contested Republican primary runoff – paid for a pro-Hice mailing.

Real-Time data show that Hice raised $64,300 in the last few weeks of the race, including a $5,000 contribution from conservative group the Madison Project and $3,500 from the Gun Owners of America Political Victory Fund. That investment to turn out a traditionally motivated constituency could have been a difference-maker in a race where fewer than 50,000 people voted.

For his part, Collins raised $63,275 during the race’s final sprint. On the Friday and Saturday before the election, he brought in $17,800, which included $5,000 from the National Automotive Dealers Association PAC and $2,500 from the International Paper PAC.

In Georgia’s 11th District race, former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, endorsed by Tea Party groups and a handful of other conservative organizations, benefited greatly from outside support in his defeat of former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr. And with no Democrats on the ballot, Loudermilk can pack his bags for D.C.

Real-Time data show that since February, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund combined to spend $42,604 supporting Loudermilk. FreedomWorks, a libertarian activist group, doled out the most – almost $24,000 throughout the primary. And, from July 15 to July 18, the organization spent more than half of that – $12,961 – on online ads and yard signs for its preferred candidate.

In terms of candidate fundraising, Real-Time indicates that since July 5, Loudermilk raised $48,776, compared to Barr’s $32,450. In addition to two $5,000-apiece contributions from the American Association of Anesthesiologists PAC and the UPS PAC, Loudermilk also got $1,776 from Shaun McCutcheonof McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission fame – on July 5.

The most talked-about upset of the Georgia runoffs, businessman David Perdue’s upset victory over Rep. Jack Kingston for the GOP nomination in Georgia’s headline-grabbing Senate race, was a major defeat for a quintessential establishment group: The Chamber of Commerce spent more than $1.5 million on pro-Kingston ads in May and June. And Sunlight’s Ad Hawk tool shows that the Chamber continued to back Kingston with ad buys into July. Real-Time shows that almost $26 million has been spent already, including about $4.6 million by outside groups.

About $1.6 million of the outside spending total went toward opposing Kingston. Conservative super PAC Citizens for a Working America spent heavily on anti-Kingston TV ads and direct mail campaigns, according to Real-Time.

Now attention turns toward the Nov. 4 election. After her easy primary victory, Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn has been stockpiling cash. Real-Time shows that she has brought in $6.6 million and has almost $3.7 million cash on hand. Although Perdue has raised more – about $7.6 million – he already spent the lion’s share during his primary. He has $783,540 cash on hand as he moves into the general election against Nunn.

But outside groups have already weighed in against Nunn, even before her Republican opponent was decided. Since April 1, Ending Spending Action Fund has spent $914,088 on “media production” and “research” opposing Nunn. In April, the conservative super PAC released a 30-second spot connecting Nunn to President Obama and his health care law.