ATLANTA — After the FBI raided the home of former President Donald Trump, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed outrage at the hundreds of thousands of people who follow her on social media.
“They are trying to stop President Trump from running in 2024,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “And the Democrats expect you to NOT support President Trump!”
The note linked to Greene’s page on fundraising platform Anedot, where supporters were encouraged to “make an emergency donation” to his campaign. On a separate fundraising site used by Republicans, WinRed, Greene added new merchandise to his online store: T-shirts and hats with the phrase “Defund the FBI.”
Not to be outdone, his Democratic opponent quickly responded with his own fundraising appeal. On Twitter, he posted several messages lambasting his criticism of the FBI and asking his followers to donate to overthrow it.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to dismantle the FBI,” Marcus Flowers wrote on Sept. 1, including a link to his fundraising page. “This November, we’re going to make sure she’s out of Congress.”
It’s been like this for months: a cycle of exaggerated claims and requests for funding from Greene, a conservative firebrand, followed by Flowers asking for money to oust him after repeating what the Republican said.
It paid off for both, placing them in the top 10 of all congressional candidates nationwide. Flowers has raised $10.7 million through June, even though Greene’s 14th congressional district is considered safe for Republicans and historically receives little national attention. Greene, a first-time congressman, had raised $10.2 million.
Most of the money came from outside of Georgia, and much of it went to raising even more money.
“My old boss, (former congressman) John Barrow, used to say trains ran on coal and campaigns ran on gold,” said Chase Goodwin, campaign manager for Flowers. “We are using every tool available to mobilize the resources necessary to train all the Democrats we can and persuade Independents and Republicans to reject the hate of Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
He added that the money could also help other Democrats vote across the state of Georgia.
State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Republican from Dalton, said the money poured into this year’s contest far exceeds the actual competitiveness of the race, which Greene is heavily favored to win.
“It’s mind-blowing because it’s not necessary, it’s kind of a waste of political money,” he said. “But it illustrates how polarizing she is. Either you love it or you hate it; There is no intermediate solution. Lovers send money to him and haters send money to the other guy.
Arthur Rouse, a retired media producer based in Lexington, Kentucky, is among Flowers’ many outside donors. He said he first discovered the effort to overthrow Greene on social media and was drawn to Flowers’ background as a veteran and defense contractor. In March, Rouse wrote a check for $5,800, the maximum allowed.
He said he hadn’t researched the details of the race and didn’t know Flowers would face long odds in November, but that doesn’t mean he regrets his donation.
“Whether Marcus Flowers can win or not, I don’t care,” he said. “I just want to express that I’m for any candidate in some of these districts who is going to oppose some of these fringe Republicans.”
The race could easily end with the two candidates raising a combined $25 million in a district where 69% of voters are Republicans and 31% are Democrats, according to Princeton University.
At the southern end of the state, in southwest Georgia, there is a competitive race for Congress that Republicans have targeted in their effort to regain control of the United States House. There, Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop had raised $1.9 million through June, about as much as the Republicans challenging him.
Greene and Flowers beat those candidates in a race that was far less likely to be competitive, and the money was used in a way that drew criticism. Flowers pays himself a salary of about $5,000 a month — which the Federal Election Commission has ruled legal — and Greene has spent more than $92,000 buying a Buick SUV that takes him to campaign stops.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of Greene and Flowers’ campaign finance reports also shows that both candidates spent a lot of money on digital ads and fundraising consultants in an effort to raise more money, diverting expenses from direct contact with district voters.
Greene was already a lightning rod when she entered Congress in January 2021, known for her baseless conspiracy theories, including some tied to the QAnon movement. She also had a long history of making anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and racist statements in online speeches and videos aimed at conservative audiences.
In the district, however, she has worked to connect with voters, and many are willing to give her another term even if they disagree with some of her more problematic antics.
“He’s a rock star,” Carpenter said recently. “People like her. This neighborhood – it’s lengthened and it’s changed a bit with the redrawing of the lines – but, for the most part, it’s a lot of people who like people to stand up and speak their minds. And so that resonates with a huge swath of voters in this district.
Greene was sworn in just three days before the deadly January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol, when Trump supporters stormed the building, spurred on by his false allegations of voter fraud after he lost his candidacy for re-election.
Although she publicly condemned the violence, she later accused the federal government of abusing those accused of assaulting police or entering the Capitol. And she has been spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation about the riot, at times deviating from the reality that it was carried out by Trump supporters.
Flowers, who has never held office, said he decided to run against Greene because of Jan. 6. He says he sees her as a threat to democracy.
He rose to the top of a crowded Democratic primary thanks in large part to his enormous fundraising advantage.
Flowers is now touring the district in his usual black cowboy hat and has become a rock star in his own right among Democrats with long lines of supporters hoping for selfies saluting him at the party’s recent state convention in columbus.
Because the race has been nationalized, both candidates raise the vast majority of their money from out of state. Most funds come from donors whose small contributions do not reach the federal limit requiring full reporting of individual contributions.
Of the $4.7 million that was split between the two, less than $100,000 came from the 14th arrondissement zip codes. Greene received approximately $80,000 from within the district, which is 3% of his detailed funds. For flowers, the number is around $16,000, or less than 1% of all dollars itemized.
“Republicans across the country love Marjorie,” Greene’s campaign said in a statement. “It’s reflected in his fundraising numbers, his social media followers and engagement, and his demand in the Republican primaries (candidates are begging for his approval) to name a few reasons.”
At the same time, his campaign mocks Flowers’ fundraising as wasted money in a heavily Republican district.
“Marcus Flowers consultants steal from Democratic donors, which is fine with Marjorie,” his team said. “That means more than $15 million will go to wasteful efforts by Democrats instead of major districts and key states. She encourages him. »
Spend money to make money
Greene and Flowers have spent millions on additional fundraising efforts, according to a review of their spending.
Of the nearly $8 million Greene has spent through June, $5 million is categorized as “soliciting and fundraising expenses.” The second largest expense category is $2.4 million for “Admin/Salary/Overhead”.
The vendor that has received the most money from Greene’s campaign is LGM Consulting Group, a digital fundraiser that has required at least one previous candidate to pay as a fee 80% of the money the company has brought in from new donors. The company, which first became active during the 2018 campaign cycle, currently ranks among the top 100 political vendors nationwide.
Among LGM’s clients are American senses Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida, as well as Georgian Republican Mike Collins, who is expected to easily win November’s 10th congressional district contest. But the company earned by far the most money this cycle from Greene’s campaign: $1.1 million.
At least $3.5 million of the $10 million spent by Flowers falls into categories related to fundraising expenses. And almost all of that went to one company, Blue Chip Strategies.
Bobby Kaple, a former television news anchor and unsuccessful congressional candidate, and Michael Carcaise, a Colorado-based political consultant, launched Blue Chip Strategies in 2019.
The company was paid by a handful of other candidates in Georgia, including Democratic nominee for attorney general Jen Jordan. Flowers’ campaign was the most lucrative for Blue Chip, accounting for 91% of all its reported revenue, or about $3.4 million.
A person familiar with Flowers’ campaign told AJC that the money given to the company includes funding for digital ads on Facebook and other platforms. The campaign and Blue Chip declined to share details of their agreement, such as whether the company earns a percentage of any amount collected as a fee.
Kristin Oblander, a veteran fundraiser in Democratic circles in Georgia, said the money Flowers raised could be better spent on races where the Democratic nominee is more likely to win in November.
Oblander said Greene tends to stir up the emotions of leftist voters with his controversial statements.
“It excites the donors to think they’re hurting him politically in some way,” Oblander said, “but there are better ways to do it.”
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