Compared to their relatively grassroots-funded Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia are being generously bankrolled by Wall Street interests eager to see the GOP maintain its hold on the U.S. Senate—control of which is up for grabs in the high-stakes runoff races on January 5.
"On top of money to the candidates, conservative outside groups are also raking in cash from major financial interests for the Georgia Senate runoffs in an attempt to keep these seats—and the Senate—for the GOP," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), told The Guardian Tuesday.
Two super PACs are planning to spend roughly $80 million on ads and other campaign expenses on behalf of Perdue and Loeffler, the news outlet reported.
Stephen Schwarzman—close ally to President Donald Trump and CEO of the private equity firm and mega-landlord Blackstone Group which, as Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, is already positioning itself to capitalize on a looming eviction crisis—is among the top donors, along with financier Kenneth Griffin of Citadel LLC.
Both billionaires have given millions to the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) super PAC, which "boasts close ties" to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and is supporting Perdue, according to campaign finance records, The Guardian reported.
Last month alone, Schwarzman contributed $15 million to the SLF, while Griffin gave $10 million. That was on top of donations the two oligarchs made earlier this year—$20 million from Schwarzman and $25 million from Griffin.
"Other finance sector mega donors to the super PAC," The Guardian added, "include the CEOs of Charles Schwab, which gave $6.3 million, plus Elliott Management and Stephens Inc., both of which chipped in $4 million."
In addition to the SLF, "a fundraising committee backing both Republican senators that launched last month has surpassed its goal of raising $35 million," with the help of powerful Wall Street investors, including Schwarzman, Griffin, and others, the news outlet reported.
According to The Guardian, which drew on analysis from CRP, the finance, insurance, and real estate industries have been the biggest donors to Perdue, Loeffler, and the SLF:
Elected in 2014, Perdue has raked in about $4.4 million from securities, investment, and real estate companies from 2015-2020, making the sector his leading campaign funder, CRP data shows... Perdue's top 10 donors, meanwhile, have included executives from insurer AFLAC and Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs which, respectively, gave him $92,000 and $88,000, according to CRP.
Loeffler, who was appointed in late 2019 to fill the seat of a retiring senator with health problems, has this cycle pulled in over $1.1 million from these firms, or more than other sectors donated, says CRP... Loeffler's 10 leading donors have included $114,650 from Intercontinental Exchange, a company her husband Jeffrey Sprecher runs; $29,450 from AFLAC; and $22,500 from Blackstone Group.
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The news outlet noted that "Perdue and Loeffler's strong support from financial industry leaders seems partly attributable to their industry ties. An ex-CEO of Dollar General whose net worth was estimated last year at $16 million, Perdue used to be on the board of Cardlytics, a financial tech company." Meanwhile, "Loeffler's husband chairs the New York Stock Exchange and leads global exchange operator ICE. The couple's net worth has been pegged by Forbes at $800 million."
Loeffler and Perdue, whom The Guardian called "the most prolific stock trader in the Senate," have "been dogged by ethical issues involving... well-timed and profitable stock trading."
As Common Dreams has reported, both Perdue and Loeffler have come under fire for allegations of illegal insider trading, including using information obtained during early briefings about the threat posed by the coronavirus to buy and sell stocks.
Since Ossoff publicly eviscerated Perdue in late October, calling him a "crook" who sought to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic while downplaying its severity and undermining his constituents' access to healthcare, the Republican incumbent has refused to share a stage with his Democratic challenger.
Although Perdue's no-show at the early December debate denied Ossoff an opportunity to address him in-person, the Democratic candidate has not shied away from drawing attention to additional, more recent revelations of the GOP senator's suspicious Wall Street activities, accusing the lawmaker last month of "blatantly exploiting his office to line his own pockets."
When Warnock asked Loeffler whether senators should be permitted to trade stocks, the Republican incumbent refused to answer her Democratic challenger, referring to the controversy about her financial investments as a "conspiracy" and "left-wing media lie," as The Guardian noted.
None of this is to suggest that there are not Democrats on Wall Street who support Ossoff and Warnock. The pro-Democrat Senate Majority PAC, which is backing both candidates, "is expected to spend millions of dollars in the runoffs," The Guardian reported, but has "so far been outmatched in donations."
Despite securing "big money from two financial giants, receiving $10.2 million from Renaissance Technologies and $5 million from Paloma Partners," the news outlet reported that "as of November 23, the Senate Majority PAC had just $2.1 million left to spend, while the SLF had $60.8 million, according to CRP."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), however, showed that millions of small-dollar donations can power a race, rendering large donations from the finance, insurance, and real estate industries unnecessary. The disparity in Wall Street contributions might even serve to highlight a campaign message that Ossoff, Warnock, and organizers are trying to spread.
As Common Dreams reported Monday, progressive supporters of the two Democratic candidates are trying to emphasize that winning both of Georgia's runoff elections and securing a majority in the U.S. Senate is an absolutely essential prerequisite to improving the well-being of America's struggling Main Streets.