Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., waits to speak during a television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has the backing of party leaders, and insurgent challenger Rep. Doug Collins — both competing for the same Georgia Senate seat — each raised about $1.1 million from donors in the first quarter of this year that was marked by the coronavirus crisis.
Loeffler reported having $6.1 million available at the beginning of April to spend on her campaign. The Georgia lawmaker, who took office on Jan. 6, received just under $1.2 million in contributions from the first of the year through the end of March, her campaign reported Wednesday.
Her fundraising appeared to take a hit after a series of stories revealed stock sales were made after a closed-door Senate coronavirus briefing that she attended in January. Loeffler, who is the wealthiest member of Congress, has said a third-party adviser made those stock sales without her knowledge.
Prior to a string of March 20 stories about Loeffler’s financial transactions, her campaign committee took in an average of nearly $7,400 a day from individual donors. In the final 11 days of the fundraising period, those average figures dropped by nearly 10 percent, to just over $6,700.
In the same 11 days, Collins’ fundraising soared, with the Georgia representative taking in an average of nearly $13,000 each day from individual donors, nearly double what Loeffler’s campaign averaged each day in the same period.
That was also around the time a White House task force asked all Americans to self-isolate for 15 days to help to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Stephen Lawson, Loeffler’s campaign communications director, told McClatchy the senator canceled fundraisers in March and noted that she was in Washington, D.C., where she had to vote on coronavirus legislation.
“When she got back into the state she continued to be focused on coronavirus relief and helping constituents get the economic assistance they need,” Lawson said.
Loeffler’s campaign said the senator’s war chest gives her “an early and commanding financial lead” in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat she has held since January.
“With over $6.1 million cash on hand and donations coming from every corner of our state, it’s clear that hardworking Georgians are turning away from career politicians and toward proven conservative leaders like Kelly Loeffler who have put politics aside to focus on delivering relief to families and businesses impacted most by COVID-19,” Lawson said in a statement.
Asked to respond, Collins’ campaign noted that Loeffler has the support of the Senate majority leader and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
“She’s the incumbent with the backing of Mitch McConnell, Governor Kemp and an army of lobbyists. Doug tied her and did it with $20 donations from farmers and blue collar workers from Perry to Paulding County. It seems the only person who really supports Kelly Loeffler is Kelly Loeffler,” Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said in an email.
Kemp appointed Loeffler to the U.S. Senate seat in December after incumbent Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson retired early. A special election will take place in November to fill the remainder of his term.
With the dip in fundraising, Loeffler, who was widely expected to self-fund her campaign to a significant degree, again turned to the bank, taking out her second $5 million loan so far.
Much of that money that Loeffler took in for her campaign was from in-kind contributions and loans. To date, loans taken out by Loeffler have accounted for more than 85 percent of her campaign’s $11.6 million in total receipts.
Loeffler’s campaign received checks from some of the biggest donors in the Republican Party, including the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus, and billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer. Both of them gave $5,600, the maximum allowed, before the stories about Loeffler’s transactions. Her campaign also snagged a handful of big checks after the stories broke, including $5,600 from billionaire investor Ken Fisher.
Collins fared better with small-dollar donors, with his Senate and congressional campaigns taking in more than $430,000 from contributors who gave less than $200 total.
Loeffler’s campaign took in less than a quarter of that, with just shy of $95,000 coming from small-dollar donors. Small-dollar donors accounted for 45 percent of what Collins took in from individual contributors.