Kelly’s Rough Week: Loeffler in “An Untenable Position” as GOP Takes Sides in Bitter Intraparty War

April 17, 2020

After Loeffler’s “lesson in how not to manage a crisis,” Collins gains new allies against Loeffler’s millions in brutal and expensive GOP fight

ATLANTA — Unelected “political mega-donor” Senator Kelly Loeffler had yet another rough week in her struggling campaign. After her failed attempts at damage control became a “lesson in how not to manage a crisis,” her opponent, top Trump ally Congressman Doug Collins, continues to pick up endorsements as a new dark money group enters the fray in this “brutal Republican-on-Republican fight” which has already “divided state Republicans.”

Loeffler’s week began with Congressman Drew Ferguson and a major pro-Trump super PAC — whose chairman already attacked “Loeffler’s corruption” in an Augusta Chronicle op-ed — “breaking ranks” to endorse Collins. Now, a new dark money group promising to “anonymously bring down Kelly Loeffler” has entered the fight with “plans for a larger and more aggressive media operation” — coming just after outside conservative groups backing Loeffler have gone dark in Georgia.

But that’s not all: a former member of Governor Brian Kemp’s administration also broke with “the governor’s hand-picked choice” today to back Collins over Loeffler, the latest sign that Loeffler’s scandal has only poured fuel on a raging intraparty fire. With Loeffler now at a “distinct disadvantage” following her disastrous handling of her scandal, Republican leaders have even more reason to worry about “down-ticket damage” this November as the GOP gets ready to enter the next brutal phase of their intraparty battle.

Read the latest coverage from this week on the GOP’s growing intraparty brawl:

AJC: Ex-Kemp deputy backs Collins over gov’s Senate pick

  • The former top public safety official in Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration on Friday endorsed U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’s campaign for U.S. Senate, siding with the four-term Republican over the governor’s hand-picked choice for the seat.
  • Mark McDonough, the ex-commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and 18 county sheriffs backed Collins in the free-for-all November special election against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a financial executive Kemp tapped to the seat months ago.
  • McDonough’s endorsement came days after U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson announced his support for Collins, becoming the first Republican member of Georgia’s congressional delegation to take sides in the race. Since then, several congressional candidates and a Washington-based super PAC have also backed his bid.
  • [Loeffler’s] facing new headwinds as she tries to settle questions about stock transactions during the coronavirus pandemic that led her to announce she would no longer invest in stocks in individual companies.

Cook Political Report: Georgia Senate Special: Loeffler Support Softens

  • Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler was already facing a tough race after being appointed at the beginning of the year to fill the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson. Only weeks after being sworn in, GOP Rep. Doug Collins announced he would challenge her from the right, while national Democrats quickly coalesced behind Rev. Raphael Warnock on the left.
  • Now, reports that Loeffler sold off around $20 million in stocks shortly after a briefing on the COVID-19 threat have put her in an untenable position, making her efforts to win the November special election more difficult and putting her at a distinct disadvantage for now.
  • What’s happened since then has looked like a lesson in how not to manage a crisis. Loeffler has doubled down and blamed the media, even as more stock transactions during that time frame continued to trickle out.
  • [Loeffler] never fully answered questions about whether she and her husband had any contact with those advisers or other specifics when pressed.
  • Her wealth, given the stock controversies, is likely to be wielded as a double-edged sword. And, as I wrote last year for NPR, self-funding candidates rarely succeed.
  • One Georgia Republican backing the congressman argued it was a “fatal mistake I don’t think she can recover from.”

NY Mag: Kelly Loeffler’s Money Is Her Biggest Problem and Her Only Hope

  • If you want a post-2020-election scenario that’s perilous fun, consider the possibility that control of the U.S. Senate (crucial to the winner of the presidential race, no matter whom that might be) will hang in the balance as voters in an increasingly polarized Georgia choose a senator in a January 5, 2021 runoff.
  • Both Collins and Warnock were undoubtedly cheered when the only attention Loeffler drew as a fledgling senator was in two rounds of terrible publicity about stock trades she and her hubby made just prior to the coronavirus outbreak that had the aroma of, if not necessarily the legal criteria for, insider trading.
  • Her opponents likely smell blood in the water, and even though Loeffler has done everything possible to suck up to Trump since joining the Senate, she still has to worry about the GOP’s warrior-king backing Collins’s challenge,
  • With Collins and Loeffler pounding each other for months, the GOP will not necessarily maintain its past partisan advantage in Georgia runoffs. And if Senate control is on the line, all bets are off.

The Daily Beast: GOP Group Tells Donors They Can Help Anonymously Bring Down Kelly Loeffler

  • Donors have a way to go after the senator who finds herself at the heart of an insider-trading scandal without drawing the ire of party leaders: They can do it anonymously.
  • [The group] has plans for a larger and more aggressive media operation, including more “widespread digital advertising investments” and “television and other mass media advertisements.”
  • It’s offering donors “investment opportunities to sponsor” those ad campaigns. And one of its selling points is that those donors can make those “investment opportunities” without having to reveal their names.
  • That lack of disclosure is key to Georgia Is Not for Sale’s appeal for potential donors, a source with close ties to the group told PAY DIRT. The goal is to give deep-pocketed Collins supporters the opportunity to boost his primary prospects without opening themselves up to reciminiations from Kemp in particular.

Open Secrets: GOP infighting ensues for Georgia Senate seat

  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and primary challenger Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) are amassing huge sums of campaign cash in what has become a divisive special Senate election. 
  • The stakes are high for Senate Republicans in the competitive Georgia special election. A runoff election will be held in January if no candidate gets a majority of votes in the jungle primary.
  • After news broke last month that Loeffler sold up to seven figures in publicly traded stocks after attending a classified coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24, Loeffler’s stance in the race was jeopardized. The accusations of insider trading are hurting her chances in the jungle primary, according to Christopher Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University.
  • “A lot of people have never heard of her before the governor announced her appointment,” Grant said. “So for many Georgians, their first real introduction to her as a headline senator has been the stock scandal. This is not a good way to get introduced to voters, especially during a time when people are frustrated and in hardship.”
  • “That changed a lot of dynamics,” Grant said. “You’ve got a divided Republican Party fighting between Loeffler and Collins. The dynamics of that race then introduce the opening for the Democrats to be able to win.”


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