Rep. Buddy Carter May Have Violated Federal Election Law Ahead of Possible U.S. Senate Run

August 11, 2021

Rep. Buddy Carter — who has repeatedly noted that he’ll join the GOP primary if Trump’s hand-picked candidate Herschel Walker bows out — violated federal election law ahead of a possible entrance into Georgia’s U.S. Senate race. Carter spent tens of thousands of dollars on a statewide ad without declaring his candidacy to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 15 days, as required by law. A formal complaint has been filed with the FEC requesting a swift investigation into violations by Rep. Carter and his campaign.

Read the latest from the Savannah Morning News:

  • The Democratic Party of Georgia has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging illegal campaign spending by 1st District Congressman Buddy Carter.
  • The complaint centers around a statewide advertisement aired by Carter during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The commercial derides baseball’s “catering to cancel culture” by pulling the All-Star game out of Atlanta following the passage of Georgia’s controversial voting bill, S.B. 202.
  • The DPG complaint alleges that Carter spent campaign money for a statewide ad, but not yet announced his run for a statewide post, as is required 15 days after spending more than $5,000 to campaign for another seat. 
  • Included in the DPG’s complaint are various exhibits, including details of the campaign’s spending on the advertisement. It shows $75,000 worth of spending on airtime for the advertisement, with over $50,000 spent in Atlanta, around $23,000 spent in Savannah and a little over $1,000 spent in Macon.
  • “According to public reports and his own admission, Representative Carter has spent significant sums of money to advance his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Georgia — hiring a campaign team, preparing a launch statement, and running a statewide television advertisement. Yet, he has failed to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to alert the public of his candidacy as required by law,” the complaint reads. 
  • Earlier this year, Carter said he was mulling a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Raphael Warnock but said he’ll only run if former UGA football standout and current Texas resident Herschel Walker does not.
  • Carter’s press team did not respond to emails and calls regarding the complaint. 
  • According to the FEC’s website, anyone running for U.S. House, Senate or the presidency “becomes a candidate when he or she raises or spends more than $5,000 in contributions or expenditures. When that limit is reached, candidates must register with a statement of candidacy and designate their campaign committee within 15 days. Every candidate has to do this, including incumbents.” 
  • “Once an individual begins to campaign or decides to become a candidate, funds that were raised or spent to test the waters apply to the $5,000 threshold for qualifying as a candidate. Once that threshold is exceeded, the individual must register and begin filing reports,” the FEC’s website reads.
  • Certain activities don’t fall under the “testing the waters” provision, including one that is the basis for the DPG’s complaint: “Using general public political advertising to publicize their intention to campaign.”
  • Carter’s advertisement ran statewide, a fact his team made note of in promoting the ad in a press release. Carter currently represents only Georgia’s 1st District residents. The district, one of 14 in the state, stretches the length of Georgia’s coast and also includes parts of inland counties.
  • So the question becomes: is it legal for Carter to spend money that exceeds the “testing the waters” limit outside of the district he’s running in? 
  • Miles Martin, a public affairs specialist with the FEC, says that a candidate is not “expressly prohibited” from advertising outside their district and it isn’t uncommon for House candidates to swap over to a Senate race. But if they’re running for both simultaneously, they have to have a separate campaign fundraising committee. 
  • Ultimately, the decision will fall on the FEC. Martin says once the commission receives a complaint the Office of General Counsel will be the first body to assess it. They consider whether the complaint is notarized and whether it falls under the FEC’s jurisdiction before proceeding.
  • Carter’s team will have a chance to refute the allegations and the case would proceed from there, and the Office of General Counsel writes a report with recommendations to the FEC. 
  • The FEC then votes to proceed with an investigation or dismiss the case. If they deem the complaint legitimate, they proceed with an investigation. 
  • “If there’s a finding of violation, it usually comes down to a conciliation agreement between the respondent and the commission,” Martin said. 
  • But for now, the complaint is filed, and it’s up to the FEC to determine what happens next. 


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