True the Vote and Georgia Republican Party Violated Campaign Finance Laws by Illegally Coordinating Ahead of January Senate Runoff Elections
Washington, D.C. – Today, Campaign Legal Center Action (CLCA) and Common Cause Georgia filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that during the lead up to the Georgia Senate runoff elections, the Georgia Republican Party illegally coordinated with True the Vote.
In December 2020, True the Vote, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, stated that it had received a request from the Georgia Republican Party for assistance with the 2021 Senate runoff election, and announced through a press release a partnership with the party to provide services in connection with the election. In the press release Georgia Republican Party Chairman, David Shafer said, “We are grateful for the help of the True the Vote team in the fight for election integrity,” and “The resources of True the Vote will help us organize and implement the most comprehensive ballot security initiative in Georgia history.”
The services True the Vote provided included a voter hotline, ballot-curing support, signature verification training and absentee ballot drop box monitoring. Federal law prohibits a corporation like True the Vote from coordinating with a political party on any expenditures made, “in connection with an election.”
“True the Vote stated publicly that it was coordinating its election activities with the Georgia Republican Party, and as a result, both violated federal campaign finance law,” said Brendan Fischer, CLCA director of federal reform. “It doesn’t matter if True the Vote expressly urged voters to elect Republicans, the relevant legal question is whether True the Vote spent money ‘in connection with an election’ and coordinated that spending with the Georgia Republican Party. The evidence shows that it did.”
Campaign finance law treats coordinated expenditures as in-kind contributions. A corporation like True the Vote is prohibited from contributing to a party committee. By True the Vote coordinating its spending with the Georgia Republican Party, it illegally made in-kind contributions to the party, and the party illegally accepted those contributions.
“The pattern was clear, in the voting challenges,” said Common Cause Executive Director Aunna Dennis. “In Floyd County, the GOP vice chairman ‘filled out the form letter provided by True The Vote’ to challenge voters. In Cobb County, the voter challenges were filed by the county GOP chair. The Muscogee County voter challenges were filed ‘on behalf of’ the county GOP. In Gwinnett County, the challenges were made by the Assistant Secretary of the state GOP. This was a coordinated campaign to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Georgians before the January Senate runoffs.”
Corporations are not supposed to act as an arm of a campaign or political party, and since coordinated spending is just as valuable to a party as direct contributions, coordination between outside spenders and a political party is illegal. The FEC, which is the only government agency whose sole responsibility is overseeing the integrity of our political campaigns, must investigate and hold all parties accountable for their blatant disregard for campaign finance laws.
At Campaign Legal Center, we are advancing democracy through law. Learn more about our work.