Republicans are closing the fundraising gap in a Georgia congressional special election with millions in outside spending, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Jon Ossoff, the Democratic nominee, has outspent his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, by a 7-to-1 margin. Ossoff reported spending $22.5 million; Handel has only spent $3.2 million.
Independent expenditure organizations, however, have spent more than twice the combined amount for both candidates. The influx has turned the race to replace former Rep. Tom Price -- now head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- into the most expensive House contest in U.S. history, with a price tag that's topped $55 million and is still rising.
A MapLight analysis found outside sources have added $8.2 million to Ossoff's effort. GOP independent groups have countered with $18.5 million in spending to support Handel, narrowing the gap between the two candidates to $9 million.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC, was the biggest outside spender, dropping $7.5 million to support Handel. The fund is closely linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan and is dedicated to keeping a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Since March, the fund has received $5 million from American Action Network, a dark money organization that has been one of the top spenders in federal elections.
The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), spent an additional $6.7 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made $5.4 million in independent expenditures supporting Ossoff.
Roughly one-fifth of independent expenditures in the race have been paid for by dark money organizations, political nonprofits that do not have to reveal their donors. America First Policies, a nonprofit started by Trump advisors, was the top-spending dark money organization, dispensing $1.3 million to support Handel. Ending Spending, a nonprofit started by Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, also spent $1.3 million on Handel. During the 2016 election cycle, the 45 Committee -- linked to Ricketts’ son -- was the third highest-spending dark money organization. The committee has spent $ $371,852 in the Georgia race. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the second-highest-spending dark money organization in 2016, has spent more than $1 million on the race.
The highest-spending liberal nonprofit was Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which spent $830,686. The fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, does not reveal its donors.
There is also a marked difference in the sizes of donations given to the candidates. More than $15 million of the $23 million Ossoff has raised has come from small, unitemized donations of $200 or less. Meanwhile, small donations made up only $1.6 million of the $4.3 million raised by Handel.
The election will be June 20. An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll released Friday gave Ossoff a seven-point lead.
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