Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Oconee County’s Three Incumbent State Legislators Have Large Campaign Accounts As Elections Get Underway

***Among Them, They Report Having $1.2 Million***

Oconee County’s three incumbent Republican state legislators entered the campaign season with huge financial resources, having raised $367,629 in the seven months leading up to the just completed legislative session and reporting a net balance among them at that time of $1.2 million.

House District 120 Rep. Houston Gaines, who represents Bogart and Marswood Hall precincts in Oconee County, led the three legislators with $184,099 received from July 1 of last year to Jan. 31 of this year, and with a net balance on hand of $613,558, according to his report to the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission.

House District 121 Rep. Marcus Wiedower, who represents the remaining six Oconee County precincts, raised $95,930 in those seven months, and reported a net balance on hand of $302,449.

Bill Cowsert, who represents all of Oconee County in Senate District 46, raised $87,600 from July 31 of 2023 to Jan. 31 of 2024 and reported a balance on hand on Jan. 31 of $302,970.

The three legislators were not allowed to raise money during the legislative session, which ended early Friday morning of last week. The next reporting period is April 30.

Of the three, only Wiedower has competition in the May 21 Republican Primary, with John Michael Grigsby also having qualified to run in that race. Grigsby had not reported raising any money as of March 13.

Three Democrats, Andrew Ferguson in House District 120, Courtney Frisch in House District 121, and Gareth Fenley, in Senate District 46, will be unopposed in the May 21 Democratic Party Primary.

Ferguson and Frisch had not reported any money raised as of March 10 and March 20 respectively, and Fenley reported raising $615 and having $569 on hand in a report she filed on Feb. 5.

Contributions And Spending: Gaines

Gaines received $3,300, the maximum amount allowed, from six donors.

Those six were: GAPB Pac of Gainesville; KM Holdings LLC, in Oconee County; Donald Leebert III of McDonough; Kelly Mahoney twice, once for the primary and once for the general election, and "QuickTrip" Corporation from Tulsa. (The correct name of the Tulsa company is QuikTrip.)

GAPB is Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen.

KM Holdings and Kelly Mahoney both are listed at 8830 Macon Highway, Suite 300. Mahoney is co-founder and managing partner of Hillpointe, a development and construction firm, which employs Wiedower as part of its “team.”

A large number of Gaines’ contributions come from outside his district, with several of those coming from outside the state.

Included are: $1,500 from Caesars Enterprise Services LLC from Las Vegas; $1,500 from Entertainment Software Association, which represents the video game industry; $1,000 from Sports Betting Alliance from Alexandria, Va., and $1,000 from United Health Care Group of Minneapolis.

Gaines’ largest listed expenditure was $6,878 to Intown living for “official lodging.”

Contributions And Spending: Wiedower

Wiedower received three donations of $3,300: from Brad Kinsell, owner of Gator Fire of Gainesville, a fire protection company; from Gator Fire, and from Tripp Fire of Gainesville.

Screen Shot Wiedower 3/28/2024

He received $3,000 from Civil Justice PAC of Atlanta, $3,000 from the Georgia Association of Realtors PAC, $3,000 from KT Strategies of Smyrna, and $3,000 from Sports Betting Alliance of Lubbock, Tex.

Wiedower received $2,500 from Caesars Enterprise Services LLC from Las Vegas, and $400 from the Georgia Amusement And Music Operators Association, which promotes and serves the coin operated amusement and music industry.

Wiedower’s largest expenditure was $3,000 given to the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation as a “civic donation.”

Contributions And Spending: Cowsert

Cowsert received five contributions of $3,300.

They were from: AT&T Georgia Political Action Committee, Atlanta; Lucky Bucks LLC of Norcross; Robert Throne of Potomac, Md., Stroble Insights LLC of Brookhaven, and Georgia Medical Political Action Committee of Atlanta.

Lucky Bucks is a gaming group, and Cowsert also received $1,000 from Caesars Enterprise Services LLC of Las Vegas, and $2,000 from Fantasy Sports Operator Coalition of Arlington, Va.

Cowsert’s largest expenditures were for candidate lodging and travel, and included $2,870 to Power Services of Norcross for “candidate travel, lodging and meals” and $2,500 to Williams Selyem Winery of Healdsburg, Calif., for “wine for fundraising event/wine tasting.”

Gaming Legislation 2023

In both the 2023 and the 2024 legislative sessions, Cowsert and Wiedower played lead roles in trying to get gaming legislation passed.

Screen Shot Cowsert 3/27/2024

In 2023 Cowsert introduced Senate Resolution 140 and Senate Bill 172, which would have asked voters to amend the state constitution to allow sports betting and created a gaming commission to regulate that betting.

Senate Resolution 140 passed the Senate 30 to 26, short of the two-thirds requirement needed to ask for a vote on a constitutional amendment. Cowsert voted with the 30 supporters.

The Senate did not vote on Senate Bill 172.

Wiedower was the sponsor of House Bill 380, which would have granted up to 16 licenses to companies running sports betting businesses and would not have asked for a constitutional amendment. The bill did not make it out of the House.

The contributions listed in the Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports on Jan. 31 of this year were after the 2023 legislative session but before the opening of the 2024 session.

Gaming Legislation 2024

In the just completed 2024 session, Wiedower was the sponsor in the House of Senate Bill 386, which would have authorized sports betting in the state. The bill passed the Senate, with Cowsert’s vote, but it did not get a vote in the full House.

It did receive a positive vote in the House Higher Education Committee, on which Wiedower sits and before which he advocated for the bill.

Cowsert was the lead sponsor of Senate Resolution 579 proposing to amendment the Georgia Constitution to authorize the Georgia General Assembly to pass a law for sports betting in the state.

Wiedower was the House sponsor of that resolution.

That resolution also passed the Senate and was given a favorable vote by the House Higher Education Committee, but it did not get a vote in the full House.


The first video below is from the General Assembly YouTube Channel and is of the meeting of the House Higher Education Committee on March 27. Cowsert appeared before that Committee.

Discussion of the gaming legislation begins at 33:50 in the video.

The second video, also from the General Assembly YouTube Channel, is of the House Higher Education Committee meeting on March 28 at which the Committee considered Senate Bill 386 and Senate Resolution 579.

The session begins at 19:19 in the video.

1 comment:

Victoria Cruz said...

I am personally opposed to all manner of gambling because of the adverse effect my father's gambling habit had on my family. I sense that many Georgians also oppose gambling since many attempts to legislate it here have failed.

Now I see why my state senator and representative continue to try and institute it in our state: they are being "paid" to. Ordinary citizens should not have to compete with out-of-state corporate donors who don't have the welfare of GA citizens in mind, but instead pursue profits for themselves. The last time I checked, our GA constitution states "All government, of right, originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted for the good of the whole. Public officers are the trustees and servants of the people and are at all times amenable to them." (Art. I, Sec II, Para I)
Cesar's Palace wasn't mentioned once! The people cannot let up on this.