Friday, May 17, 2024

Wiedower Outpaced All Others In Oconee County Legislative Delegation And Other Candidates In Campaign Fundraising In April

***Bulk Of Wiedower Spending Goes To Other Candidates***

Republican State Rep. Marcus Wiedower had a very good April, raising $129,050 from the end of the legislative session early in the morning of March 29 to the April 30 filing deadline for campaign contributions.

That average of just more than $4,000 per day put him far ahead of his colleague Republican Rep. Houston Gaines, who raised $60,925 during that same period, and Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert, who reported raising only $2,750 in the days following the end of the legislative session.

Wiedower represents the 121st House District, which includes all of Oconee County except the Marswood Hall and Bogart precincts.

Gaines represents those two precincts in the 120th House District. Cowsert represents all of Oconee County in the 46th Senate District.

All three incumbents are on the Republican Ballot in the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan General Election, but only Wiedower has opposition.

John Michael Grigsby, who is challenging Wiedower on the Republican ballot, did not report raising any money in the Feb. 1 to April 30 campaign finance reporting period.

Only the incumbents are prohibited from raising money during the legislative session.

Courtney Frisch, who is the sole Democrat on the ballot to oppose Wiedower in November, also raised no money by April 30, while Andrew Ferguson, on the Democratic ballot to oppose Gaines, reported raising $2,571, and Gareth Fenley, on the Democratic ballot to oppose Cowsert, reported raising $2,115.

Cash On Hand

The deadline for filing the Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report was April 30, covering the period from Feb. 1 to that date, but candidates are given a seven-day grace period to file, and Wiedower and Gaines filed on May 6, and Cowsert filed on May 7.

Fenley and Ferguson filed on May 5 and May 3 respectively.

While the campaigns were in their early stages in April, Wiedower reported spending $41,663 in his April 30 report, Gaines reported spending $17,983, and Cowsert reported spending $11,771.

Fenley said she spent $1,344, and Ferguson said he had not spent any money during the Feb. 1 to April 30 period.

The three incumbents brought forward huge balances from previous filings, and Wiedower ended the April 30 filing period with $389,835 cash on hand, while Gaines reported a net balance cash on hand of $656,499, and Cowsert reported holding $293,949.

Fenley reported $1,339 on hand, and Ferguson reported $2,571.

Campaign Contributions Wiedower

Wiedower received nine contributions at the maximum allowed amount of $3,300 and another at $3,000, one at 2,300, 11 at $2,000, three at $1,500, and 42 at $1,000 as reported in the April 30 filling. He actually reported his first contribution on April 8 and the last on April 30.

Wiedower At Committee Hearing 3/28/2024

The contributors at $3,300 were Rob Scott, Apryl Hughes, Chad Keller, Oconee Property Investment LLC, Yonis Martinez, Mark Jennings, Zachary McLeroy, and Walter Willoughby Drywall Inc.

McLeroy gave twice at that amount, as is allowed, with one contribution for the May primary and the other for the November election.

Attorney Kevin Epps is the authorizer signature for Oconee Properties LLC, which holds three properties on SR 316 near Julian Drive, according to county tax records.

Wiedower received $1,000 contributions from a number of law firms, from the Georgia Highway Contractors Association PAC, the Georgia Power Company State Employee PAC, the Committee for an Affordable Workforce Housing, and the Georgia Bankers Association.

The only contributor linked to Wiedower’s support of online gambling legislation was the Georgia Amusement and Music Operators Association of Braselton, which promotes and serves the coin operated amusement and music industry, and which contributed $500.

Wiedower had received $500 from the Georgia Amusement And Music Operators Association in Nov. 30, 2021, and $500 on Jan. 6, 2023.

The Georgia Sports Betting Alliance of Lubbock, Tex., contributed $1,000 to Wiedower on Oct. 19, 2022, and $3,000 on Oct. 30, 2023.

Wiedower also received $2,500 from Caesars Enterprise Services LLC from Las Vegas, on Nov. 7, 2023.

In both the 2023 and the 2024 legislative sessions, Wiedower and Cowsert played lead roles in trying to get gaming legislation passed. They were not successful.

Campaign Spending Wiedower, Grigsby, Frisch

Wiedower’s largest single expense in the April 30 campaign filing period was $7,120 to War Room Strategies, 3651 Mars Hill Road, listed as a campaign consultant.

Grigsby At Candidate Forum 4/4/2024

Wiedower’s largest expense, by type, was contributions to the campaigns of other candidates, for a total of $16,200.

In four of those cases, Wiedower contributed the maximum amount allowed of $3,300.

Wiedower reported $8,763 for four different entries labeled “candidate travel, lodging and meals.”

Wiedower signs are prominent in the county, in contrast to Grigsby.

At the candidate forum held by the Conservatives of Northeast Georgia, Grigsby said “you won’t see me handing out or putting up any signs. I’m going to to be boots on the ground–at your houses to talk to you.”

Grigsby is registered with the Georgia Campaign Finance System, but the system does not show any filings, including even a Personal Financial Disclosure Statement.

Frisch, who is unopposed on the Democratic ballot for the party’s nomination for the 121st House District seat, also is registered with the Georgia Campaign Finance System, but no Campaign Contribution Disclose Report is listed on the site.

Frisch did file a Financial Disclosure Statement on March 21, listing her personal residence in Athens as her only real property. She listed her employer as AECOM, an engineering consulting firm with offices in Atlanta.

Frisch was a no-show at the Oconee County Democratic Party candidate forum in April.

Gaines And Ferguson Contributions, Spending

Gaines received two contributions of $3,300, from Apryl Hughes and from Robert Wall, one contribution of $3,000, one of $2,700, one of $2,500, one of $2,300, one of $2,000, one of $1,700, two of $1,500, and 10 of $1,000.

Almost all of Gaines’ contributions were from individuals. Exceptions were $1,000 from Georgia Senior Living Association PAC of Kennesaw and $500 from Community Bank Employees for Better Government of Marietta.

Gaines had received $1,000 from the Sports Betting Alliance on Oct. 18, 2022, and $1,000 from that group on Nov. 13, 2023, as well as $1,000 from Caesars Enterprise Services on Jan. 4, 2024, and $500 from the Georgia Amusement And Music Operators Association on Jan. 4 of 2023 and another $500 on Jan. 2, 2024.

Gaines’s single largest expenditure of $2,500 was to the Committee To Elect Steven Sainz in Kingslad, and he spent a total of $11,000 in campaign contributions to other candidates.

His largest other contributions were two payments totaling $1,500 to Peyton Puckett for campaign work.

Contributions of $100 or less do not have to be listed with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission on the Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report, but Ferguson listed every contribution leading to his $2,571 total receipts.

Only five of his contributions were greater than $100, with the two largest, from Cheryl Brownstein and Bertis Downs, were for $500 each.

Ferguson did not spend any money in the campaign period ending on April 30.

Cowsert and Fenley Contributions, Spending

Cowsert received only three contributions since the end of the legislative session.

He received $1,000 from Caterpillar Inc. Political Action Committee of Deerfield, Ill., and $1,000 from the Georgia Oilmen’s Association of Dublin, and $750 from Warehouse Home Furnishings Distributors Inc. of Lawrenceville.

Cowsert received $2,000 from the Fantasy Sports Operator Coalition on Dec. 22, 2023, and $1,000 from Caesars Enterprise Services LLC on Sept. 29, 2023, $1,000 from the Georgia Amusement and Music Operators Association PAC on Nov. 24, 2021, and $1,000 from that same group on Jan. 1, 2023.

The bulk of Cowsert’s spending, $8,618, was for his lodging in Atlanta during the legislative session and for travel.

He also spent $842 to store campaign materials and $806 for a Christmas Card sent to constituents and “paraphernalia/misc”.

Fenley also listed all of her contributions, rather than only those greater than $100.

She received $250 from Karen Akridge and that same amount from Aubrey Shomo.

She spent $500 for Votebuilder, the Democratic data system, her largest expenditure.

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