ATLANTA (AP) — A formal complaint has been filed with the Federal Election Commission against Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter. He is accused of illegal campaign spending.
The Democratic Party of Georgia alleges Carter spent campaign funds for a statewide advertisement but has not yet announced his run for a statewide post — something that is required 15 days after spending more than $5,000 to campaign for another seat.
The complaint centers around an advertisement aired 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 new election laws.
Included in the complaint are various exhibits, including details of the campaign’s spending on the advertisement. It shows $75,000 worth of spending on airtime, with over $50,000 spent in Atlanta, around $23,000 spent in Savannah and a little over $1,000 spent in Macon, The Savannah Morning News reported.
“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 University of Georgia football standout and current Texas resident Herschel Walker does not.
Carter’s press team did not respond to emails or calls regarding the complaint. But he told The Brunswick News that he views the complaint as nothing more than political payback.
“When the other party is attacking you, I know I must have done something right,” Carter said in response to the ethics complaint. “Georgia Democrats are enraged that I continue to make it known that they are responsible for the economic and cultural loss Georgia endured when their threats caused the relocation of the (Major League Baseball) All-Star game.”
Carter claims the accusations against him are baseless.
“As a small business owner for over 30 years, I have dedicated my time in office to helping and advocating for small businesses across my district and this state,” said Carter, a pharmacist. “Instead of attacking me, maybe Georgia Democrats should consider advocating and helping the mostly minority small businesses they caused harm to with their lies and threats.”
According to the FEC, anyone running for Congress or the presidency is a candidate when raising or spending more than $5,000 in contributions or on expenditures. When the limit is reached, candidates must register a statement of candidacy and designate their campaign committee within 15 days.
However, also within the FEC’s rules is a provision for money spent to “test the waters,” with polls, telephone surveys, traveling around the district or state — any means of exploring the feasibility of running for a particular seat.
“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 currently represents only Georgia’s 1st District residents. The district, one of 14 in the state, stretches the length of Georgia’s coast and includes parts of inland counties.
At no point in the ad did Carter mention a Senate run. And Carter has already filed paperwork with the FEC for his 2022 run to hold his House seat.