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Walker's campaign tells Republicans to stop 'deceptive fundraising' in Georgia runoff

At least four committees, one of them associated with former President Donald Trump, have kept 90% of contributions solicited for Senate GOP candidate Herschel Walker.
Herschel Walker during his Unite Georgia Bus Stop rally in Norcross, Ga on Sept. 9, 2022.
Herschel Walker.Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Republican politicians and associated committees are sending out desperate fundraising emails begging the GOP faithful to help save America by getting behind Herschel Walker in his Dec. 6 runoff against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

But what’s not immediately clear to recipients is how little of that money is going to Walker's campaign: just a dime for every dollar given by small donors.

Walker’s campaign, which has trailed Warnock’s in fundraising throughout the election, is asking fellow Republicans to stop their fundraising practices — or at least to start sharing more with the candidate.

"We need everyone focused on winning the Georgia Senate race, and deceptive fundraising tactics by teams that just won their races are siphoning money away from Georgia,” Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise said Monday.

“This is the last fight of 2022, and every dollar will help,” Paradise said. “The companies and consultants raising money off this need to cut it out.”

The campaign said it first noticed the problem Saturday when former President Donald Trump’s Save America sent out an email that asked prospective donors to “contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to the Official Georgia Runoff Fundraising Goal and increase your impact by 1200%”

But if donors didn’t see a link that said “click here for details or to edit allocation,” they wouldn’t have noticed that 90% of their contributions automatically went to Trump, with the remaining 10% going to Walker.

After the 90:10 ratio was highlighted on Twitter, Trump’s committee changed the allocation to a 50:50 split.

Paradise credited Trump’s team for making the quick change, saying it “is extremely helpful and it’s what we request others do.”

The problem for the Walker campaign, however, is that the emails from different political committees — one for the North Carolina Republican Party and the campaign committees of newly elected GOP senators J.D. Vance in Ohio and Ted Budd in North Carolina — initially defaulted to 90:10 divisions, as well.

The North Carolina GOP chair, Michael Whatley, said the committee changed its allocation to 50:50 after it was contacted by the Walker campaign Monday.

“Anything that we raise is going to be put into deployments down into Georgia. We’ll definitely be sending teams,” Whatley said.

A spokesman for Vance declined to comment. Subsequent fundraising emails for Walker have defaulted to a 50:50 split, as well. A spokesman for Budd couldn’t be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Trump said that the former president is committed to helping Walker win and that the earlier 90:10 allocation was to pay for “prospecting” emails, covering the cost of buying a list from a third-party vendor and raising money to expand a list of potential donors. Those new donors' email addresses and their money are then shared along with the cash raised in the joint fundraising endeavor.

Jeff Vreeland, the executive vice president of the Republican-leaning digital firm The Prosper Group, said email fundraising has become ever more complicated since 2016 as it becomes harder to find donors in the digital world. Donors are most likely to give money for competitive races, he said, and many campaign vendors know that, so they're more likely to fail to notify campaigns like Walker’s.

The Georgia runoff will determine whether the Senate remains evenly split at 50-50 or whether Democrats gain a seat.

“It’s very difficult for fundraisers to solicit money, and because the Georgia runoff is the only horse in town, everyone is going to try to jump on the bandwagon to try to raise money,” Vreeland said. “That’s what’s going to happen until Dec. 6. Unfortunately, it’s going to escalate.”

Vreeland said two of his Republican clients, Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Ted Cruz of Texas, worked with the Walker campaign and sent out recent joint fundraising emails with 50:50 splits. He said coordinating with a campaign ahead of time helps with messaging. By contrast, uncoordinated email solicitations can make fundraising and messaging harder.

“It hurts the brand for Herschel Walker overall,” he said.

Terry Sullivan, who was campaign manager for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 Republican presidential campaign in Florida, said there’s no justification for other political committees to take 90% of the money, especially if they didn’t even give Walker’s campaign a heads-up.

“Politics has always been full of grifters, and not to say these people are personally trying to profiteer, but what is the motivation if they’re doing a 90:10 split and using Herschel Walker’s name and they’re not telling him?” Sullivan asked. “It’s insane.”