The Power Couple Whose PAC Contributions Could Upend Y’allywood

Screenshots showing the dollar amount totals for Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp’s leadership PACs

Big names with big dollars are weighing in on Georgia’s Governor’s race thanks to a new state law allowing unlimited contributions to leadership PACs.

And the PACs are doing boffo business.

According to Axios, Brian Kemp’s campaign and Georgians First PAC combined have raised over $31 million as of their July filings.

That’s more than the made-in-Georgia Dear Evan Hansen!

Stacey Abrams and her One Georgia PAC have raised almost $50 million, besting Gemini Man’s domestic gross.

Abrams own screen credits include Star Trek: Discovery. Kemp starred in 2018’s viral video “Jake.”

Couples’ donations to Abrams’ PAC include Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg at $50,000 each and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at $5,000 each.

Kemp’s donors include Chairman Emeritus James Cox Kennedy of the Cox Enterprises media and automotive services empire and his wife Sarah. Both drove in $25,000.

(The Axios story didn’t mention the Kennedy contributions. Coincidentally, Cox Enterprises is buying Axios.)

Other media moguls have also moneyed up, even without their spouse.

Byron Allen, owner of the Georgia-based Weather Channel, fronted Abrams $50,000 (That’s some cirrus money!) and the famously divorced Melinda French Gates clicked through to the tune of $200,000.

Former NPR CEO Jarl Mohn also sounded off to Abrams for $25,000.

Georgia’s governor appoints the board members to state-run Georgia Public Broadcasting. While the third largest PBS affiliate, it’s produced little national content. Instead, its studios are rented out to commercial productions including Paternity Court, Billy Corgan’s National Wrestling Alliance, and Fox News.

Does Mohn’s money mark misgivings amongst NPR insiders over GPB under the GOP?

Speaking of Fox, its favorite supervillain George Soros donated $1.5 million to Abrams through his Democracy PAC., as Fox has highlighted.

Right-wing billionaires backing Kemp include the Kennedys and the Uihlein shipping dynasty.

But while Abrams ran unopposed in her party’s primary, Kemp faced a Trump-backed challenger delaying some big bucks. Will more moguls turn up in his next filing?

Of all the coupled contributions one of the cutest seems consequential beyond its quantity.

Veteran character actor Paul Dooley and screenwriter Winnie Holzman (As Winifred Dooley) each donated $500 to Abrams’ PAC.

Both have also donated to the Abrams campaign directly.

Paul Dooley’s credits include empathetic father figures in Breaking Away and Sixteen Candles.

Winnie Holzman wrote the book to the musical Wicked and created the 1990s coming of age TV series My So-Called Life.

Between them, their appeal to key demographics is unbeatable.

In addition to his iconic roles as “America’s Dad,” Paul Dooley has enjoyed a solid, long-running career as a journeyman actor. His movie appearances include Robert Altman and Christopher Guest films while his TV credits contain acclaimed and accessible shows from Modern Family to ALF.

His impact on childhoods spans generations.

Dooley created the 1970s PBS series Electric Company and voiced Sarge in the Disney Cars movies.

Holzman’s credits include writing for Thirtysomething, the 1980s series whose boomer audience now votes Republican but could be persuaded on the margins, and Once and Again.

My So-Called Life gained a Gen X cult following despite its brief run through reruns on MTV. The series launched the careers of Clare Danes and Jared Leto.

Wicked opened on Broadway in 2003 and is now the fifth longest running show. It’s spawned successful London and touring productions.

Two movies based on the musical are in development with Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande set to star.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, filming was to begin in Atlanta but was moved to London.

Did Kemp’s restrictive heartbeat bill play a role?

There are other names involved, famous in show biz or in Georgia’s Good Old Boy political networks. Ed Helms, Barbara Streisand for One Georgia, beer and liquor distributor, and son of the infamous Georgia bulldog booster Donald Leebern, Jr., Donald Leebern, III for Georgians First.

The risk is alienating the electorate over the amounts of money and the influencers involved. Will voters just throw rotten tomatoes and stay home?

Since 2010’s blockbuster Supreme Court decision regarding Citizens United’s low-budget Hilary: The Movie, money in politics has given new meaning to the term gross.

Fundraising emails follow quickly after every school shooting and campaign gaffe.

Democracy is dying! And look at my bumbling opponent!!

The revolving doors between politics and influence peddling now include punditry, podcasts, and streams of content creation.

Kitschy hats and vitamin supplements, corporate awareness ads and sponsored content.

Is governing even the goal anymore?

Barring any campaign finance reform, which the current court has barred, the names and numbers will keep racking up.

We’ll scroll through looking for anyone we recognize and wonder what they’re expecting in return.

It seems so … cynical.

But if, as the Court insists, not all that’s green is wicked, my money’s on the Dooleys.

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Brian Bannon

Brian Bannon

Atlanta writer and comedian. Occasional citizen journalist. Diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 40. No relation to Steve.