Sen. Graham Urges Probe Of Harrison’s (Perfectly Legal) Donors

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Photo by NATO/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) demanded an investigation on Wednesday into how Democrats are raising so much money against him. Graham has been badly outraised by his Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison, $57 million to $28 million.

"Where's all this money coming from ActBlue coming from? How easy would it be to just have a bunch of pre-paid credit cards?" he said in an interview with the Hill. "Where is all this money coming from? You don't have to report it if it's below $200. When this election is over with, I hope there will be a sitting down and finding out, 'OK, how do we control this?' It just seems to be an endless spiral."

ActBlue is a legal Democratic online fundraising platform that allows individuals to contribute to candidates and causes. As the Hill notes, the site reports all of its donations to the Federal Election Commission — even those that are below the $200 annual disclosure threshold required by federal election law — and requires donors to identify themselves, their addresses, their employers, and their occupations.

Indeed, Republicans, who have long trailed Democrats at online small-dollar fundraising, made a big deal of launching their own similar platform last year. That system — called WinRed — is currently in use on Graham's own campaign reelection website, with a virtually identical interface.

ActBlue has raised an impressive $1.5 billion this election cycle — substantially more than the $623.5 million Republicans have raised on WinRed.

A Graham spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

This is not the first time Graham has baselessly suggested that something nefarious was going on with Democratic fundraising against him. At last week's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, he suggested he may soon support new campaign finance regulations, complaining, "I don't know what's going on out there, but I can tell you there's a lot of money being raised in this campaign. I'd like to know where the hell some of it's coming from!"

Graham's concern about lack of transparency in campaign finance is contradicted by his own record. In 2010, he was the deciding vote to block the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, a bill to require outside political groups to say who bankrolls their political advertisements.

"The DISCLOSE Act is a political sham. It seeks to impose new campaign laws right before an election, a rare occurrence in American politics. At the end of the day, it's really all about partisan advantage," he wrote in a July 2010 press release. "I think it's also a bit odd that President Obama would lecture the Congress on this issue. In 2008, he broke his promise to accept public financing in the presidential race and then proceeded to raise $750 million. For him to now express concern about money in politics is a little late."

Now, two weeks before his own tight reelection, Graham is the one expressing concern. As of their most recent filings, Harrison has raised more than $85 million to Graham's $58 million — much of it from small donors. The average contribution to Harrison's record-breaking third quarter haul was just $33.

Donors from South Carolina and around the country have been contributing to Harrison, motivated in part by Graham's behavior over the past four years. After painting Donald Trump as a "kook" who was unfit for office during the 2016 campaign, Graham repeatedly abandoned his stated principles to help Trump's agenda. This includes breaking his own promise four years ago not to support a Supreme Court confirmation during an election year.

In recent weeks, Graham has frequently gone on Fox News to beg for donations. He also made a plea for campaign cash during a break from the Amy Coney Barrett hearings last week — which experts have called a clear violation of the law prohibiting the solicitation by members of Congress of donations "while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties."

Graham's content appears to be unusually close for a South Carolina Senate race. Recent polls have shown Harrison narrowly ahead, while others put Graham a few points ahead.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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