Why Utahns in Congress are focused on helping Republicans in Georgia

Control of the Senate hangs in the balance as the runoff election approaches.

(Michael Holahan | The Augusta Chronicle via AP) - In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, people wait in line on the first day of advance voting for Georgia's Senate runoff election at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Ga. Utah Republican officeholders are busily raising money for the election, which will determine which party controls the Senate.

All of Utah’s Republican members of Congress have been raising money for the Georgia runoff election Tuesday, but some are taking a larger role than others.

Partisan control of the U.S. Senate hangs on the outcome of next week’s elections. Democrats must win both contests to achieve a 50-50 tie in the Senate, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. If Republicans win at least one race, then the GOP will hold on to a majority.

Sen. Mike Lee has been the most aggressive of the Utah group, at least in public, running Facebook ads and peppering inboxes with fundraising solicitations to support Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue, and help Republicans keep control of the Senate next year.

Lee spent about $1,000 on the ads, which has turned into donations for the two Georgia Republicans.

“Sen. Lee has run multiple Georgia runoff-related digital ads that have raised tens of thousands of dollars directly for the Georgia candidates,” said a spokesperson for Lee.

The Daily Beast reported that Lee’s fundraising solicitations were going to help his own campaign, too. Lee’s spokesperson said donors have an option to donate to Lee as well, but that’s resulted in “less than $100.”

Here’s what’s more likely going on. There were multiple versions of Lee’s ad running at the same time. Some pointed to an online donation portal for the Georgia runoff. The other set of ads took viewers who clicked on them to a page where they were asked for their email address and cellphone number. That suggests that while Lee is raising money for the Georgia campaign, he’s also creating a database of potential donors that he can send fundraising appeals to when he runs for reelection in 2022.

Lee is also campaigning in Georgia on behalf of Purdue and Loeffler along with Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott.

Behind the scenes. Sen. Mitt Romney is also raising cash for the Georgia elections. His office tells The Salt Lake Tribune that he’s reeled in at least $600,000 for the effort so far. However, Romney does not appear to be using his social media channels in this effort.

Rep. Burgess Owens is pushing fundraising appeals on his Twitter account that link to a direct donation page for the Republicans in Georgia. The Georgia fundraising posts say they will benefit Purdue, Loeffler and the Owens campaign. It’s unclear how much from those donations go to Georgia and how much stays with Owens. His spokesperson did not respond to a question from The Tribune.

Despite often giving local media the cold shoulder, Owens has been a frequent guest on conservative media outlets like Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel and Newsmax, where he has discussed the Georgia runoff election and his belief that both Loeffler and Purdue will prevail. Owens also joined Sen. Ted Cruz and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on a campaign swing through Georgia before Christmas.

The rest of Utah’s Republicans in Congress are raising some cash for the GOP slate in Georgia, but it’s a little more low key. Reps. John Curtis, Chris Stewart and Rep. Blake Moore have participated in some fundraising events to boost Republicans in Georgia and are raising money online, but nothing as extensive as their colleagues in the Utah delegation.