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Republicans irked that Herschel Walker is sitting on millions in unspent campaign funds

From Politico

Few are clamoring for Herschel Walker’s return to politics since he flamed out in his Georgia Senate bid nearly two years ago. But they sure are interested in his campaign cash.

Georgia and national Republicans, in dire need of money, are furious that Walker is sitting on more than $4 million in leftover campaign funds and seems to have no intention of using it to help the GOP or Donald Trump in the key battleground state in November.

With the Georgia Republican Party nearly broke and the Republican National Committee regularly getting outspent by its Democratic counterpart, Republicans say Walker’s unspent millions could go a long way toward addressing the GOP’s cash crunch.

“Those resources were solicited and given to support his candidacy as a Georgia Republican, and unless he intends to use them again for his own candidacy, I sure hope the favor would be returned,” said John Watson, a former Georgia state GOP chair. “Georgia Republicans should be supported by those dollars in whatever legal fashion the campaign can.”

Herschel Walker, who entered the 2022 Georgia Senate race with Donald Trump’s support, ended his failed campaign with more than $5 million in the bank. | Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images

Since the political novice and former football star lost to Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnockin the high-profile race, he has all but disappeared from political circles. Walker had a glidepath through the primary, but his campaign was dogged by multiple personal scandals, revealing children born out of wedlock and concealed abortions that undercut his conservative values campaign pitch. He was consistently out fundraised by Warnock, and his campaign’s strategy was undermined by Walker’s interference.

After the race, Walker eventually reenrolled at the University of Georgia to finish his undergraduate degree — the same school where he won a Heisman Trophy as a junior decades ago.

When reached by phone, Walker denied his seven-figure bank balance of unspent funds in his campaign account.

“It wasn’t money left in my account. Everyone keeps saying that,” Walker said.

Asked to clarify what he meant, Walker quickly ended the call, saying he was in the middle of writing a paper. He said, “we could talk about it some time” but did not respond to multiple further inquiries, including most recently last week.

A Georgia GOP strategist with knowledge of Walker’s campaign said the unspent funds should be refunded to donors, shared with Republican committees or used to help Trump in the 2024 contest.

“Republicans are being outspent everywhere up and down the ballot and there’s a significant sum of resources just sitting there,” said the strategist, who was granted anonymity to discuss the issue. “It could be supporting Trump, who did a ton for Herschel’s campaign.”

Walker, a former NFL running back who entered the 2022 Georgia Senate race with Trump’s support, ended his failed campaign with more than $5 million in the bank. He still had $4.3 million in his account as of the end of March, according to the latest financial disclosures filed to the Federal Election Commission.

Walker did transfer $100,000 to the National Republican Senate Committee’s legal recount fund and has given around $400,000 to various nonprofits and charities. But the bulk of his leftover campaign money is still in his account.

The FEC limits what campaign funds can be spent on. The money must be used for electioneering purposes — on a campaign or transferred to another active committee — or Walker could donate it to charity. Walker and his treasurer remain stewards of the funds, and they can’t transfer the money directly to Walker.

But the campaign cash could be helpful for the GOP’s bottom line.

At this point in the 2020 election cycle, the Georgia Republican Party had $1.2 million cash on hand. Now it reports having less than half of that amount. It’s also spending a significant portion — $1.9 million since the start of 2021 — of its funds on legal fees for Republicans charged in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ election racketeering case, according to the latest financial disclosure forms.

Georgia GOP Chair Josh McKoon, who fundraises for the state party, declined to discuss any personal conversations he may have had with Walker about the unspent campaign funds.

This year, state Republicans are focused on the presidential race and maintaining their majorities in the state legislature, and one Georgia GOP strategist, Brian Robinson, said Walker’s money would best be used to help legislative candidates in competitive districts.

“I would give directly to candidates at the legislature level because to maintain the majorities in Georgia, we’re really having to fight here,” he said.

A senior national Republican Party official said Republicans have not heard from Walker in months and that they weren’t aware of any party committees or campaigns currently pursuing a check from Walker’s old campaign account.

But Walker has been giving away some of his campaign cash, though not primarily to the party.

Though Republicans grumble that Walker hasn’t contributed money to the party, the campaign committee donated about $410,000, mostly to nonprofits like the Horatio Alger Association, the Boys and Girls Club and Herschel’s 34 and Johnson City Class of 1980, a nonprofit that’s been registered since 2016 in Walker’s hometown of Wrightsville, Georgia, according to FEC filings.

He also gave $100,000 to Polaris Action Inc, a national security-focused group that was founded by Morgan Ortagus, a former Trump administration State Department official who stumped for Walker on the campaign trail.

“Nobody would be surprised if and when he starts spending that money that it went to any group of newly formed charities in or around Dallas, Texas,” a second Georgia GOP operative said, making a reference to where Walker lived before running for Senate in Georgia.

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