Georgia Democrat Appeared to Bolster Senate Campaign Email List Off Her Company's Bankruptcy

Sarah Riggs Amico touting rescue of trucking company's pensions as she launches Perdue challenge

Georgia Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Sarah Riggs Amico addresses the crowd gathered for a campaign rally at Morehouse College on November 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
September 11, 2019

Georgia Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico created a website touting her work to protect union jobs and pensions a day after her family's trucking company filed for bankruptcy and just three weeks before she launched her campaign for U.S. Senate.

The timing of it raised questions as to whether Amico, who is seeking to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), used the timing of her company's bankruptcy to list-build for her soon-to-be-announced Senate run. The pension site she created had a petition that allowed her campaign to collect email addresses that could be used for voter reach-out efforts.

Amico is the 40-year-old executive chairwoman of Jack Cooper Ventures, one of the country's largest car haulers. It filed for bankruptcy on Aug. 6, citing labor costs, the Trump administration's trade war with China, and $2 billion in potential pension liabilities among the reasons. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported it struck a deal with a New York hedge fund that cut more than $300 million of its debt and allowed the company's thousands of workers to retain jobs, salaries, and benefits.

The pension website launched by her campaign was registered a day later, Aug. 7. The website,  protectinggajobsandpensions.come, prominently featured a petition urging Perdue to take up Democratic legislation on rescuing insolvent pension funds. The site notes in its privacy policy that it would collect information from petition-signers. Online petitions are a common way for campaigns to build up their contact lists to reach out to voters and raise funds.

"We collect information you provide directly to us," it states. "For example, we collect information when you sign up to receive updates, request information, fill out a form, sign a petition, sign up as a volunteer, sign up for an event, participate in a contest or promotion, make a donation or purchase, communicate with us via third party social media sites, request support, send us an email, or otherwise communicate with us."

Amico told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 7 she knew the company's struggles looked bad politically but she was doing the right thing for her workers. The deal with the New York firm meant Jack Cooper would no longer be owned by her family.

"Politically, I know this is difficult," she said. "But it's not about optics. I'm doing this to actually fix what’s broken."

Amico made her anticipated entrance into the Democratic Senate race just three weeks later on Aug. 27.

She told the AJC  she believed Republicans would make hay of Jack Cooper's financial woes but said they were the reason she was running for office.

"The reality is what I’ve gone through with that business this year has profoundly shaped how I see the stakes in the election, and the urgency that I feel to fix some of these issues," Amico said. "I no longer want to wait on the sidelines and wait for somebody else to fix it."

Her campaign didn't return a request for comment.

John Burke of the pro-Perdue Georgia Action Fund told the Free Beacon Amico wasn't qualified for the job.

"Sarah Riggs Amico’s bankrupt company was already labeled a labor law violator by the Teamsters but her campaign continues to falsely portray her as an ally for unions. Amico’s phony attempts to mislead voters are further proof that she isn’t qualified to represent Georgia families in the Senate," he said.

Amico lost last year's Georgia lieutenant governor's race to Republican Geoff Duncan, and she is one of four Georgia Democrats thus far to announce their bid for the party's 2020 Senate nomination.

Georgia hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Zell Miller (D.) in 2000. Perdue is seeking a second term and is a strong ally of the Trump White House. His cousin, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue (R.), is Trump's secretary of Agriculture.

Perdue's race isn't the only Senate contest taking place in Georgia.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) is retiring at the end of the year due to health problems. Georgia governor Brian Kemp (R.) will appoint his replacement when he officially resigns from office, but a special election for the seat will also be held in 2020.

Amico donated almost $1,000 to Mitt Romney in 2012 and has called herself a "recovering Republican." One of her Democratic primary opponents, Clarkston, Ga. mayor Ted Terry, dinged Amico's prior GOP support upon her joining the race.