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Lincoln Project Staffer May Have Violated Campaign Finance Law, Ethics Watchdog Says

Former Lincoln Project communications director Keith Edwards / YouTube Screenshot
and • February 26, 2021 5:00 am

A high-ranking Lincoln Project employee served as a paid campaign staffer for Georgia senator Jon Ossoff (D.) while he received payments from both groups, a potential violation of laws that prohibit coordination between campaigns and super PACs.

The Lincoln Project and the Ossoff campaign paid Democratic consultant Keith Edwards during the closely watched Georgia runoffs that tipped the scales of the Senate to Democrats. Edwards said he left his post as the Lincoln Project's communications director in November to become senior digital adviser for the Ossoff campaign, but records show his consulting firm, That's Good Media, received at least $20,000 from the Lincoln Project while Edwards was employed by the campaign, Federal Election Commission records show.

The Lincoln Project spent nearly half-a-million dollars on advertisements supporting Ossoff throughout his campaign.

From July to November 2020, Edwards's firm collected $20,000 a month from the Lincoln Project for consulting work. The payments skip December, then resume on Jan. 4—just one day before the Georgia Senate runoff elections.

Edwards received his first direct salary payment from Ossoff's campaign in December. He received further salary payments from Ossoff's campaign on Jan. 4, the same day the Lincoln Project paid his firm $20,000 for consulting work and months after he had ostensibly left the group for the campaign.

Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, told the Washington Free Beacon that Edwards’s arrangement with the Ossoff campaign and the Lincoln Project raises concerns over potential illegal coordination.

"When a super PAC has inside information from a vendor or employee of a candidate, any advertising the super PAC does on behalf of the candidate is an illegal in-kind contribution to the campaign," Arnold said. "In situations where an individual has ties to both a campaign and outside organization, it raises serious concerns of illegal coordination."

The Lincoln Project was heavily involved in the Ossoff runoff race, dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect the Georgia Democrat between Nov. 9 and Jan. 1. While Edwards acted as communications director for the Lincoln Project, he was paid through That’s Good Media. Edwards is the sole individual linked to the firm in New York corporation records. That’s Good Media’s listed address in FEC records, which is different from its address in the corporation records, is the same as Edwards’s New York City apartment.

This type of arrangement has drawn intense scrutiny. Watchdogs have argued that sharing vendors "presents an easy way to undermine the independence of super PACs" and could allow them to "operate as a conduit" for information between two entities, such as where a campaign needs ads, what voters to target, and what the subject of the ads should be. In this case, Edwards was a direct salaried employee of the Ossoff campaign while receiving vendor payments from the Lincoln Project.

During his time at the Lincoln Project, Edwards was involved in crafting the group's response to allegations that cofounder John Weaver made inappropriate sexual advances toward a number of young men. The group previously claimed that its members only learned of the allegations last month, well after Edwards had departed.

After Ossoff’s victory over Republican senator David Perdue, the Lincoln Project singled Edwards out for praise, tweeting, "Abe is proud of the work that superstar Lincoln Project digital warrior @keithedwards did for the historic election of @ossoff." The Lincoln Project has acknowledged that Ossoff's campaign borrowed Edwards, writing that it "hope[s] the Senator-elect will consider returning him so he can continue to live rent-free in Donald Trump's little head."

RedState first raised questions on the Lincoln Project’s January payment.

The Lincoln Project and Edwards did not return requests for comment about their financial arrangements. Ossoff’s office also did not provide a comment on why Edwards was hired by their campaign or whether they were aware of the Lincoln Project’s Jan. 4 payment to Edwards’s firm.