A Super PAC supporting Herschel Walker, republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia, handed out $25 gas cards in downtown Atlanta over the weekend, angering Georgia Democrats but generating shrugs from campaign law experts.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out that the pro-Walker super PAC 34N22 (34 being Walker’s Jersey number when he played in the NFL. N for in, and 22 for 2022) would have been breaking the law if they coordinated directly with Walker in handing out gas cards. Candidates in the U.S. cannot work directly with Super PACs. It sure seemed like Walker had something to do with the giveaway based on statements made by activist and goddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Angela Stanton King, during the event. The Journal reports that 34N22 released a statement clarifying the giveaway:
While some Democrats questioned the legality of giving away gas to potential voters, there’s no doubt at all about the illegality of a federal candidate, in this case Herschel Walker, coordinating or directing the activities of a Super PAC supporting him, which would be strictly barred by federal law.
That seemed to be the case when a video surfaced of Angela Stanton-King telling gas customers at the Super PAC’s giveaway on Saturday, “Herschel Walker decided, ‘You know what, we’re going to do this free gas giveaway for the community. I want them to know I care. I’m coming with free gas vouchers for everyone.’”
A spokesman for 34N22 said that, despite what Stanton-King said, Walker did not direct or help plan the event. He also said that Stanton-King, who was a failed 2020 Republican candidate for Congress, is a volunteer and holds no formal role in the Super PAC.
A spokeswoman for Walker said he did not know about the event before it happened.
King spent two years in prison on conspiracy charges before receiving a presidential pardon from Trump. Since then she’s been on reality TV and written books, as well as run for civil rights legend John Lewis’ vacant House seat in 2020 on a platform full of Q-Anon-style conspiracies.
What would also be illegal is if King and other 34N22n workers told Atlantans that these gas cards were in exchange for their votes, which was not the case. The gas cards were instead handed out to entice potential voters into hearing the Super PAC’s pitch for Walker. While experts told the Daily Beast this kind of activity is legal (so long as Walker really did have nothing to do with it) the giveaway still left a bad taste in some Georgia election workers’ mouths:
But the gas gimmick was so unusually overt that it nonplussed even veteran elections workers in the state—like Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.
“I’ve never seen this before in my decades of Georgia politics,” Dennis told The Daily Beast. “And it’s specifically because of this outward perception of vote-buying.”
The Daily Beast asked spokespeople from the super PAC and the Walker campaign about the promotional event—including Stanton-King’s claim that the promo was Walker’s idea—but received no reply.
Democrats were up in arms about the move as well, arguing if volunteers were barred from hanging out water and snacks to people waiting in line to vote, this action should be considered just as illegal, the New York Times reports. But considering a super PAC supporting democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams paid off the medical debt of thousands of supporters, they’re not exactly on the right side of this issue either.
Walker easily won the Republican primary at 68 percent. He faces incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock in a tight race, according to the Journal, which is kind of wild considering the conspiracy theories Walker is wrapped up in. A long time friend of Trump (though they’re fighting right now), he believes the 2020 election was stolen from the former president, that COVID can be cured or prevented using an aerosol spray and that Jan. 6 was turned violent by insidious inside actors.
Probably a good move to redirect the conversation from all that wacky stuff to something everyday voters are feeling acutely right now: spiking gas prices. Senators don’t have a ton of power to control the price of a globally traded commodity, but I’d wager that the people of Atlanta know that, and are not so easily swayed in their political views as to be bought for $25 in gas.