It’s well-known that a federal campaign staffer cannot go work for an outside group (such as a super PAC) that’s running ads to benefit that candidate until a 120-day cooling-off period has passed. Campaigns on both sides of the aisle are routinely accused of violating the rule, but it looks like The Lincoln Project may have taken it to a new level: According to FEC records the super PAC paid Keith Edwards, who was then employed by the Jon Ossoff campaign as Senior Digital Advisor, $20,000 on January 4, 2021, the day before the Georgia Senate runoff elections.
(Note: We’re aware that there are endless loopholes in coordination rules, and it’s rare that the FEC pursues action against possible violators. But please read on.)
Edwards wasn’t an unknown quantity to The Lincoln Project; from May through November 2020, Edwards served as The Lincoln Project’s Communications Director. As such, he managed the group’s social media accounts, rapid response videos, and more. He was paid directly at first, then through his corporation, That’s Good Media, Inc. After it was clear that Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Senate race was headed for a runoff election, The Lincoln Project made clear they were going to continue playing in that race.
We’re staying in the fight: to defeat Trumpism we must also defeat David Perdue.
Let’s elect Jon Ossoff. pic.twitter.com/p7IAPaCaZY
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) November 6, 2020
Edwards also signaled his readiness to elect both Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) November 6, 2020
Starting November 9, The Lincoln Project funded independent expenditures in the Georgia races. Between November 9 and January 1, 2021, the group spent $542,967 for ads and ad production in the race.
On November 22, Edwards headed to Georgia to “volunteer” with Ossoff’s campaign — even though he was still technically on The Lincoln Project’s payroll, and The Lincoln Project was actively making independent expenditures in the race.
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) November 21, 2020
According to FEC records, Edwards was paid $20,000 a month by The Lincoln Project for communication consulting. The fee was paid once a month, sometime between the 1st and the 4th of the month. His November retainer was paid November 2. Then, Edwards was paid a salary by Ossoff’s campaign in December — one payment of $2,729.28 on December 1, and a matching payment on December 15. Yes, a $14,500 (or so) reduction in pay, and without the benefit of The Lincoln Project paying for lodging.
On January 4, the day before the runoff, Edwards was hard at work in Georgia.
I’m going door knocking today — it’s so gratifying. I hope you can join us. https://t.co/TYThY0HCbT
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) January 4, 2021
And, he received $20,000 from The Lincoln Project for communication consulting.
The Lincoln Project couldn’t help but congratulate Edwards on the W, and asked if they could have him back soon.
Abe is proud of the work that superstar Lincoln Project digital warrior @keithedwards did for the historic election of @ossoff and hope the Senator-elect will consider returning him so he can continue to live rent-free in Donald Trump's little head.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) January 6, 2021
As late as January 10, 2021, Edwards’ Twitter bio stated he was Senior Digital Advisor for Ossoff, according to the Wayback Machine.
Edwards didn’t receive payment from Ossoff for his efforts through January 5, even though Ossoff still has $5 million in the bank. Since Edwards hasn’t made any public statement that he returned to The Lincoln Project after the runoff (his LinkedIn page still lists Jon Ossoff for Senate as his current employer), what was that $20,000 for?