Democrat Matt Lieberman hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2013, a tough look as he tries to win over Democratic voters in Georgia’s Senate race.
HuffPost obtained the invitation for the event, which took place at the home of Lieberman and his wife, Elizabeth, on Aug. 18, 2013.
Campaign finance records show that Elizabeth Lieberman donated $500 to Graham’s campaign that day, and Matt Lieberman donated $1,000 four days later. Elizabeth also gave $1,000 to Graham in April that year.
Matt Lieberman has, however, overwhelmingly donated to Democrats over the years, with some exceptions, including Graham, the late Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.). His wife was giving much more heavily to Republicans around the time of the fundraiser.
Lieberman’s family connections to Graham are also well-known. His father, Joe Lieberman, the former moderate Democratic Connecticut senator and vice presidential candidate, was famously close friends with both Graham and McCain. So the fundraiser is likely a result of those family ties.
Lieberman replied in an email to HuffPost:
First, I have long been and will continue to be a strong supporter of the America-Israel alliance, and I have supported candidates ― almost all Democrats ― who also support that alliance. It is an alliance of shared democratic values and an alliance of strategic importance in arguably the world’s most challenging region. Second, that was a very different Lindsey Graham in 2013, a Lindsey Graham that had some backbone and independence to him, and not the Trump flunky we have all witnessed these last few years. He also didn’t have any serious Democratic opponent at the time. I wouldn’t give Lindsey Graham a dime today. In fact, I contributed months ago to Jaime Harrison, and I’m rooting for him.
Lieberman is now trying to win Georgia’s open Senate seat in an all-party election. He has presented himself as a progressive outsider, not a moderate like his father.
Graham, meanwhile, is a close ally of President Donald Trump and is high on the wish list of GOP senators Democrats would like to unseat in the 2020 elections.
Lieberman is facing heavy pressure to drop out of the race. The top-polling candidates in the contest right now are two Republicans — Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to Isakson’s seat after he retired, and Rep. Doug Collins ― and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the famous Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
If no candidate gets a majority in November, the race proceeds to a run-off. Lieberman is not in the top tier, but Democrats worry that he could siphon enough votes away from Warnock that Collins and Loeffler head to the run-off. Without Lieberman in the race, they say, Warnock could possibly consolidate Democratic support and win outright next month.
If elected, Warnock would be the first Black senator from Georgia.
Warnock has shored up heavy party support from former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, former President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Some of the pressure centers around the racist tropes in a novel Lieberman self-published in 2018, which was first reported on by HuffPost.
“I’ve been deeply disturbed by the information that has come about not only from his book, but also some of his comments,” Abrams said during a recent press conference. “I think that Matt may be a good person, but he is not the right candidate. I think the best result for all is for Matt to step back and realize that Rev. Warnock is the right candidate for the state of Georgia.”
In response to the calls for him to drop out, Lieberman has accused Abrams of “candidate suppression,” said Warnock is “using race to divide Georgia” and claimed that all his rivals are “already owned by power brokers in Atlanta & DC.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Matt Lieberman.