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Pay to play in Georgia’s twelfth congressional district?

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A top strategist for the congressional campaign of Republican Rick Allen accused an erstwhile rival on Monday of soliciting $50,000 in exchange for an endorsement.

Conservative grassroots organizer Maria Sheffield was among two candidates edged from contention for the GOP nod opposite Democratic Rep. John Barrow, placing fourth in the July primary contest. She endorsed earlier this week the race’s top vote-getter, state Rep. Lee Anderson, now locked in a runoff with Allen.

But within minutes of the announcement, Allen’s top lieutenant had accused Sheffield of a blatant pay to play scheme to eliminate lingering campaign debt.

“While we would have loved to have Maria Sheffield’s endorsement,” Allen campaign strategist Chip Lake said, “we had no interest in meeting the $50,000 price tag that she put on it.”

A spokeswoman for Sheffield, whose most recent campaign disclosure filed a week before the primary revealed a debt of just $5,000, strongly denied the allegation that the ex-candidate had hawked her conservative seal.

“Maria had a one-on-one meeting with Lee Anderson and her debt was not mentioned,” Kathryn Ballou, who orchestrated Sheffield’s bid, said. “This statement reflects back on Chip Lake, demonstrates his character, and the only person hurt with this statement is Rick Allen… Republicans are sick and tired of this type of negative politics by overpriced consultants.”

Asked for confirmation that no discussion of endorsement remuneration occurred in the pair’s meeting, Anderson’s campaign said the issue of assistance was never broached.

“Maria Sheffield never raised with Lee Anderson the issue of her campaign debt and never requested anything from Lee – money or otherwise – for her endorsement and support,” campaign topper Joel McElhannon told Tipsheet by email.

- James Richardson

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