The Morgan Ortagus campaign announced on Monday that the candidate for the GOP nomination in Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District raised “nearly $600,000” for the January 1 – March 31, 2022 FEC first-quarter reporting. Ortagus’ campaign says that records will show the campaign ending the FEC first quarter with over $550,000 cash on hand.

FEC reports, by law, are due to be filed by April 15. They will be available for public inspection shortly after.

Ortagus’ campaign, however, refused to answer questions about the nature and source of her campaign fundraising.

FEC reports, by law, are due to be filed by April 15. They will be available for public inspection shortly after.

The Tennessee Star reached out to the Ortagus campaign and asked questions about claims made in the announcement statement.

1 – What is the exact number of funds raised that excludes loans and candidate contributions?

2 – What percentage was raised outside Tennessee?

3 – What percentage was raised inside Tennessee?

The Ortagus campaign had not answered those questions as of press time.

Several expert political observers told The Star that they believe that Ortagus’ campaign finance report will show that the vast majority of her campaign donations came from outside Tennessee due to her D.C. insider status and lack of local ties.

Some of those expected out-of-state donations will have come in connection with a fundraiser held on Ash Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The host committee for the event, as reported by The Star, was highlighted by Never Trumpers, RINOs, and D.C. insiders.

The event was run by noted Never Trumper and professional D.C. fundraiser Lisa Spies. Her husband, Charlie Spies, who was also on the host committee, is a lawyer representing Morgan Ortagus supporters in a federal lawsuit that is challenging the three-year residency requirement legislation that is slated to become law this week.

A new dark money PAC that is spending money on radio ads that support Ortagus, is believed to be funding the lawsuit against the state of Tennessee.

If the legal challenge fails, then Ortagus will be ineligible to run for the GOP nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat. She could still run as an independent.

The three-year residency requirement is not the only challenge Ortagus faces in her quest to run in the August 4 Republican primary for the 5th district.

At least temporarily, Ortagus is off the GOP ballot due to TNGOP bylaws. Ortagus’ ballot status has been challenged to the Tennessee Republican Party and they have removed her from the ballot. Her hopes at restoration to the ballot hinge on a majority vote of a 15-person committee made up of TNGOP Chair Scott Golden and State Executive Committee members who represent TN-5. If the committee votes to restore Ortagus to the ballot, while still facing issues stemming from the residency legislation, she will be considered a bona fide Republican eligible to run by in accordance with TNGOP bylaws.

These issues, while decided independently, intersect in terms of timing. The TNGOP has until noon on April 21 to restore challenged candidates, including Ortagus, to the ballot. They will notify the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office that verified challenged candidates are off the ballot on April 14. The select committee will have from April 14 through 11:59 a.m. on April 21 to vote to restore or not to restore challenged candidates to the ballot. The committee could also, theoretically, do nothing and the challenged candidates would stay off the ballot.

The residency requirement legislation is scheduled to go into immediate effect as law on Wednesday, April 13. Ortagus, who has lived in Tennessee for less than a year and has been registered to vote in the state for mere months, would be immediately ineligible to run in a primary per the new state law. The TNGOP challenge at that point, could be considered moot by the committee unless a federal judge issues an injunction against the new law.

The TNGOP bylaws govern the organization of the party and do not supersede state law.

Ortagus did include a quote from her campaign-released statement to the public regarding her fundraising. “Our team is building momentum every day, as Middle Tennesseans make it clear they want their next Congressman to fight for our conservative values and President Trump’s America First agenda,” she said. “I’ve never run for public office before, and I’m truly humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received in the first two months of our campaign. Together, we’re going to take back the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and fire Nancy Pelosi once and for all.”

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected] Follow Aaron on GETTRTwitter, and Parler.
Photo “Morgan Ortagus” by U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada.