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Tipsheet

More Trouble Brewing for Stacey Abrams Group in Georgia

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

There's more political trouble brewing in Georgia at an organization founded by sore-loser Stacey Abrams, who is again running as a Democrat to be the Peach State's governor. According to the state ethics commission, the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded failed to disclose some $7 million worth of spending — $3 million for electioneering expenses and $4 million in political contributions — between 2017 and 2019 while she was on the ballot for governor.

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According to Axios' reporting on the latest potential scandal involving Abrams, the unreported expenditures is "one of the largest cases the commission has taken up."

The timing for the inquiry could prove rather unfavorable for Abrams who is again facing off against the Republican who beat her in 2018 this November, as Axios further explains:

The complaints first substantive hearing is set to happen in the months leading up to a high-profile November rematch between Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp, who appoints a majority of the ethics commission members.

The commission has been looking into the alleged millions in undisclosed spending by the Abrams' founded group since 2019, and — after delays due to litigation — is set to begin hearings on August first. 

The probe revolves around the New Georgia Project and The Action Fund, a 501(c)(4), and whether the two operated independently of each other. The Fund is allowed to engage in limited partisan political work, while the Project could lose the tax-exempt status it enjoys as a nonprofit. As Axios explains

The commission alleges that in 2018 the New Georgia Project and the Action Fund illegally canvassed for Democratic candidates include Abrams, used phone bank scripts pushing people to vote Democratic and included "#teamAbrams" in social media posts soliciting donations. It also targets the group for work on a 2019 Gwinnett County MARTA referendum vote.

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The same Georgia ethics watchdog also has an ongoing investigation into Abrams' 2018 losing gubernatorial campaign, one that the Democrat — who was heralded by national leftists and the mainstream media — said was stolen from her. 

Much of Georgia Dems' response to — and predictably, therefore, the mainstream media coverage of — both ongoing probes into Abrams' previous campaign and the organization she founded has been to claim that it's a partisan hit job motivated by Republican allies of Gov. Kemp. But that claim ignores the questionable track record of Abrams' organizations.

As it turns out, the ongoing investigation into the New Georgia Project is not the first time the group has faced scrutiny for its operations, nor has the scrutiny only come from Republicans. 

A 2015 story on Stacey Abrams and the New Georgia Project in Atlanta Magazine quotes Democrat state Senator Vincent Fort saying "[Abrams'] funders don't know where her money went. More importantly, the public doesn't know where the money went."

The same story quotes now-former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, another Democrat, as saying "I don't believe nor did I believe that the New Georgia Project is the model [for voter registration]" in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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In 2014, a CBS affiliate in Savannah conducted its own investigation in the New Georgia Project "after some folks questioned its credibility." Their piece on Abrams' group quotes Democrat state Rep. Al Williams — cited as a supporter of the Project — saying "this organization takes full responsibility for how it was introduced to this area" in a way that raised alarms among area residents. "It was all wrong," Rep. Williams added, "but there is no sinister motive just trying to get people registered to vote," he stated.

Digging deeper, Abrams projects coming under scrutiny is something of a regular occurrence. The New Georgia Project was started by Abrams under the umbrella of another nonprofit the Democrat founded in the late 1990s called Third Sector Development. This group eventually changed its name to Fair Count. 

That group, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "was slapped with four tax liens worth $13,000 between 2014 and 2016 citing unpaid unemployment contributions...Since then, the state has filed three additional liens also claiming a failure to pay state unemployment taxes. The first was filed in February for roughly $1,400, then came an August lien for $986 followed by a November lien for about $1,200," the reporting adds. Still, Abrams claimed that the repeated infractions were "entirely due to third-party contractor error."

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Between fair criticism from Democrats and past financial issues in other organizations, the Georgia ethics commission's investigation of the New Georgia Project is far from baseless.

After the hearings begin in August, Georgia's ethics commission has limited power based on its conclusion. It can issue cease and desist orders, assess fines, and refer findings to the Georgia AG for further criminal proceedings, all depending on the panel's conclusions.

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