The Georgia Ethics Committee will continue to investigate campaign violations against nonprofits associated with Stacey Abrams for failing to disclose donations to the campaign

The Georgia Ethics Committee has reportedly opened a case against two groups linked to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams based on allegations the nonprofits made and spent money on their 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

The commission ruled unanimously on August 1 that there is probable reason to believe the organizations violated campaign law by failing to disclose contributions and expenses, reports show.

The ethics probe four years ago could result in the largest punishment of its kind in the country’s history. It comes just three months before the general election in November, when Abrams will run against her political rival, Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams reportedly believes the case was a targeted attack by the Republican-led Ethics Committee.

Atlanta, Georgia – November 3, 2020: On Election Day in Georgia’s DeKalb County, Georgia, gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses voters on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 at the Coan Recreation Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The commission says the organizations: the New Georgia Project voter registration nonprofit Abrams, founded in 2013, and the New Georgia Project Action Fund, raised $4.2 million and spent $3 million during their previous gubernatorial campaign. They hired recruiters to secure votes and posts for Abrams. The organizations functioned as political committees but did not register as such with the state or submit financial information, the commission claims. The nonprofits also solicited votes and contributions for other campaigns and causes, reports show.

Aria C. Branch, an attorney for the organizations, told the commission the groups used the donations for operating costs. The acquisition was subcontracting work for an Abrams-affiliated political committee, and as a subcontractor they were not required to file the financial documents, he said.

“There’s no money hidden here,” Branch said.

Abrams reportedly left the New Georgia Project before the other nonprofit was even formed. She told reporters the investigation was part of an agenda from a Kemp donor, David Emadi, who has headed the ethics committee since 2019. However, Bloomberg reports that the commission began looking at the organizations before Emadi became director, but he pushed the investigation forward.

“I’m pleased with the commission’s vote, which found what staff have known to be true for some time, that this group spent millions of dollars in black money to influence Georgia voters without disclosing who funded it.” said Emadi. “Citizens of Georgia deserve to know who is trying to tip the scales in their election, and millions of dollars were denied that right in 2018 and 2019. We are glad that evidence has finally come to light for the public.”

The case file is now the subject of an administrative hearing. Then it has to be checked by a judge. The commission may accept or reject the judge’s recommendation and hold a hearing for further deliberation.

In 2020, Gente4Abrams (People for Abrams), a third organization involved in the investigation, was fined $50,000 for reportedly failing to report spending on Abrams’ previous gubernatorial campaign. The Georgia Ethics Committee will continue to investigate campaign violations against nonprofits associated with Stacey Abrams for failing to disclose donations to the campaign

James Brien

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