Stacey Abrams’ Campaign Withholds Subpoenaed Records in State Ethics Investigation

Democrat Stacey Abrams
Carlos Osorio/AP

Democrat Stacey Abrams’ failed 2018 gubernatorial campaign notified the Georgia Ethics Commission on Friday that it will not fully comply with a subpoena seeking records sent in April.

The commission wants to review thousands of emails and bank statements from the Abrams campaign to determine whether it accepted donations from organizations exceeding the maximum contribution for a statewide election, according to a report. The state officials are said to have requested communications between Abrams aides and groups advocating for better political participation among minorities, along with financial records beginning in May 2018.

Per WABE.org:

The Abrams campaign sent more than 3,600 pages of financial records to state ethics officials. But it withheld nineteen emails, according to a letter attached to the campaign’s response to David Emadi, the executive secretary of the ethics commission hired in April. […]

It also requested communications between the campaign, and state Sen. Nikema Williams, the current head of the Democratic Party of Georgia. In 2018, during the campaign for governor, Williams was first vice-chair of the state party.

Specifically, the Abrams campaign withheld nine campaign emails “involving” the civil rights organization called the New Georgia Project, and 10 emails “involving” Williams.

In a defiant letter to Georgia ethics officials, Abrams’ campaign lawyer, Joyce Gist Lewis, denied the campaign violated campaign finance laws.

“The Subpeona is conspicuously over-broad without a factual context for the requests,” Lewis claimed.

“Demanding that the Abrams campaign identify and produce ‘all communications’ months following the certification of the election results is unreasonable and extraordinary,” he added. “Especially where, as here, the Commission has declined to explain how these requests are related to its investigation.”

One of the groups ensnarled in the subpoena, Care in Action, describes itself as a “nonpartisan,” non-profit that advocates for domestic workers. In the leadup to the 2018 election, Care in Action sent text messages to women registered voters of color in the Peach State, according to the New York Times.

Other groups included in the subpoena are Gente4Abrams, Engaged Georgia Action, and PowerPac Georgia.

In a tweet last Tuesday, Abrams’ campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, blasted the records request, accusing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) of an “unprecedented abuse of power” against Abrams, whom he defeated last November. She has yet to concede the race to her Republican rival despite losing by thousands of votes.

https://twitter.com/gwlauren/status/1133412116055117825

“This move by Kemp’s so-called ‘ethics’ commissioner is an unprecedented abuse of power against his political opponent and specifically targeting organizations that engage voters of color,” tweeted Groh-Wargo. “These intimidation tactics will not stand.”

David Emadi, a former Douglas County prosecutor who assumed his duties as head of the ethics commission in April, said the accusations of abuse are unfounded.

“The Commission is focused on fairly and impartially investigating all cases and that remains our only concern,” Emadi said in a statement. “Any allegations of partisanship are unfortunate and have no place in the discourse of campaign finance laws.”

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