New reports indicate that Eavid Emadi, the new chief of Georgia’s ethics commission, has issued subpoenas to groups working with Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who lost the state’s gubernatorial race in 2018.
Through attorneys, Abrams, who has repeatedly contested the results of the election while claiming to be the victim of voter fraud, has denounced the moves as politically motivated.
Now, as the ethics office looks to ramp up its investigation into possible financial wrongdoing, Abrams’ campaign appears desperate to portray the move as “revenge.”
The head of Georgia’s ethics commission has filed a spate of subpoenas targeting groups led by Stacey Abrams and the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, prompting criticism that he’s trying to exact political revenge against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s political opponents.
The subpoenas obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were filed on April 26 by new ethics chief David Emadi and seek extensive financial, bank and payroll records from the Abrams’ campaign, which raised roughly $30 million in last year’s race against Kemp.
The ethics office also wants all correspondence between the Abrams campaign and a constellation of left-leaning groups that registered and mobilized voters, many with a focus on energizing minorities. They include the voting rights group Abrams helped launch and a nonprofit co-founded by state Sen. Nikema Williams, the new leader of the state Democratic Party.
In the documents, Emadi reveals that investigators intend to present evidence that the Abrams campaign accepted donations from four of the groups that exceeded maximum contribution limits for a statewide campaign.
Abrams’ attorney has vigorously denied that claim, said that investigators have failed to prove any wrongdoing and offered full cooperation to clear up any technical violations. She also questioned why investigators only demanded records from groups “led by black or Latinx Georgians working to increase election participation among voters of color.”
Abrams officials made similar complaints in April, when Emadi said he would move forward with investigations into campaign filings by Abrams and her allies. Agency officials said his predecessor had stalled those probes after audits raised issues with the filings.
Emadi declined to discuss specifics but said all candidates from the 2018 campaign for governor are being audited “without any concern or benefit regarding partisan affiliation.”
The four groups Emadi singled out are Care in Action, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers co-founded by Williams; Higher Heights for Georgia, a New York-funded organization geared toward electing black women; PowerPAC Georgia, an “independent group” that spent more than $5.6 million promoting Abrams and attacking Kemp, mostly funded by liberal San Francisco-based philanthropist Susan Sandler; and Gente4Abrams, a Latino advocacy group.
In all, state ethics officials issued nine subpoenas as part of the investigation. They seek documents from several so-called “independent groups” — which are legally barred from coordinating with political candidates — that were formed in Georgia last year to help Abrams. Several of the groups did not immediately respond to questions about the subpoenas.
The groups targeted by the ethics panel were asked to hand over correspondence with Abrams’ campaign and records involving any spending that promoted Abrams or targeted Kemp. PowerPAC was also ordered to detail any contact with the New Georgia Project, the voter registration group that Abrams helped launch but no longer controls.