Abrams’ political action group raised over $100 million. Why were staff and vendors left out in the cold when the money ran out?
“Scoop: Stacey Abrams campaign in debt after blowout loss,” stage-whispered Axios dramatically on December 19, 2022.
“After raising more than $100 million in her second bid to be Georgia governor, the Stacey Abrams campaign owes more than $1 million in debt to vendors, two-time campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo confirmed to Axios,” the outlet reported.
The Axios scoop was filled with choice quotes from Abrams adjuncts and former staffers such as, “People have told me they have no idea how they’re going to pay their rent in January,” and, “It was more than unfortunate; it was messed up,” and, “I figured, $100 million? They should be able to pay me until December.”
“Stacey Abrams Campaign Under Scrutiny: $1M In Debt, Former Staffers Allege Wasted Spending,” reported BET likewise on December 20, 2022.
“How Abrams’ campaign spending led to ‘incredibly bad’ cash crunch,” echoed The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that same day, citing a, “rented house in an expensive Atlanta neighborhood meant for TikTok creators that sat largely unused,” and a, “pop-up ‘swag truck’ that baffled some staffers,” among other questionable campaign expenditures.
“The campaign is trying to sell its donor lists and voter contact spreadsheets to repay its debts,” reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoting former Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo. “But interviews with former staffers and operatives surfaced new details about profligate spending that led to a dire financial squeeze by the end of the campaign.”
The cavalcade of bad news wasn’t a nice Christmas gift for fans of Abrams, who retains a strong following despite her persistent inability to win elections in Georgia.
Nor is this the first time an Abrams campaign effort has drawn scrutiny and accusations of financial mismanagement.
In October 2022, POLITICO lobbed the following headline: “Abrams’ campaign chair collected millions in legal fees from voting rights organization.”
“Fair Fight Action, the non-profit founded by Abrams, paid her close friend and ally’s law firm $9.4 million in 2019 and 2020, with two more years of billion yet to be disclosed,” POLITICO disclosed.
In July, Axios was already priming the public for bad news about Abrams: “State alleges $3 million in unreported spending by Abrams-founded group.”
It’s a sign that even progressive-leaning outlets like Axios may finally be giving up on Abrams, who has long been a mainstream media favorite. How viable are future Abrams campaigns after these latest disclosures?
The selling of donor lists and outreach signups isn’t likely to endear any future Abrams campaign efforts with potential donors and voters. The complaints being now voiced by former staffers aren’t likely to help future Abrams campaign efforts attract top talent long enough to make it over the finish line first, to say nothing of actually governing afterward.
In the future, Georgia voters might question Abrams’ ability to govern successfully after these disclosures, should her name appear on the ticket. And they might have a point.
Despite Abrams’ considerable fundraising prowess, the fact that she refused to accept her defeat in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race has made her something of a liability in a party committed to preserving democracy by stamping out any “big lie” that U.S. elections are anything but secure bordering on inviolate.
“Stacey Abrams’ rhetorical twist on being an election denier,” grumped The Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler on September 29, 2022, before admitting Abrams’ denial of denying her loss to Brian Kemp in 2018, “Spins the facts.”
Is Stacey Abrams the victim in this drama or the villain?
The truth is often much more complicated. The world isn’t neatly divided by anything so trite as “victims” and “villains.”
And Abrams’ fall from grace in the Democratic Party, while spectacular, might not be over.
“What we’re watching,” Axios warned darkly in conclusion to its big scoop on the Abrams campaign this week: “A more complete picture of the campaign’s finances will become available in the new year after disclosures are due.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)