‘If they are required to open their books to the commission …. that would chill political speech…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Georgia‘s ethics commissioner on Wednesday presented his case to a panel adjudicating whether former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams‘s campaign violated election laws.
David Emadi, executive director of the state ethics commission, accused Abrams of coordinating activities with the New Georgia Project Action Fund and other tax-sheltered entities, reported the Atlanta Journal–Constitution.
The organization, part of a nonprofit that was founded by Abrams, was registered as a political action committee. By law, such groups do not face the same fundraising restrictions as campaigns but are banned from engaging directly with a specific campaign or candidate.
Emadi said that the supposed voter-registration group had instead conducted illegal canvassing operations for Abrams’ campaign.
In addition, he said four activist groups exceeded the maximum campaign contributions permitted under state law—including $700,000 from San Francisco-based PowerPac for “get out the vote canvassing” and “voter contact.”
PowerPac, linked to billionaire bank heiress Susan Sandler, spent millions supporting Abrams’ candidacy, helping to make it the most expensive race in Georgia’s history.
Abrams’ opponent, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, narrowly won the race with enough votes to avert a runoff.
But Abrams, who has been floated as a likely 2020 running mate by Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and others, bitterly refused to concede the race and has maintained that Kemp stole the election from her.
Aria Branch, an attorney representing the Abrams-linked organizations, denied any misconduct and sought to deflect the criticism back onto Emadi and the ethics commission, pointing to past Republican ties.
“This appears to be a fishing expedition,” Branch claimed. “That is not allowed under the commission’s rules.”
Nonetheless, she has fought tooth-and-nail to prevent Emadi from accessing—and possibly releasing to the public—any of the Abrams campaign’s donor records.
Lawyers for the organizations and the Abrams campaign have sought to quash recent subpoenas requiring the groups to turn over insurance policies, bank statements and campaign materials. However, the ethics commission denied the request.
And Branch claimed that letting the public have access to the fundraising records could deter future donors and violate their First Amendment rights.
“If they are required to open their books to the commission …. that would chill political speech,” she said.