Governor Brian Kemp and Democratic voting rights activist Stacey Abrams were both cleared of some wrongdoings in their respective 2018 gubernatorial campaigns. While the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission maintained that the complaints against Kemp had no merit, they only dismissed several of the complaints against Abrams.
The unresolved complaint raised against Abrams alleged that her campaign illegally coordinated with a political action committee (PAC) through a voting rights nonprofit that she founded. Abrams’ nonprofit, New Georgia Project, and a similarly-named PAC, New Georgia Project Action Fund, reportedly operated in the same office under some of the same individuals. In an attempt to investigate the complaints further, the commission petitioned a court for a subpoena to access more of Abrams campaign documents; the judge denied the request. It is unclear whether the investigation is still ongoing. Commission members may not comment on active investigations pursuant to the state’s Rules of Professional Responsibility.
In memorandums shared with The Georgia Star News by the commission, two separate complaints raised against Abrams in April 2018 were dismissed. Both memorandums are dated December 2nd.
The first complaint alleged that Abrams hadn’t provided adequate information about nearly 40 reimbursements over the course of 8 years, from 2009 to 2017. The commission determined that about half of the alleged violations fell outside of the statute of limitations, since they occurred over three years before the complaint was filed. As for the remainder, the commission determined that the reimbursements failing to provide sufficient information were “technical defects” rather than serious omissions. They noted that Abrams amended the reports with the missing information less than a week after being notified.
As for the second complaint, the commission determined that Abrams hadn’t used any campaign funds to travel and promote her book, “Minority Leader, How to Lead From the Outside and Make Real Change.” They added that campaign staff had only posted promotional tweets through personal accounts, and not official campaign accounts.
The commission’s communications director shared that they were waiting on Kemp’s attorney to submit a draft order for signing at a later date, since they had initially filed a motion to dismiss.
One of the complaints raised against Kemp was similar to one against Abrams: that the governor had failed to list the occupation of certain contributors within his campaign disclosure report. The commission dismissed the complaint, stating that the missed details were fewer than what the law necessitated for an investigation.
Not all recent decisions concerning high-profile politicians under investigation for ethics violations were dismissals. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was ordered to pay a fine for committing campaign violations during the 2017 mayoral race. Bottoms was levied a fine of $37,000 after admitting to accepting $6,900 more in contributions than legally allowed, and an additional $110,797 that summarily violated several other statutes. The mayor reportedly also unlawfully kept some of the contributions left over from clearing campaign debts.
Additionally, Gwinnett County’s newly-elected District Attorney Brian Whiteside was fined $5,000 for campaign violations.
Neither Kemp or Abrams’ spokespersons responded by press time.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Stacey Abrams” by Stacey Abrams. Background Photo “Georgia Capital” by andre m. CC BY-SA 3.0.