State ethics agency drops charges in Abrams fundraising probe as campaign moves forward

Georgia’s campaign finance enforcement agency on Tuesday dismissed two charges against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams related to her 2018 campaign.

The state ethics commission dismissed the charges based on documents showing the Abrams campaign did not illegally receive donations from two support organizations, while other forms clarified questions about an expense billed in his 2018 run as a Democrat against Republican winner Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Tuesday marked the latest development in the sweeping probe into whether Abrams’ team coordinated with groups to help his election in 2018. The probe plays out in the background as he renews his rivalry with Kemp in another race to claim the governor’s mansion.

The two fundraising giants collected record donations as the November 8 general election approaches in a fierce competition that captures national attention.

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission investigation was called a witch hunt by Abrams’ team. The investigation intensified when executive secretary David Emadi took over as head of the agency in the spring of 2019, when he followed up on a complaint from 2018.

The investigation looked at Abrams’ campaign communication with several nonprofits and a political action committee that donated money for his campaign.

But on Tuesday there was no apparent tension in the room as commission attorney Joe Cusack and Abrams attorney Joyce Gist Lewis watched as the council voted unanimously to drop the two cases.

Cusack said a disclosure report from Abrams was amended to reflect that a donation from Gente4Abrams, a Latino-based group, fell within a time frame allowed by state law. The complaint had sought to find out whether Abrams’ campaign was illegally accepting money before she declared her intention to run in 2018.

“This single tally stems from filings that showed in-kind contributions that had taken place on the date prior to (Abrams’) filing in July.” Cusak. “What Ms Lewis was able to provide me with were actual campaign invoices which showed they were in fact a day later after the (statement of intent) was filed.”

In 2020, the Ethics Commission fined Gente4Abrams for failing to properly report money spent during Abrams’ primary campaign.

Cusack also said Tuesday that Abrams’ team submitted documents and a campaign manager affidavit confirming a 2018 invoice filed by a law firm.

Ethics commission chairman James Kreyenbuhl said the cooperation between Abrams and the commission in settling these cases showed the system was working.

“I think this is a perfect example of both parties working together, providing the information the Commission needs to show Ms. Abrams was in compliance,” he said.

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