Stacey Abrams was once a public official I liked… A LOT! But what a disappointment she’s turned out to be with both her leadership and ethics. She has more ethical challenges than any other statewide candidate. She’s become “Unethical Abrams” to me — the Kasim Reed of statewide politics.
I’m tired of the voters of our state electing people to public office, only later to find out that they completely lack ethics. So with the primary election just days away, and many potential voters still undecided, here are 10 reasons why you should not vote for Stacey Abrams for Governor if you care about ethical behavior:
#1 Abrams reimbursed herself over $84,000 from her campaign accounts without itemization of end recipients. This means that she could have pocketed the money, which of course would be illegal. Last month I filed an ethics complaint with the state ethics commission. When asked about it, she stated “We complied very much so with all of the record-keeping that we were required to do. But if there is any discrepancy and any question, we will certainly provide additional information.” It’s been weeks, and she has still not disclosed where the money went. See WSBTV’s story.
#2 Abrams used campaign resources to sell her book, which she profits from personally. Again, this is illegal and I filed an ethics complaint about it last month as well. This is illegal because candidates are not allowed to personally benefit from campaign funds. Abrams has been paid by her publisher already for the book, and she’ll surely profit from its sales. It would be okay if the campaign received all proceeds from the book, but that’s not the case. After claiming there was nothing wrong with what her staff was doing, all campaign web pages supporting the sale of the book were removed, and all staffers’ social media tweets and posts were deleted. Read the AJC story.
#3 Abrams lied on multiple occasions about her private business dealings with a business she is a partner in called NOWaccount, which did business with the State of Georgia, and Fulton County. While this may not be illegal, lying about your private business dealings is likely something most voters consider unethical. On two separate occasions Abrams stated publicly that she “walled off” herself from dealings with the state – on WABE 3/22/18 and at the GABWA forum on 4/6/18 (1:20:28 mark). Yet the meeting minutes from the Development Authority of Fulton County for May 27, 2014 tell a different story. They state she not only attended, but “…Representative Stacey Abrams… appeared in connection with the request for a letter of inducement for the issuance of $20,000,000 in taxable bonds”. That’s hardly walling herself off.
#4 Abrams was not transparent about a second private business dealing with the state. As Minority Leader in the State House, she never let her caucus know something very important! NOWaccount paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars and was engaged in an on-going business relationship with Gov. Deal’s administration. Abrams at no point informed her caucus of this business relationship that could have compromised her judgment on critical votes, such as the devastating cuts to HOPE and cutting the time-period for early voting in half – both of which the Governor wanted, and Abrams encouraged her caucus to support.
#5 Abrams enriched herself with almost half a million dollars from part time work from her non-profits focused on voter registration. As someone who helped register over 20,000 students during my time in college, and who has poured blood, sweat and tears into nonprofits for modest pay, this one really gets me! She claims that her New Georgia Project, registered 200,000 voters (she used to claim “of color” but has recently dropped that term) between 2014 and 2016. However, she refused to be transparent and back that claim up with any documents or data, while national registration numbers in fact indicate that registration during these years was below average. Despite many questions and concerns about the effectiveness of this effort, Abrams paid herself $427,500 over this two-year period for part time work!
Moreover, the project majorly failed in its fundraising and registration goals, while in addition to making herself half a millionaire, she paid friends and other political allies another $1.5 million of the $3.6 million the effort raised. $1.9 million makes for quite a friends and family plan!! Third Sector Development and the Voter Access Institute are her two non-profits behind the New Georgia Project. IRS Form 990’s from those two organizations over the two-year period show Abrams paid herself over $117 per hour!
#6 Abrams claimed very high, and some false per diems as a State Representative. She padded her state salary with more than $150,000 in per diem payments (an allowance to cover meals and other expenses while working). In 2011, Abrams claimed more out-of-session expenses than any other Georgia House Member – while this is not illegal, it shows an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Also in 2011, she reported receiving per diem pay on the same day a lobbyist reported buying her a cab ride out of state, which violates House Ethics Rules, and forcing her to reimburse the state $181. According to the Associated Press, “Rep. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic minority leader, received $173 in daily pay plus mileage for working in Georgia on Nov. 20, 2011. That same day, a lobbyist reported buying Abrams a $6 cab ride in Miami. When asked about the discrepancy, Abrams reviewed her calendar and said she made a mistake. Abrams has reimbursed the state $181 for the pay she collected on Nov. 20 because lawmakers cannot claim flat-rate pay for out-of-state work.” [Associated Press, 9/6/12]
#7 Abrams asked for and received a sweetheart deal after working for the City of Atlanta that would make even Kasim Reed’s cabinet jealous. With the shock of large bonuses and payouts to staffers of former Mayor Kasim Reed in the limelight, it seems Kasim wasn’t the first to make such a move. Months after leaving city employment, Abrams was paid $62,000 in taxpayer money as a consultant on The BeltLine Project in 2006 and 2007. Even then, someone apparently raised a concern about her pay and “other agendas”. According to this handwritten note in open records from Atlanta BeltLine dated 9/26, “Someone raised concern about use of Stacey, watch how much in sum paying her and other agendas she’s got going.”
She even bragged about this questionable use of taxpayer funds… according to an interview in Reflections on Georgia Politics with Bob Short, Abrams said, “When I left the City of Atlanta to run for office, I had to figure out a way to afford my house and I started a consulting firm. I had created a couple of opportunities for the city and they hired me to come on board. And when I got ready to leave, they said, you’re not leaving without telling us how this works and so they hired me and I negotiated a pretty good price for myself and built a reputation as someone who understood the intersection of public and private enterprise when it comes to particularly public/private development.”
#8 Abrams’ business has liens for unpaid unemployment contributions. Her nonprofit discussed earlier, Third Sector Development had four liens totaling $13,000 from the Georgia Department of Labor for unpaid unemployment contributions from 2014 through 2016 as reported in the AJC. Additionally, in 2010 she had a federal tax lien for $29,795 which she claims was filed in error.
#9 Abrams personally loaned her campaign $50,000 while she owes the IRS $54,000. I would think that while running for Governor, especially after making yourself a half millionaire from nonprofits and work as a public official in addition to getting $150,000 for a book deal, you would want to settle unpaid taxes. But apparently not if you are Abrams, instead, she loaned her campaign $50k! According to the AJC, she deferred her tax payments and worked out a payment plan for 2015 and 2016. She claimed financial hardship while working to support her family. Again, she raked in almost half a million from her nonprofits alone in 2014 and 2015 – what kind of hardship could her family have? And what decisions will she make with your taxpayer dollars if she’s elected Governor?
#10 Abrams has a pattern of inaccurate reporting on her personal financial disclosures and campaign finance reports. Public officials have to file Personal Financial Disclosure reports so citizens can see their business interests to know if they have conflicts of interest. Abrams reports have to be repeatedly amended because of “mistakes” – she apparently forgets about hundreds of thousands of dollars she’s earned from companies she owns or serves as a partner, or board of directors she has served on. She also has a history of mistakes on her campaign finance reports. Again, while not illegal, it certainly shows at the very least, troubling incompetency, or most likely clear attempts to avoid transparency. Here are a few examples:
– In 2015, the year she received $85,000 and the year after she received $177,500 (2014) in payments as CEO of Third Sector Development, she filed amended her report from 2005 through 2015 to add this role.
– In 2016, she amended her Personal Financial Disclosures for years 2011-2015 to include her role as advisor to GeorgiaNEXT, Inc.
– In 2016, she amended her 2013 Personal Financial Disclosure to include her direct ownership in Myrina Strategies.
– Over the years, she apparently forgot she served on the board of directors of the Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, Faith in Community Ministries, Board of Visitors for Emory University, Branan Towers Senior Facility of Wesley Woods Foundation, Health Students Taking Action Together and NOW Corp USA. And while she reported service on the following boards some years, she didn’t disclose service in all years she served on the boards of The Atlanta Metropolitan State College Foundation and The Georgia Partnership For Excellence In Education.
– An AJC investigation in 2015 found she had a $3,403 discrepancy in her Financial Disclosure Reports. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/29/15]
So there you have it — 10 instances of unethical behavior by Candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams. I challenge anyone to find a candidate for statewide office this year with more documented examples.