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Judge to decide on subpoenas in Abrams' campaign finance case

Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA -- Lawyers for organizations that supported Democrat Stacey Abrams' 2018 run for governor told a judge Thursday that accusations of campaign finance violations are little more than a "fishing expedition" to find evidence that doesn't exist.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she will rule soon on whether Abrams' campaign and several nonprofit organizations must produce additional documents sought by the state ethics commission, which is investigating whether they illegally coordinated efforts.

The agency asked Barwick to order Abrams' campaign to comply with a subpoena for more documents that could show whether Abrams and the groups worked together to promote her candidacy. Georgia law prohibits independent groups from coordinating with candidates.

The case arose in the wake of the contentious governor's race between Republican Brian Kemp and Abrams. The subpoena was issued last year by the agency's director, David Emadi.

Abrams' campaign already gave the agency, formally known as the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, about 4,000 documents showing checks, wire transfers, bank records and campaign transactions. But the campaign and the organizations are fighting the agency's demand for additional information that they say isn't relevant to the investigation.

"We did not coordinate with outside groups," Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams' former campaign manager, said after the court hearing. "We responded to the subpoena and gave them everything they asked for. They have no evidence. It didn't happen, period."


An attorney for the ethics commission said it needs an explanation for spending by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group founded by Abrams, and an affiliated organization, the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Social media posts by the groups sought to hire canvassers for Abrams and pay them $15 an hour, said Christian Fuller, an assistant attorney general. Other posts showed volunteers or staffers wearing shirts supporting Abrams and seeking donations to help her.

In addition, the groups had some of the same founders and street addresses, he said.

"The commission is not on a fishing expedition," Fuller said in court. "It's just trying to determine who paid for what and whether it should have been disclosed."


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