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As Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams prepares for her November rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a rematch of the race she claims she won in 2018, the rising Democratic Party star has some explaining to do. Voters deserve to know more about the creative financial arrangement she had with her donor-linked employer the last time she campaigned for governor.
According to IRS filings reviewed by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) where I am a Distinguished Fellow, Boston-based BlueHub Capital reported that Abrams received nearly $115,000 (page 8) in compensation in 2018 for a full-time job as Underwriting Manager. How did she manage to simultaneously campaign full-time, raise $40 million, and still spend 40 hours a week as a full-time subscription manager?
“I spend most of my time engaging in politics and social justice,” Abrams wrote in a March 2019 article for Ted.com in which she professed to believe in “work-life jenga” rather than work-life balance. “Letting go of the finite distinctions and moral judgments we hear beneath our choices sets the stage for us to set priorities without condemnation,” she wrote.
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But it wasn’t just Jenga’s hard work and professional life that propelled Abrams into a race she nearly won. She had a perk that many applicants don’t get: a full-time salary from a donor-related nonprofit. In this case, the one who explicitly signaled to the government that Abrams was being paid to work 40 hours a week.
Campaigning for statewide or even federal office is hardly a 40-hour-a-week commitment. There tend to be a lot more. Most applicants are lucky enough to find time for a haircut, let alone a full-time job. For me, campaigning meant spending months juggling a series of part-time consulting arrangements.
So, who was paying Abrams as a full-time employee during a time when she would no doubt have been laser-focused on winning a marquee race?
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GAI has also looked into this question. What they discovered raises even more questions, not just about the integrity of the candidates themselves, but about how tax-advantaged interest groups influence candidates who can afford to run as candidates. first place.
Turns out Abrams’ employer at the time, BlueHub Capital, isn’t just your nonprofit. Elyse Cherry, CEO of BlueHub Capital since 1997, is an Abrams supporter, political activist and former board member of LPAC. LPAC presents itself as the only organization whose mission is the election of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer women.
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Founded in 2012 by “a group of LGBTQ women seeking to create a place and a voice at the table of power for our community”, LPAC claims to directly support and invest in candidates and support them with independent campaign spending. “We’ve raised over $6.3 million and supported over 150 candidates,” the group says, “and we’re just getting started.”
The group seeks to support candidates like Abrams “who share our values: LGBTQ and women’s equality, women’s health, and social justice, while helping to make LGBTQ women a meaningful and powerful political demographic.”
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Cherry, who was Abrams’ boss in 2018, made significant donations to LPAC before and after the 2018 election. The ties between Abrams’ employer and his donors don’t end there.
LPAC endorsed Abrams for governor of Georgia in 2018 and made two $3,300 contributions to his campaign efforts. Additionally, the group held a fundraiser in February 2018 – in BlueHub Capital’s hometown – Boston, Massachusetts. One of the hosts was none other than Elyse Cherry.
Another host, Naomi Aberly, donated a total of $15,100 to Abrams’ political campaigns before, during and after her time as an employee at BlueHub Capital. Additionally, Aberly donated $30,000 to Abrams’ Fair Fight political committee in 2020.
Underwriting work began in 2017, shortly after it was reported that Abrams had resigned from his seat at Georgia House to focus on his bid for governor. During the year Abrams worked in her role as underwriting manager for the BlueHub subsidiary SUN, she apparently reviewed applications to ensure that each loan was carefully underwritten and that SUN was the right person for all successful candidates. So how much subscription did Abrams actually make?
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Document reviews cannot tell us. But it’s hard to imagine that Abrams’ employer was unaware of his extracurricular campaign activities. Did they hire her knowing she wouldn’t be able to do a full-time job? Did they expect her to spend her time running for office? Was she chosen for the job because they supported her platform and wanted her to run?
While I have no problem with candidates earning income while running for office, I question the statement to the government in this case that Abrams was working a 40-hour week. How can this be true? It is not an individual or a company doing what they want with their own money. It is a tax-advantaged non-profit association.
What are the implications of a world in which donors can use tax-free entities, funded by tax-exempt donations, to propel candidates like Abrams who are clearly favored by the wealthy elite? At a minimum, shouldn’t such arrangements be disclosed as campaign donations?
For his part, Abrams has received praise for his strong work ethic. “In 2018, I finally had enough money to do all the things we dreamed of,” she told Stephen Colbert in a November 2020 interview. “I raised $40 million for my gubernatorial race.”
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As we approach midterms and a high-stakes presidential election, voters deserve to know which candidates are running to represent them and which are running to represent specific interest groups.
Abrams needs to make it clear that donors are hiding behind nonprofits to pay her to run for office.
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