Days before the election, Stacey Abrams’ ‘Poster Child’ voter registration group is in turmoil

The nonprofit founded by Stacey Abrams and led by Senator Raphael Warnock between 2017 and 2019 is plagued by unrest and infighting days before the midterm elections. Since late June, the New Georgia Project has laid off its top finance, legal and operations officials.

Founded by Abrams in 2013, the New Georgia Project has served as the “poster” for Abrams’ efforts to boost Democrats in the state, according to at Axios. Although Abrams and Warnock are no longer affiliated with the group, both are on the ballot next Tuesday, and the New Georgia Project has worked to expand the nonwhite electorate in Peach State. In 2020 alone, it raised nearly $25 million from donors, including left-leaning black money giant Tides Foundation and the George Soros-funded Center for People’s Democracy.

But over the past eight weeks, the group has suffered a major brain drain. The group’s “management team” consisted of eight people in September, according web archives, but four of those positions are now vacant, including director of operations, director of legal, director of finance and director of communications.

A recording of an October 7 videoconference shared with the Free tag shows human resources director Earvin Hopkins firing the chief operating officer of the New Georgia Project as well as its directors of design and digital marketing. On the same call, Hopkins told employees that the group could no longer afford to pay employees who were laid off.

The New Georgia project has also been without an accountant since chief financial officer Randall Frazier was fired in late June. A former executive of the group, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Frazier was fired after warning group executives they were involved in potential financial irregularities and urging them to hire a forensic accountant to right the ship.

“I was in the room when he told all the executives about it over and over again, and I was there when he was fired,” the former executive said. Frazier, according to the former executive, said he couldn’t do his job without breaking the law, although he didn’t explain why he thought that was the case.

Internal communications also show that the group’s leaders were likely to know who had access to their finances. A former executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said New Georgia Project CEO Kendra Cotton denied her request on September 13 to grant an independent auditor access to their accounting software. . A few weeks earlier, on August 30, Cotton had responded to a request from the group’s chief operating officer asking the group to hire a new accountant: “We are HYPER SENSITIVE about who we let our financial information circulate”, Cotton wrote in a reviewed text message. speak Free tag.

Frazier declined to comment, citing a nondisclosure agreement with the New Georgia Project. His former New Georgia Project senior accountant, Ambria Hardy, declined to comment.

Cotton did not respond to a request for comment, but New Georgia Project employees were instructed Thursday afternoon to notify Cotton “immediately” if contacted by members of the press. Speaking to reporters, a text message warned, is a violation of Project New Georgia policy.

Text message sent to New Georgia Project employees on November 3, 2022.

Although no longer officially affiliated with the group, Abrams and Warnock maintained ties with New Georgia Project executives, including board chairman Francys Johnson. Warnock nominated Johnson to its “Federal Advisory Nominations Board” in March 2021, and he is also a regular at Abrams campaign events. In September he co-hosted a rally to get the vote for her in Atlanta.

Johnson, who did not respond to a request for comment, was named chairman of the board of the New Georgia Project in 2020 after Warnock announced his first run for the Senate. He served as president of the Georgia NAACP and mounted a failed congressional bid as a Democrat in 2018.

Although Hopkins, the head of human resources, cited financial constraints when laying off employees in October, the New Georgia project ended 2020 with more than $17 million in cash reserves after starting the year with only $232,000 in the bank, according to the charity’s Form 990. tax return. The group did not respond to a request for a copy of its 2021 Form 990.

Internal communications reviewed by the Free tag also reveal that the New Georgia Project misrepresented the reason former CEO Nsé Ufot left the group last month. According to a “love letterwritten by Ufot and posted on the New Georgia Project website, she resigned her post “out of love”. But in at least one private correspondence, these communications show, Johnson claimed to have “fired” Ufot with the legal director and Deputy General Counsel Ufot did not respond to a request for comment.

The New Georgia Project is the third group founded by Abrams to face allegations of financial impropriety. A state ethics commission concluded in August that New Georgia Project likely broke the law during Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign. The group and its affiliate New Georgia Project Action Fund have been accused of failing to report $4.2 million in contributions and 3 million dollars of expenditure incurred between 2017 and 2019.

lawyers too raised questions on Abrams’ Fair Fight Action finances after the group doled out $9.4 million to a law firm run by Abrams’ current campaign chair, Allegra Lawrence-Hardy. Fair Fight Action’s political action committee launched an internal investigation into its finances in October, after Fox News reported the PAC funneled a combined $178,000 to close friends and family of its political director, Andre Fields, despite having no relevant political experience.

Warnock Church is also coming under intense scrutiny in the final weeks before Election Day. Georgia Secretary of State’s Securities and Charities Division spear an investigation into a church-controlled charity in mid-October to determine why it is operating in the state without registering with state authorities. Ebenezer Baptist Church, which pays Warnock a housing allowance of $7,417 a month, owns 99% of a low-income building through the charity which moved to evict residents during the pandemic for overdue rent as low as $28.55.

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