Georgia’s Ethics Czar Threatens to Subpoena Stacey Abrams’ Campaign Records

A month into his new role as the director of Georgia’s Ethics Commission, David Emadi announced that he would subpoena campaign records from 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. Emadi, who replaced Stefan Ritter following allegations of workplace impropriety, said the Ethics Commission is actively investigating “four or five” ethics complaints against Abrams, WXIA reported. The agency will subpoena bank and financial records from the Democrat’s campaign, as well as groups that raised funds for her gubernatorial run.

On April 11, Emadi said he expects Abrams’ campaign records to be “voluminous,” indicating the investigation could take a while. The director, who began his new role in early April, said the commission also investigated complaints against Republican Brian Kemp’s gubernatorial campaign. No sustainable allegations were found, Emadi told WXIA.

The investigation into Abrams’ campaign was prompted by audits of contribution and expenditure reports. These reports were filed by candidates and political groups for fundraising and spending during campaigns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ former campaign manager, did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. In a series of tweets, she criticized Emadi for the “threat” of a subpoena and claimed Kemp’s allies were abusing power for political purposes. Emadi is a former leader in the Douglas County Republican Party, and he donated $600 to Kemp’s successful gubernatorial campaign.

“This is Kemp’s corrupt playbook, his long history of launching frivolous investigations with bogus charges against political opponents,” Groh-Wargo wrote on Twitter. “This is a shameful misuse of taxpayer dollars for a political vendetta. We will fight false accusations with every available resource.” In a letter sent to Emadi, Abrams’ attorney, Joyce Gist Lewis, reprimanded the ethics chief for failing to make good faith notifications for the campaign records. The sentiment was echoed in Groh-Wargo’s statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The Abrams campaign worked diligently to ensure compliance throughout the election and, had we been notified of any irregularities, would have immediately taken action to rectify them,” Groh-Wargo said. Lewis said Abrams has “nothing to hide” and is willing to offer her “full cooperation without the need to resort to a subpoena.”

Emadi told reporters that his agency investigates complaints regardless of political party affiliation, and added that he would not vote while serving in his new role. He said he believed in being a “neutral arbiter” in the role as ethics chief, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“This is an inherently political position, but as a former prosecutor, I am comfortable and I have been comfortable making decisions that people may not like,” he told reporters. “I may not be everyone’s best friend, but I am OK with that.” Emadi noted that the Ethics Commission is actively investigating complaints made against “all” of the Atlanta mayoral candidates, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “In the relatively near future, I expect we will make the decision [whether] to go forward with prosecution on a case-by-case basis,” Emadi told reporters.

Officials did not outline what potential campaign finance violations Abrams and the mayoral campaigns may have committed.

Abrams, who narrowly lost to Kemp in last year’s race for Georgia governor, raised $27.6 million for her widely-followed campaign. She is expected to announce whether she will run for a seat in the US Senate or in the 2020 presidential election soon. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that she may also run for Georgia governor again in 2022.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.