Politics

Abrams’ campaign chair collected millions in legal fees from voting rights organization

“That is not what they brought. That’s not what their press conferences have been about. That’s not what their fundraising emails have been about,” Carr stated of the lawsuit’s ultimate scope. “It was about a watershed landmark voter suppression case. That’s what they took to the American people, not just Georgians, they made this a national campaign. We literally went from 20-some claims to three, and three that don’t go to the heart of affirmatively prohibiting Georgians from voting.”

Lawrence-Hardy pushed again on accusations the lawsuit didn’t have affect. In the pre-trial part of the case, she stated, the state reinstated 22,000 voters that it was planning to take away as a result of that they had not voted in latest elections, below the so-called “use it or lose it” rule. The state additionally agreed to start out utilizing a federal database known as SAVE to confirm the citizenship of latest voters versus a statewide database.

“I wish all of our claims had made it to trial, but this is modern litigation. It is their M.O. to try to dismiss all or parts of cases,” Lawrence-Hardy stated of the state’s protection group.

But even because the scope of the claims narrowed, Fair Fight Action’s legal group grew.

In addition to Lawrence & Bundy, Fair Fight Action paid $8.6 million for legal providers from Jenner & Block, headquartered in Chicago; and Miller & Chevalier Chartered and KaiserDillon, each primarily based in Washington, D.C., for $2.4 million and $1.6 million, respectively, based on the 2019 and 2020 tax filings from Fair Fight Action.

Campaign Legal Center, an organization with extra expertise dealing with voting rights instances, was added to the legal group in late 2019. It shouldn’t be identified if CLC has been paid for its work as a result of it’s not amongst Fair Fight Action’s high 5 distributors, that are required to be disclosed. The similar restricted disclosure applies to the work of the companies Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, Kastorf Law and DuBose Miller, that are listed on courtroom paperwork however not on Fair Fight Action’s tax filings.

Fair Fight’s PAC, identified formally as Fair Fight, Inc, has come below scrutiny in latest weeks. It not too long ago launched an inside investigation after Fox News revealed that Abrams’ longtime aide and the director of the PAC, Andre Fields, paid out tens of hundreds of {dollars} to his sister and a pal for consulting providers when neither has a background in politics.

“On October 13, Fair Fight PAC became aware that PAC funds may have been incorrectly paid to consultants,” a statement from Fair Fight PAC said. “Our first priority is to organize collective efforts to educate voters, which we will not lose sight of throughout this internal investigation.”

Fair Fight Action’s new govt director Cianti Stewart-Reid declined to reveal the group’s donors. But POLITICO was capable of establish donations from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, each giant and well-funded liberal organizations, primarily based on interviews and a overview of different 990 varieties.

Open Society’s co-director for U.S. grants, Laleh Ispahani, stated she was impressed with how “cutting-edge” Fair Fight Action was. “I was always informed about the work and I think most of their donors probably would say the same thing,” Ispahani stated.

But when requested concerning the money spent on outdoors legal fees and its 2018 case, Ispahani stated, “I was not aware of that. I will tell you I didn’t know about what they spent on it, or even how they fund that, quite honestly. So I just I don’t have a lot to tell you.”

The Sixteen Thirty Fund declined to touch upon its grant to Fair Fight Action.

Going to trial

The case, delayed by Covid, lastly got here to trial in the spring. Over the course of 21 days of testimony between April and June of this year, Fair Fight Action known as 50 witnesses, together with 25 voters of which seven couldn’t cast a poll in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

Prior to trial, Fair Fight Action had collected greater than 3,300 voter declarations and included 350 of these tales in the pre-trial discovery portion of the case. Lawrence-Hardy stated after closing arguments that it was a degree of delight for her and her group to have the ability to doc so many citizens’ experiences.

One witness was a Fulton County voter named Andre Smith, who was repeatedly flagged as a felon and eliminated from the voter system due to a false match with a unique Andre Smith. The protection acknowledged the issue, however stated the choice to take away Smith was made on the Fulton County stage, and due to this fact not the fault of the secretary of state’s office.

The state maintained that whereas Georgia’s election system shouldn’t be good, it’s neither systemically flawed nor deliberately discriminatory.

Josh Belinfante, the lead lawyer for the state, argued that whereas particular person voters may need had points voting there’s not a burden on the correct to vote itself, which is the legal normal in such instances. (Belinfante’s agency has additionally represented the Georgia Republican Party, together with in an unsuccessful lawsuit difficult absentee ballots in Chatham County in the 2020 presidential election.)

On the stand, Belinfante questioned Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ 2018 campaign supervisor who additionally served as director of Fair Fight Action, on why the organization had challenged election procedures in 2018 however known as the 2020 election “free and fair” — a degree amplified by Judge Jones in a question from the bench.

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