Judge Rejects Stacey Abrams’s Effort to Challenge Georgia Fundraising Law

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
April 16, 2022 Updated: April 17, 2022

A federal judge has rejected an effort by Stacey Abrams and her gubernatorial campaign to challenge a new Georgia fundraising law.

Abrams recently filed a lawsuit against Senate Bill 221, which allows groups chaired by the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the nominee for either post from major parties to raise funds without limit.

The law took effect on July 1, 2021, shortly after being passed by the state legislature and signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who beat Abrams in 2018 and is running for reelection.

U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen, an Obama nominee overseeing the case, said the challenge was turned down because of the relief Abrams sought. In her filings, Abrams claimed to already be the Democratic Party of Georgia’s nominee for governor, even though the primary elections aren’t until May.

“Rather than address the alleged unconstitutional inequity created by the application of the [law] whereby Governor Kemp is able to raise unlimited funds through his leadership committee during a time period when Abrams is not permitted to do the same, the injunctive relief currently sought by Plaintiffs would require this court to find Abrams already is the Democratic Party nominee for Governor despite the fact that the primary election does not take place until May 24, 2022,” Cohen wrote in a 34-page ruling.

Abrams, her campaign, and One Georgia, her leadership committee, “effectively seek to have this Court re-write” Georgia election code and the law “as it relates to when a candidate is recognized as the nominee of a political party,” he said.

Abrams had argued that the law illegally bars her campaign from working with One Georgia, her leadership committee. Abrams and the groups had asked Cohen to enjoin defendants from investigating them for alleged violations of the law.

The ruling was against a motion for a preliminary injunction, which means the case isn’t over.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Abrams, said in a statement that due to the ruling, “it is more urgent than ever” that supporters go to Abrams’s campaign website “and give whatever they can.”

Kemp’s campaign didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment.

Cohen had recently ruled in a similar case that was brought by former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Kemp’s chief rival in the Republican primary.

Under the law, Kemp’s groups can raise unlimited funds while Perdue’s cannot because Kemp is the governor while Perdue is not the Republican nominee, at least for now.

Perdue cast doubt on the constitutionality of a law that “imposes different contribution limits for candidates who are competing against each other.” Cohen agreed, saying Perdue was likely to succeed on the claim that his First Amendment rights were being violated.

The law in question “effectively negates the contribution limit upon which all candidates for governor in the primary election are bound for just one person: Governor Kemp, the incumbent,” he wrote in his ruling.

He enjoined Kemp’s committee from expending funds for the purpose of reelecting Kemp or the defeat of a Kemp opponent through the primary election and, if necessary, the primary runoff.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.