Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has started a new tax-exempt organization called Fair Count Inc., her latest in a string of so-called dark money groups that have anchored her political career.
Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party, narrowly lost a historic election for governor in November 2018 that would have made her the first African-American female governor in the nation’s history. Despite a record midterm turnout, Abrams continues to blame her loss on voter suppression—an issue she champions.
Since her defeat, Abrams has hinted at running against Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020, and even told the New York Times on March 5 that she is considering a presidential bid. On March 14, Abrams met with former Vice President Joe Biden to reportedly discuss being his running mate in a possible Biden campaign for the White House.
Abrams announced Fair Count on March 25 with the intention of including “hard-to-count groups” in the 2020 Census, which according to the organization’s website, are under-reported and unrepresented.
“Proud to be part of making our democracy stronger by founding FairCount—a new org working to make sure all people are counted in the upcoming census,” Abrams wrote on Twitter.
“I know too many Georgians who feel unseen and unheard. These are the voices we need in Georgia the most,” she added in a video.
Fair Count comes as the Trump administration prepares to include a citizenship question that Democrats fear will cause illegal immigrants to shy away from participating in the once-a-decade national headcount. If so, it could diminish both federal funding and political clout in areas where they reside. The U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately determine the validity of the question.
According to Pew Research, almost 60 percent of illegal immigrants live in just 20 urban areas, including Atlanta. A pre-2016 presidential election analysis estimated that California, a sanctuary state, would lose five House seats—and therefore, five Electoral College votes—if the state’s illegal immigrant population were wholly eliminated from the census.
Dark money refers to tax-exempt groups that don’t disclose their donors or sources of funding. Abrams, whose other dark money nonprofits centered on mass registering voters and challenging alleged voter suppression, has already said that she is open to noncitizen voting.
In a Jan. 19 PBS “Firing Line” interview, Abrams said she “wouldn’t oppose” noncitizens from voting in local elections. In an October 2018 campaign speech, she said that the “blue wave” of Democratic voters includes “documented and undocumented” immigrants, among others, although it is illegal for non-U.S. citizens to vote in federal elections.
The fine print at the bottom of Fair Count’s fundraising page states that the newly launched organization is actually a remake of one of Abrams’ existing tax-exempt nonprofits called Third Sector Development Inc.
“Fair Count Inc. is formerly Third Sector Development Inc., and is in the process of legally changing its name. Contributions to Fair Count Inc. are tax-deductible,” the disclaimer reads.
Third Sector was one of two nonprofits Abrams founded that received a massive influx of financial donations in recent years, while she was serving as a state House representative in the Georgia Legislature. According to public records, Third Sector and the Voter Access Institute garnered $12.5 million between 2013 and 2016.
Abrams has consistently refused to disclose where the money came from, although she personally benefitted to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported in September 2018.
“Absolutely, 100 percent, no doubt,” the organizations set the stage for Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign, a former Democratic candidate told the AJC on the condition of anonymity, citing a “fear of political retaliation.”
Prior to 2018, Third Sector organized a statewide voter registration drive known as the New Georgia Project. The effort relied on support from wealthy progressive donors who continued to give millions to Abrams during her run for governor.
But activities performed by the New Georgia Project led to a fraud investigation by the State Board of Elections, and the group’s lack of transparency caused concern among many Democrats.
When pressed on the campaign trail, Abrams defended her organizations by suggesting that questions about her donors and outsized salary were sexist.
“The implicit question is: Why didn’t you do it for less—or for free?” Abrams said in an interview with Glamour magazine. “I can’t imagine that any man at the head of a non-profit, who achieved what we achieved, and raised the kind of money that we raised, would be asked that question.”
Public records reveal that Third Sector Development and Voter Access Institute were funded in part by national progressive groups, American Votes, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, and Priorities USA. The entities are backed respectively by labor unions and gun control advocates, environmental activist groups, and Democratic Party super PAC contributors.
In a separate interview in March, Abrams let slip about one of her anchor donors: George Soros.
“George Soros and the Soros family have demonstrated nothing but deep investment and commitment to social justice. That is how I came to know them, because they were early investors in the New Georgia Project …” she said.
Abrams’ other nonprofit, the Voter Access Institute, was reconstituted in December 2018. The former voter registration organization was rebranded as “Fair Fight Action,” with its articles of incorporation expanded to allow for greater political activity.
Previously, the Voter Access Initiative was prohibited from “directly or indirectly” participating or intervening in “any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” But that’s no longer the case.
Fair Fight Action also supports a sister website and nonprofit group called Fair Fight Georgia, which asserts that “elections in Georgia, and throughout much of our country, are not fair.”
The newly launched Fair Count’s chief executive is Rebecca DeHart, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, and its program director is Jeanine Abrams McLean, Stacey Abrams’ sister.