Judge Says Abrams Campaign Fund Can’t Raise Unlimited Cash

April 15, 2022 by Dan McCue
Judge Says Abrams Campaign Fund Can’t Raise Unlimited Cash
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams makes remarks during a press conference at the Abrams Headquarters in Atlanta, on Nov. 16, 2018. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

ATLANTA — A federal judge on Thursday ruled that a fundraising committee affiliated with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams can’t begin raising unlimited campaign contributions.

The ruling is based on a state law passed last year that allows Georgia lawmakers to form a new kind of fundraising committee called a “leadership committee.”

Under the law, the governor and lieutenant governor, opposing major party nominees and both party caucuses in the state House and Senate can form the committees. 

Unlike most other political action committees, the new leadership committees can coordinate with candidate campaigns.


Leadership committees can also collect unlimited contributions, while candidates for statewide office cannot collect more than $7,600 from an individual donor for a primary or general election and $4,500 for a runoff election.

After signing the law, incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Kemp created the Georgians First Leadership Committee, raising $2.3 million through January. 

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was told she could not immediately begin raising and spending campaign contributions under the law because she is not yet “officially” her party’s nominee.

That prompted Abrams and One Georgia, the leadership committee she registered in March, to file a lawsuit against Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and other state officials arguing the law provides the incumbent an exclusive and unconstitutional fundraising advantage.


She also contends that because no one filed to run against her in the May 24 Democratic primary and because write-in votes are not allowed, she became the Democratic nominee by default when candidate qualifying closed.

Finally, she asked the judge to enjoin the state ethics commission from taking any action against them if they continue to raise money before the primary next month.

But U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen said on Thursday he would not “rewrite Georgia law to enable One Georgia to stand in the same shoes as a leadership committee that, in plaintiffs’ view, is operating in violation of the First Amendment.” 

“Granting plaintiffs’ requested relief, which is to preclude the commission from taking any enforcement action against One Georgia if they raise unlimited contributions before the primary, would require this court to effectively rewrite the [leadership committee] statute to recognize Abrams as the Democratic Party nominee before she has been selected in a primary as required by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-15 l(a),” Cohen wrote. “The court is unable to re-write the LC statute in such a manner.”

The judge also suggested he would have been more open to halting Kemp’s fundraising advantage rather than allowing Abrams the same ability, writing that the relief Abrams sought was contrary to state law.

“Plaintiffs have failed to show for purposes of their preliminary injunction motion that they are likely to succeed on the merits because the exclusive remedy they seek is an injunction against the commission that effectively permits One Georgia to operate a leadership committee in contravention of state law and permits Georgians First to continue to violate the First Amendment,” Cohen wrote.


“In other words, plaintiffs seek an order declaring the LC statute unconstitutional as applied, but paradoxically at the same time seek injunctive relief that would maintain the LC statute’s constitutionality by allowing One Georgia to violate the state law that requires a nominee to be chosen in a primary.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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