After Stacey Abrams lost the 2018 election for governor in Georgia she set up a new voting rights group called Fair Fight Action. Abrams campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo took over as the CEO of that group which promptly filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia claiming the election had been unfair in various ways.

Last month, after years of delay, Fair Fight Action lost that lawsuit on all counts. Today, Politico reports that in just 2019 and 2020, Fair Fight Action paid one smallish law firm more than $9 million to handle that failed case. The person in charge of the lawsuit for the firm was Stacey Abrams’ close friend, Allegra Lawrence-Hardy.

Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, Abrams’ close friend who chaired her gubernatorial campaign both in 2018 and her current bid to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, is one of two named partners in Lawrence & Bundy, a small firm of fewer than two dozen attorneys.

The firm received $9.4 million from Abrams’ group, Fair Fight Action, in 2019 and 2020, the last years for which federal tax filings are available. Lawrence-Hardy declined to comment on how much her firm has collected from Fair Fight Action in 2021 and 2022 — years in which Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger, for which Lawrence-Hardy was lead counsel, had most of its courtroom activity.

So you had Abrams’s former campaign manager collecting about $61 million in 2019 and 2020 with Abrams herself as the person driving the fundraising. And more than a third of that money (around $25 million) ended up going to a law firm run by one of her closest friends.

Lawrence-Hardy was a classmate of Abrams at Spelman College in Georgia in the early 1990s. The pair would also each attend Yale Law School, with Abrams graduating in 1999, three years after Lawrence-Hardy.

“We first became good friends when I was an associate, and she was a summer associate at [the Atlanta-based law firm of] Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. And we both worked with the same partner,” Lawrence-Hardy said. “We became very good friends there.”

If that all sounds pretty chummy, well, some observers say the close personal connection creates a clear conflict of interest.

“It is a very clear conflict of interest because with that kind of close link to the litigation and her friend that provides an opportunity where the friend gets particularly enriched from this litigation,” said Craig Holman, an expert on campaign finance and ethics at Public Citizen, a non-partisan consumer advocacy organization, offering his opinion after POLITICO briefed Holman on the contents of Fair Fight Action’s 990 forms. “The outcome of that litigation can directly affect her campaign itself.”…

Kathleen Clark, a professor of legal ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, flagged Fair Fight Action’s responsibility to be transparent about how the organization’s money is spent.

“Fair Fight Action ought to explain why this lawsuit cost so much,” she said. “I think there are significant questions about this choice of firm and just why this lawsuit was so much more expensive. And there may be perfectly valid, innocent explanations to both of those questions. But I don’t know what they are.”

Abrams raised millions on the grounds that she’d been cheated out of the election and in the end the judge wrote, “Here, plaintiffs have not provided direct evidence of a voter who was unable to vote, experienced longer wait times, was confused about voter registration status.”

From the moment the decision was announced, Brian Kemp said Abrams had used this case to raise money and make a name for herself. Maybe he forgot to add and pour money into her friends’ pockets as well.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...