Non-profit

Fair Fight Action

Website:

fairfight.com/

Location:

ATLANTA, GA

Tax ID:

47-1427359

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2017):

Expenses: $74,411
Assets: $2,129

Formation:

July 22, 2014

Type:

Left-Wing Voting Rights Advocacy Group

Founder:

Stacey Abrams

CEO:

Lauren Groh-Wargo

Fair Fight Action (formerly Voter Access Institute) is an advocacy nonprofit established in 2014 by Georgia Democratic politician Stacey Abrams, who lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and persisted in denying the fact of her electoral defeat. [1] [2] The stated focus of the organization is advocating for voting rights in Georgia. Critics have expressed suspicion that Abrams uses Fair Fight Action to promote her political ambitions using Fair Fight Action as a “dark money” organization. [3]

Fair Fight PAC is the group’s political action committee.

Background

Fair Fight Action, Inc. was founded in 2014 as the Voter Access Institute by then-Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), who ran unsuccessfully for Georgia governor in 2018. The CEO of Fair Fight Action is Lauren Groh-Wargo, who was Abrams’ campaign manager in the 2018 election. [4]

The organization paid Abrams an annual salary of approximately $80,000. The group raised about $2.5 million from 2014 to 2016. [5]

After Abrams lost the 2018 gubernatorial race, she stepped down as CEO to become board chairwoman. The organization scrapped bylaw language that specifically prohibited it from “directly or indirectly” participating “in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” [6]

Abrams referenced the organization when she delivered the Democratic Party response to President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address. [7]

During Super Bowl LIII, which was held in Atlanta in 2019, Fair Fight Action spent $100,000 for an ad that ran throughout Georgia calling for election reform. The ad featured Abrams and Republican Habersham County Commissioner Natalie Crawford. [8]

IRS Complaint

Fair Fight Action financed Abrams’ speaking tour and paid for her social media ads that promoted her allegations she was “robbed” of victory by her 2018 opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp. [9]

The conservative watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging the nonprofit is promoting Abrams’ political ambitions. The FACT complaint to the IRS further argues that in at least one of her speeches bankrolled by the nonprofit, Abrams said, “I am running for office again.” The complaint further states the group hosted two dozen watch parties in early presidential primary states when she delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union. [10]

FACT contends Fair Fight Action is funding Abrams’ political ambitions, which allegedly contravenes prior IRS determinations prohibiting a 501(c)(4) from promoting “a single individual and that individual’s ‘agenda and platforms.’”[11]

Groh-Wargo countered that Abrams is the figurehead of the organization, but the group’s priority is voting rights issues. Abrams spokeswoman Caitlin Highland said Abrams will step down from Fair Fight Action’s board if she runs for any public office again. [12]

Financial Transactions

Fair Fight Action PAC, a legally separate entity, contributed a total of $60,000 to every Democratic state lawmaker in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January. [13]

Abrams raised $12.5 million for two nonprofits between 2013 and 2016—Voter Access Institute (currently Fair Fight Action) and Third Sector Development, a nonprofit she founded in 1998, the Journal-Constitution reported. Third Sector Development ran a voter registration drive called the New Georgia Project. During her campaign for governor, she declined to reveal the source of the donations. For both organizations combined, Abrams earned a salary of $257,500 in 2014, $135,000 in 2015 and $50,000 in 2016. [14]

Abrams submitted proposals to the liberal donor collective Democracy Alliance in 2015 claiming the New Georgia Project would register 42,000 to 51,000 Georgia voters in the 2016 presidential race. The proposal seeking funding said Voter Access Institute would turn out 600,000 voters.

Separately, Abrams said that billionaire liberal financier George Soros and his son Alexander gave a total of $1.25 million to her PAC, GeorgiaNEXT, from 2014 through 2018, but Abrams would not say how much either gave to her non-profits. [15]

The voter drive also prompted an investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and the state Board of Elections. Abrams said the scrutiny of her nonprofits, “The implicit question is: Why didn’t you do it for less – or for free? 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.” [16]

Georgia Lawsuit

Fair Fight Action sued the state of Georgia over the 2018 election, claiming minority voters were denied the right to vote. The 66-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia claims Georgia used “discriminatory voting barriers reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.” The lawsuit seeks to require Georgia to stop cleaning voter rolls of inactive voters, ban touchscreen voting machines, and ensure Georgians “can vote without unreasonable delay or hardship during any election.” [17]

The lawsuit also accuses Abrams’ rival, now-Governor Brian Kemp (R), of using his former position of secretary of state, with oversight of state elections, of trying to prevent minority voters from casting ballots. [18]

Leadership

Stacey Abrams is the founder and current chair of Fair Fight Action. [19]

In November 2020, Fair Fight Action employee José Morales was chosen to be on the Biden Department of Justice transition team. [20]

Funding

Financial Overview

The Voter Participation Center: Financial Overview
YearTotal RevenuesTotal ExpendituresGrants PaidNet Assets
2018 $1,038,657 $719,047 $10,000 $321,739
2017- $74,411 $60,000 $2,129
2016 $460,000 $385,515 - $76,540
2015 $199,000 $275,106 - $2,055
2014 $2,000,000 $1,909,924 - $90,126
Total: $3,697,657 $3,364,003 $70,000

Donors to Fair Fight Action

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, steered a $10,000 donation from her campaign committee to Fair Fight Action. [21]

Financial Documents

Fair Fight Action’s IRS Form 990 filings for 2018 and 2019 are available here:

References

  1. Fair Fight Action. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2014 ^
  2. Rutz, David. “Abrams Still Refuses to Accept Defeat in Georgia Governor’s Race: ‘I Did Win My Election’.” Washington Free Beacon. March 15, 2019. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://freebeacon.com/politics/abrams-still-refuses-to-accept-defeat-in-georgia-governors-race-i-did-win-my-election/. ^
  3. Markay, Lachlan. “Stacey Abrams Takes Step Towards Running Again by Retooling Dark-Money Group.” The Daily Beast. January 24, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/stacey-abrams-retools-her-dark-money-group?ref=author ^
  4. Slodysko, Brian. “Political Spending by Abrams’ Nonprofit Could Pose Problems.” Associated Press. March 20, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/political-spending-abrams-nonprofit-pose-problems-61820230 ^
  5. Slodysko, Brian. “Political Spending by Abrams’ Nonprofit Could Pose Problems.” Associated Press. March 20, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/political-spending-abrams-nonprofit-pose-problems-61820230 ^
  6. Markay, Lachlan. “Stacey Abrams Takes Step Towards Running Again by Retooling Dark-Money Group.” The Daily Beast. January 24, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/stacey-abrams-retools-her-dark-money-group?ref=author ^
  7. Cummings, William. “Read the Full Transcript of Stacey Abrams’ Rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union.” USA Today. February 6, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/02/06/stacey-abrams-rebuttal-transcript/2787653002/. ^
  8. Bluestein, Greg. “Stacey Abrams Set to Make a Super Bowl Debut.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 31, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.ajc.com/blog/politics/stacey-abrams-set-make-super-bowl-debut/jqKMteRwmj0Fs3IqwcNOXI/ ^
  9. Markay, Lachlan. “Stacey Abrams Takes Step Towards Running Again by Retooling Dark-Money Group.” The Daily Beast. January 24, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/stacey-abrams-retools-her-dark-money-group?ref=author ^
  10. Press Release. “Watchdog FACT Calls for IRS Probe of Outside Group Supporting Stacey Abrams.” Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. March 20, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.factdc.org/post/watchdog-fact-calls-for-irs-probe-of-outside-group-supporting-stacey-abrams ^
  11. Slodysko, Brian. “Political Spending by Abrams’ Nonprofit Could Pose Problems.” Associated Press. March 20, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/political-spending-abrams-nonprofit-pose-problems-61820230 ^
  12. Slodysko, Brian. “Political Spending by Abrams’ Nonprofit Could Pose Problems.” Associated Press. March 20, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/political-spending-abrams-nonprofit-pose-problems-61820230 ^
  13. Bluestein, Greg. “Abrams Restocks Democratic Lawmakers’ Campaign Coffers.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 11, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.ajc.com/blog/politics/abrams-restocks-democratic-lawmakers-campaign-coffers/BE7l92NYJGN316Ck75ZIDK/ ^
  14. Judd, Alan. “Voter Drive Raised Millions, but Abrams Won’t Say From Whom.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. September 14, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/voter-drive-raised-millions-but-abrams-won-say-from-whom/8eYeUD80WFSaCYO3Y3ANdL/ ^
  15. Judd, Alan. “Voter Drive Raised Millions, but Abrams Won’t Say From Whom.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. September 14, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/voter-drive-raised-millions-but-abrams-won-say-from-whom/8eYeUD80WFSaCYO3Y3ANdL/ ^
  16. Kiefer, Elizabeth. “Stacey Abrams is the American Dream. She’s Also $200,000 in Debt.” Glamour. April 27, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.glamour.com/story/stacey-abrams-200000-in-debt ^
  17. Fausset, Richard. “Large-Scale Reforms’ of Georgia Elections Sought in Federal Lawsuit.” The New York Times. November 27, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/us/georgia-elections-federal-lawsuit.html ^
  18. Bauerlein, Valerie. The Wall Street Journal. November 27, 2018. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/stacey-abrams-group-files-federal-suit-alleging-georgia-mismanaged-election-1543351922 ^
  19. “Our Leadership Team,” February 28, 2020. https://fairfight.com/our-team/. ^
  20. “Agency Review Teams.” President-Elect Joe Biden, December 1, 2020. https://buildbackbetter.gov/the-transition/agency-review-teams/. ^
  21. Schoffstall, Joe. “Elizabeth Warren Made $10,000 Donation to Stacey Abrams’ Dark Money Nonprofit.” Washington Free Beacon. February 12, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2019. https://freebeacon.com/politics/elizabeth-warren-made-10000-donation-to-stacey-abramss-dark-money-nonprofit/ ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: September 1, 2014

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990EZ $0 $74,411 $2,129 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2016 Dec Form 990 $460,000 $385,515 $76,540 $0 N $460,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $199,000 $275,106 $2,055 $0 N $199,000 $0 $0 $120,000 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $2,000,000 $1,909,924 $90,126 $0 N $2,000,000 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Fair Fight Action

    1270 CAROLINE ST NE STE D120 # 430
    ATLANTA, GA 30307-2954