‘I’s Dotted and T’s Crossed’: Stacey Abrams’ Nonprofit Faces Potential Scandal As Probe Seeks Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars In Missing Funds

An organization founded by Democratic political activist Stacey Abrams nearly a decade ago is facing allegations of financial mismanagement as more than half a million dollars reportedly went missing after the sudden departure of the group’s former director late last year.

The New Georgia Project, an organization Abrams established in 2014 to enroll Black voters, played a pivotal role in Georgia’s dramatic swing from a Republican to a Democratic state during the 2020 election.

Stacey Abrams' Nonprofit Faces Scrutiny for Missing Funds After Ouster of Former Director
Former Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, Stacey Abrams. (Photo: Twitter/Stacey Abrams)

But in recent days, the organization has become entangled in a web of accusations after a six-month investigation by Politico uncovered massive financial irregularities in recent tax filings that revealed its former director, Nse Ufot, owes the advocacy group hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-work related expenses.

Ufot, a nationally recognized leader in voting rights hired by Abrams in 2014 before she rose to become the program director, was abruptly fired in 2022 and denies owing the nonprofit a dime.

The latest allegations come to light months after the New Georgia Project submitted 2021 financial disclosure forms to the IRS in January, two months late and three months following Ufot’s termination from the charity.

The disclosure shows a $533,846 consulting fee and a $67,500 grant were paid to the Black Make Initiative, a cryptic charity involving Ufot’s brother, Edima, who was also once employed by the New Georgia Project.

The Black Male Initiative, however, denied ever receiving the payment and provided its IRS financial records as proof, with $255,000 in donations in 2021 and no consulting income.

Before Ufot took the helm, Raphael Warnock ran the organization for more than two years, between 2017 and 2020, before he stepped down to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia.

That same year, the nonprofit raked in more than $36 million in donations while helping register 800,000 voters in Georgia, which helped catapult two Georgia Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

The investigation by Politico found neglect in the proper monitoring of prepaid expenses on employee Visa gift cards and that the nonprofit had failed to document salary advances, according to a review of internal documents, including financial disclosure forms, and interviews with at least a dozen current and former employees who cited “multiple instances of poor financial record-keeping.”

The organization was also grappling with additional administrative challenges, including a state ethics investigation into potential violations of rules restricting direct political activity by nonprofits in election advocacy and a dispute over the payment status of the group’s payroll taxes.

The New Georgia Project, similar to other nonprofits, operates under two tax categories — 501(c)(3), which can’t get involved in politics, and 501(c)(4), which can allocate up to half its resources to political activities.

Retired scholar and civil rights activist Frank Wilson, who serves as one of two board chairs in Abrams’ advocacy group, said he and other officials were considering steps to improve tracking of expenses as part of the internal investigation. 

“We’re going to do a forensic look at our records,” Wilson told Politico. “We’ll start at the beginning, and just lay it out, clean it up and redirect as necessary … so we’ll be in a position where anybody who will come — be it authorities, be it media, be it whomever — we will not be concerned about who looks at our records because we’ll have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. So I’m comfortable with that, you know, and I’ll almost welcome it.”

The mere signal of a scandal has surprised many in political circles, given Abrams’ clean image and enduring influence in Georgia politics, which has generated national enthusiasm and massive financial contributions for Democrats in recent years.

Despite the success, the organization was also facing deep tumult behind the scenes, including high turnover rates, fiscal misconduct and inadequate internal policies to deter the misuse of funds.

So far, Abrams has not commented publicly on the matter after she stepped away from the leadership team in 2017 as she entered the Georgia gubernatorial race for the first time.

Warnock, who stepped down from his position as chief of the organization in January 2020 to run for U.S. Senate, also had yet to fully respond to if he was aware of any potential mismanagement issues when he was in charge of the nonprofit.

Read the original story here.

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