A statewide electoral defeat is rarely a springboard to national prominence, but failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is writing her own playbook.
Ms. Abrams is now at the helm of two nonprofit organizations as well as her PAC, a hybrid that has raised millions of dollars from labor unions, Hollywood and left-wing Democratic activists, records show. She recently sent out a fundraising blast for the latest arm of her growing network of political organizations, Fair Fight U, the college version of her Fair Fight PAC.
Her mission: combating potential voter suppression.
Under the Fair Fight umbrella, Ms. Abrams says she advocates for “election reform by engaging in voter education and advocacy activities to secure the voting rights of all citizens, along with working to advance broad progressive change in the state and country.”
Just how Ms. Abrams will accomplish her goals remains something of a mystery. Neither Fair Fight nor Fair Fight U responded to questions about their activity. Earlier, after Ms. Abrams said her group would be active in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, where voters choose governors in November, her groups also failed to respond to questions.
The Fair Fight U branch of her blooming organizational empire has 14 branches, according to the fundraising pitch, which cited three historically black colleges and universities — Spelman and Morehouse colleges and Howard University.
At Emory, the Fair Fight U branch on Oct. 16 sponsored a showing of “Suppression,” a documentary regarding alleged disenfranchisement that Ms. Abrams says was rampant and which leads her to continue to claim she “won.”
The group says it also will “work to organize students around voting rights in Georgia through educating the student body, voter registration drives and lobbying at the state and local level.”
Critics say Ms. Abrams’ mission and her claim to have won her gubernatorial election are bogus.
“The entire voter suppression claim is a narrative myth propagated by liberal activists like Stacey Abrams, in her case to excuse losing the election,” said Hans van Spakovsky, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Indeed, turnout hit record levels in the 2018 Georgia election, with the black voter registration rising to 68.4 percent from 62.3 percent in 2014, and turnout among those black voters hitting 60 percent when it had been 43 percent four years earlier.
“There is no evidence to support that myth, and this claim in Georgia is particularly absurd given the election turnout data in the 2018 election she ran and lost,” Mr. van Spakovsky said. “Stacey Abrams is just a sore loser and her voter suppression claims are pure fiction intended to scare voters and raise donations for her organizations.”
Nevertheless, Ms. Abrams’ call to arms to combat voter suppression has attracted real money, records show, and her steady appearances have stoked the belief she holds high political aspirations despite ruling out a run next year against Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue.
In the past year, she has addressed rapturous audiences in California, such as at a February fundraiser held by former California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer at a luxury Beverly Hills resort, and another gathering of progressive donors in Manhattan Beach in December.
Her Fair Fight PAC, a hybrid outfit with a dark money component, has raised more than $4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Unions accounted for big chunks of that total, with $250,000 coming from the Service Employees International Union, $100,000 from the pipe-fitting union and another $100,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
California liberals such as actresses Alyssa Milano and Rhea Perlman, along with major left-wing donors there like Steve Silberstein, a member of George Soros’ Democracy Alliance, and Karla Jurvetson also have contributed. Ms. Juvetson, a Silicon Valley physician, has given Fair Fight nearly $2 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Patrice Comey, wife of former FBI Director James B. Comey, gave Ms. Abrams’ PAC $10,000, records show, and even groups that are not normally associated with political campaigns have written checks to Fair Fight, with the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York chipping in $4,500.
The Fair Fight chapter in Georgia transferred $138,919 of its funds to the PAC, according to OpenSecrets.
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman with the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, said he is puzzled by how Ms. Abrams is using the millions she has raised.
“We’re seeing this tendency now where a high-profile candidate loses and it’s like a rehab assignment, like getting sent to the minors, where you form these various groups,” he said. “For now it seems like she is fundraising, raising money and moving money around, but what are you doing beyond that?”
Mr. Churchwell surmised Fair Fight may mount phone bank operations on Election Day that try to link Democratic lawyers with aggrieved voters and through that connection keep polls open or dispute defeats.
In multiple fundraising blasts, Fair Fight has hinted at just such a move, seeking “voter protection hotline volunteers” and offering training for the task. Fair Fight promised efforts in five state elections this month.
One email provides a number for the “Louisiana Voter Protection Hotline,” which was answered Friday by the Democratic Party.
“The whole notion of voter suppression is the greatest political scapegoat ever devised since the welfare queen, though those are on opposite sides,” Mr. Churchwell argued. “It’s a horrible scare tactic that excites the base to go vote even though it does not exist.”
Fair Fight U’s fundraising email mentions efforts to suppress student voting in several states, and while the group did not reply to requests for specific examples, it appears to be in reference to laws such as those in New Hampshire.
In the Granite State, where thousands of voters are transient students, Republican lawmakers and the Democratic secretary of state have tried to require some proof of residency.
Texas has passed laws that require early voting places to remain open throughout the early voting period, a requirement that will reportedly shut down some voting operations on campuses. In Florida, an Obama-appointed district judge tossed a 4-year-old law in 2018 that barred the University of Florida from using its buildings as polling places beyond Election Day.