Democrat Stacey Abrams is running for governor. KENT D. JOHNSON/

Abrams nonprofit faces liens; campaign blames clerical error

A nonprofit created by Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams tallied four liens worth $13,000 from the Georgia Department of Labor for unpaid unemployment contributions between 2014 and 2016, according to state tax records.

The records show the tax liens were filed against Third Sector Development, a nonprofit Abrams created in 1998 that was later expanded to oversee her New Georgia Project voter-registration effort.

Her campaign said a withholding error from a payroll service hired by the nonprofit caused the issues, which it said were corrected last year. The nonprofit negotiated a payment plan to pay back the fees, the campaign said, and they will be lifted once the final payment is made.

“Third Sector Development engaged a payroll services firm to guarantee compliance with state and federal unemployment obligations,” the campaign said, “and when the processing error was discovered, Third Sector Development corrected the mistake, as I hope every company would in support of its workers.”

Abrams has made a pledge to stop “wage theft” from firms who hire full-time employees and then classify them as independent contractors to deprive them of benefits.

In a press release sent over the weekend, her campaign said the practice could “cheat workers out of their hard-earned benefits — unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, Social Security — and push already struggling families further behind.”

Abrams earned about $180,000 a year in 2014 as the part-time chief executive of the New Georgia Project,  which set out to register hundreds of thousands of new voters in time for the midterm election. Her pay dropped to about $85,000 a year for roughly 15 hours of work a week in 2015.

Abrams faces Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans in the May primary for the party’s nomination. Her role with the New Georgia Project has featured prominently in an ongoing feud with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a GOP candidate for governor.

They clashed during the 2014 campaign after Abrams’ project announced goals to register 800,000 minority voters within a decade, and wound up in a running legal battle over the group’s work. The project, still active, said it has thus far registered more than 200,000 minority voters.

Separately, Abrams also faced a $29,795 lien in federal income tax in 2010. Abrams and her accountant both told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2012 that the lien was filed in error when she was trying to claim her parents, ministers on the Gulf coast, as dependents after they were financially wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and then hobbled by medical issues.

In a statement this week, Abrams said her financial challenges while working to support her family will help inform her decisions if she’s elected to Georgia’s top office.

“I will be a governor who understands the struggles that everyday families are facing,” she said, “and because of these experiences, I am committed to making sure that Georgian families have the basic resources they need when they fall on hard times.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.