Georgia ethics panel dismisses complaints against Kemp, Abrams

Georgia's ethics commission voted unanimously Thursday to dismiss several ethics complaints against Gov. Brian Kemp and his opponent in the 2018 race for governor, Stacey Abrams. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Georgia's ethics commission voted unanimously Thursday to dismiss several ethics complaints against Gov. Brian Kemp and his opponent in the 2018 race for governor, Stacey Abrams. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The Georgia ethics commission on Thursday dismissed several ethics complaints made in 2018 against now-Gov. Brian Kemp and his then opponent Stacey Abrams.

The two faced off in a heated political battle that year, and several complaints alleging campaign misdeeds were filed.

Complaints were filed against Kemp alleging he had not listed the employers of those who contributed to his campaign, he inappropriately used his personal social media accounts to promote himself and that he was prohibited from receiving contributions from certain industries since he was the secretary of state at the time.

Abrams faced complaints from 2018 that her campaign reports were vague regarding refunded contributions while she served in the state Legislature and accused her of using campaign funds to promote a book she wrote.

All were dismissed unanimously by the commission.

State law bars elected executive officers, such as then-Secretary of State Kemp, from accepting donations from anyone who is in a profession that the office regulates. The secretary of state’s office issues business licenses and certifications. However, since Kemp was running for governor, he was not subject to the law.

An attorney for Kemp said Kemp’s personal social media accounts were linked through the secretary of state’s website in 2013 — well before his campaign for governor began — and was not a campaign contribution of website use from the office. The complaint alleged that use of the personal account, which also promoted his campaign for governor, through a state website was illegal under campaign laws.

A third complaint said the Kemp campaign didn’t include the employers of those who contributed to his run for governor. David Emadi, executive secretary of the state ethics commission, said Kemp’s campaign made several attempts to get that information from donors, so there was no violation.

Emadi said the commission informed Abrams that simply putting “reimbursement” on her campaign expense forms was too vague and it allowed her to update the reports, leading the commission to dismiss that charge.

And commission staff said a complaint accusing Abrams of using her campaign to promote her book was purely based on a theory.

“The complaint said this could be happening so could y’all investigate,” said Joe Cusack with the ethics commission. “It lacks evidence that any of this actually occurred.”

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