Stacey Abrams reaches millionaire status ahead of 2nd campaign
ATLANTA (AP) — When Democrat Stacey Abrams first ran for governor of Georgia in 2018, her lackluster personal finances and hefty IRS bill left Republicans wondering how she could manage. a state budget when she was struggling with her own debt.
As it is launching a second offer this year, this is no longer a problem.
Abrams now says she is worth $3.17 million, according to state filings in March. That compares to a net worth of $109,000 when she first ran four years ago.
His rapid rise to millionaire status matches his rise in national politics. Since her 2018 loss to Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams has become one of the leading suffrage activists. She was seen as a potential running mate for President Joe Biden and is widely credited with organizing voters in Georgia to help him become the first Democrat to carry the state in the presidential vote in 28 years. Along the way, she’s earned $6 million, mostly from $5 million in payouts for books and speeches.
That wealth has exposed her to a different line of criticism from Republicans, who hope to portray Abrams this year as an elitist out of touch with average Georgians. National Republican Party spokesman Garrison Douglas accused Abrams of using his campaign “as a platform for his own financial gain.” At a rally in the state last month, former President Donald Trump hit her for “living in these beautiful, multi-million dollar homes.”
Abrams hasn’t bought a house for more than $1 million, and Trump is spending much of his year living in his lavish Mar-a-Lago resort. The leading Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nomination — incumbent Brian Kemp and challenger David Perdue — are significantly wealthier than her.
In an interview, Abrams said it was ironic for Republicans to criticize his financial success, which the party often praises as the result of hard work.
“It’s remarkable to me that success is now being demonized by Republicans,” she said. “I believe in success. I believe that every person should have the opportunity to thrive. And because I spent three years in the private sector, I put the three years to good use, and during that time I tried my best not only to be personally successful, but also to do what I can to help Georgians.
Many politicians build their wealth after reaching high office. Not so for Abrams, whose loss has propelled her to an unusual level of stardom for someone whose highest office so far is Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader. She took particular advantage of her status in 2021 before announcing her second run for governor, with her earnings hitting $3.65 million.
Seth Bringman, spokesperson for the Abrams campaign, said she gave 37 paid speeches in 2021, including a 12-stop fall tour of stand-alone appearances. She has authored, co-authored or re-edited six books since 2019, with another re-edition on the way later this year.
Abrams also received more than $700,000 over three years as executive director of the Southern Economic Advancement Project, an affiliate of the Roosevelt Institute that seeks to improve economic equity in the South. Abrams did not report any income from Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group she founded and previously chaired.
Abrams, who published a business book with a longtime business partner last year, also reports investments in a number of companies. Some are long-standing holdings, including Now Account Network Corp., which funds companies by buying invoices. Abrams in November joined the board of Heliogen, a California-based company that seeks to use sunlight to concentrate heat for industrial processes, power generation and hydrogen production. Abrams brought in $65,000 in Heliogen stock.
Kemp has a net worth of around $8.5 million, with assets mostly in real estate he developed before running for governor. Perdue is even richer, declaring a net worth of $50 million after a career in which he served as CEO of companies including Dollar General and Reebok. Kemp had an income of $551,000 in 2021, while Perdue had an income of $9.3 million.
Kemp slammed Abrams in 2018 for owing the IRS $54,000 in self-employment taxes she didn’t pay on time. Abrams then said she skipped the payments because her parents needed financial help raising a granddaughter and medical bills.
“You can delay IRS payments. You can’t delay cancer treatments,” Abrams said at the time.
Abrams also had student loan debt of $96,000 and accumulated credit card debt of $83,000 in 2018. She only had a positive net worth because a publisher paid a $150,000 advance on his first non-fiction book. In that book, “Minority Leader,” Abrams wrote that she borrowed from a time when “my understanding of personal finance was barely scratching the surface.”
She paid off her student loans and credit card debt in 2019. When she first ran for governor, Abrams had a paltry retirement account of less than $5,000. She now owns over $725,000 in stocks and bonds.
As his financial situation improved, Abrams also traded in his old townhouse for a new, larger home.
The $975,000 property she bought just outside Atlanta city limits near Emory University in 2020 is being financed with a $760,000 mortgage, according to Abrams’ financial disclosure. She bought a $370,000, 3,300 square foot home in suburban Atlanta from her parents in 2019, owing more than $280,000 on a mortgage, records and disclosures show.
It’s unclear how much Abrams pays in taxes or how much she donates to charity, though her assets include $560,000 set aside in a “tax account.” Bringman said Abrams will release his returns later this year after filing his 2021 taxes.
Kemp’s spokesman, Tate Mitchell, said the licensee believes the state financial disclosure is sufficient, but will provide additional documentation later “if necessary.” Perdue spokeswoman Jenni Sweat said Perdue had completed state and federal disclosure forms and been “transparent about his finances,” but did not directly respond to whether he would release his tax returns.
Marko Klasnja, a professor at Georgetown University who has studied the causes and consequences of politicians’ wealth, said that “in the United States, people don’t care about wealth per se, and I don’t think not that they would think it’s negative, necessarily.”
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt Abrams that much, and I think if people know it’s coming from things like book deals, they’re going to think about it differently than, ‘She’s lining her pockets because ‘she’s on the boards of corporations and things like that.
Associated Press writer Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.