Biden's FEC Nominee Sued Georgia Over Stacey Abrams Election Loss, Blamed 'Unreliable' Voting Machines

Dara Lindenbaum represented Abrams's nonprofit, Raphael Warnock's church in suit that questioned 'unconstitutional' 2018 election

Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D.) / Getty Images
April 5, 2022

President Joe Biden's pick to serve on the Federal Election Commission is representing Stacey Abrams's nonprofit and Raphael Warnock's church in a lawsuit that challenged the validity of Georgia's 2018 election due in part to the state's use of "unreliable" electronic voting machines.

In November 2018, election lawyer Dara Lindenbaum signed on to a federal legal complaint on behalf of Abrams's Fair Fight Action. The complaint challenged the constitutionality of Georgia's 2018 election, which saw Abrams lose to Republican governor Brian Kemp in a race she never conceded. Warnock's Ebenezer Baptist Church joined the suit in early 2019, just months before the Democrat entered Georgia's 2020 Senate race.

According to the complaint, the state of Georgia "grossly mismanaged" the election by depriving "Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote." As a result, the complaint said, Georgia's election "violated the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." The complaint also lamented the use of "insecure and unreliable" electronic voting machines that "lack a paper trail" and thus "cannot be audited"—those machines even "switched" votes from Abrams to Kemp, according to the complaint.

While the lawsuit remains active, Fair Fight and other plaintiffs amended the complaint in December 2020 to remove many of its assertions detailing problematic voting machines. The move came after former president Donald Trump said voting machine irregularities led to his defeat against Biden.

Roughly three years after Lindenbaum signed the original complaint, Biden nominated the attorney to serve on the FEC, a regulatory agency that helps shape U.S. election rules. If confirmed, Lindenbaum will mark a leftward shift for the commission, as she'll replace Steve Walther, an independent. Lindenbaum has worked with numerous left-wing organizations, including Code Pink and UnidosUS, the Latino civil rights group formerly known as La Raza.

Lindenbaum remains actively involved in the Fair Fight suit. In a March 18 filing that lists Lindenbaum as an attorney, Fair Fight Action, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and other plaintiffs note that they are preparing to submit depositions, which they say will include direct testimony from Warnock. Biden had already nominated Lindenbaum to the FEC at the time of the filing, and the Senate Rules Committee plans to hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon to examine Lindenbaum's nomination.

Honest Elections Project Action executive director Jason Snead called Lindenbaum's nomination "troubling."

"Undermining our election system is a serious problem, and we see the receipts of her deliberately trying to undermine our election process with spurious claims," Snead said of Lindenbaum. "Someone seeking a position on the powerful FEC should not be working to undercut public confidence in our elections by peddling unfounded conspiracies."

The White House and Lindenbaum did not return requests for comment.

Prior to her role representing Fair Fight Action, Lindenbaum served as general counsel to Abrams's 2018 gubernatorial campaign. Abrams lost that race to Kemp by roughly 2 points, but she never conceded her defeat, instead saying the election was "stolen" due to "voter suppression." In the aftermath of her loss, Abrams launched Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit that says it is "leading the charge to protect voting rights." Fair Fight's website touts the group's "historic civil rights lawsuit in federal court … challenging the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election that discouraged and disenfranchised voters." Lindenbaum still serves as legal counsel to Fair Fight Action and the group's political arm, Fair Fight PAC, her Office of Government Ethics disclosure shows.

Neither Fair Fight Action nor Ebenezer Baptist Church returned requests for comment.

Biden's decision to tap Lindenbaum to serve on the FEC comes despite his fierce criticism of Trump's stolen election claims. In early January—just weeks before he nominated Lidenbaum—Biden said Trump "created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election" because "he sees his own interest as more important than his country's interest." Still, just days later, Biden himself suggested the 2022 midterms could be illegitimate if Democrats fail to pass election reform legislation.

"I'm not saying it's going to be legit, as the increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is a direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed," Biden said. Lindenbaum has also called on lawmakers to pass Democrats' federal voting bill.

Biden has faced pressure from progressives to pack the FEC with commissioners who favor aggressive enforcement of campaign finance laws. Democrats have been generally pushed for tougher regulation of "dark money," the term for donations to political action committees from unidentified donors. Fair Fight Action has raked in more than $62 million of dark money in its first two years, its tax forms show.