Over half a million dollars is missing from the New Georgia Project, a discrepancy which experts say is grounds for state and federal investigations into the Stacey Abrams-founded group and the woman Abrams tapped to run it.
The New Georgia Project filed its 2021 Form 990 financial disclosure in January, two months after the form was due to the IRS, and three months after the charity’s board chairman fired CEO Nse Ufot, Abrams’s hand-picked leader for the group. In the disclosure, the New Georgia Project reports a $533,846 consulting payment and a $67,500 grant to the Black Male Initiative, an obscure charity run in part by Ufot’s brother, Edima, a former New Georgia Project employee.
But the Black Male Initiative says it never received any such consulting payment. The group provided the Washington Free Beacon with its IRS financial disclosures, which show it collected $0 in consulting income and just $255,000 in contributions from all sources in 2021.
The ethical questions raised by the missing money are the latest stumbling block for the embattled charity. The Free Beacon reported in November that the New Georgia Project was in turmoil as former senior staff accused the group’s leadership of engaging in rampant financial misconduct. And Georgia’s state ethics commission alleges that the group illegally worked to elect Abrams during her failed 2018 gubernatorial bid.
"This is something that the Internal Revenue Service should be interested in," Alan Dye, a nonprofit attorney, told the Free Beacon, "particularly with the added element of the former officer possibly pocketing the money."
"Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark," Dye added, noting that it is a crime to knowingly file a false statement with the federal government.
Founded by Abrams in 2013, New Georgia Project has served as the poster child of the Democrat’s efforts to turn Georgia blue by expanding the state’s non-white electorate. The group and its affiliated New Georgia Project Action Fund are some of the largest leftwing voter registration efforts in the country, having raised a combined $54.7 million since 2020.
Central to that effort was Nse Ufot, a community organizer from Nigeria. Ufot was living in Canada in 2014 when she claims Abrams convinced her to pack up for Georgia to run the New Georgia Project. But her tenure with the New Georgia Project came to an abrupt end in October 2022, when she was dismissed under murky circumstances.
At some point, Nse’s brother joined the endeavor. It is not clear when Edima Ufot joined or left the New Georgia Project, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January 2020 that he served as the group’s community organizing director. Edima Ufot no longer works at the New Georgia Project and is now the lead organizer for Black Male Initiative.
Nse and Edima Ufot did not respond to requests for comment.
The missing $533,000 is not the only discrepancy on the New Georgia Project’s tax forms, which contains information that accountants say is "just not possible." The group’s 2020 financial disclosure, for example, states that the New Georgia Project paid zero dollars in payroll taxes that year.
"I have no idea how a charity can have 173 paid employees and pay no payroll taxes. It’s just not possible," said Dye. "I can’t answer that question. There should be no excuse for that."
There is also massive fluctuation in the annual compensation figures. The charity claimed on its 2021 Form 990 that it paid out $5,671,892 in total compensation that year for 105 employees, and that it paid $19,142,227 on salaries the previous year. But forms filed in 2020 say the group paid just $1,914,227 on salaries for 173 employees, a discrepancy of more than $17 million. It is unclear which form, if any, gives the accurate compensation figure for 2020. If the $1.9 million figure is accurate for 2020, that would mean pay skyrocketed even as the number of staffers fell in 2021.
But the group, which is required to disclose the five highest paid employees who made over $100,000, also claimed that Nse Ufot was the only employee who earned six-figures in 2021. A former high ranking New Georgia Project executive who had access to the group’s payroll records says this was not the case. The former executive told the Free Beacon at least two other individuals made well above that threshold in 2021.
"Such a bizarre discrepancy is highly unusual and certainly cause to question the merits of the accountant," said Scott Walter, the president of the Capital Research Center, a charity watchdog group. "In a proper accounting firm, at least 2 or 3 people would have had to examine the return before sending it to the group, and no such wild error should have been missed."
George Lynch, an accountant who specializes in nonprofits, said the compensation disclosures were "certainly suspicious." Adebambo Sonaike, the accountant who prepared New Georgia Project’s Form 990, declined to comment.
The charity’s chairman, Francys Johnson, fired Nse Ufot along with the group’s then-chief legal officer and deputy general counsel in October 2022, according to private correspondence reviewed by the Free Beacon. Earlier, in June, the charity’s chief financial officer was fired after saying he couldn’t do his job without violating the law, the Free Beacon reported. New Georgia Project fired more senior executives in October, claiming it could no longer afford to pay their salaries.
The 2021 form also shows New Georgia Project overpaid Ufot by nearly $10,000. There is no explanation for the improper payment, referred to on tax forms as an "excess benefit." In extreme cases, the IRS can revoke a charity's tax-exempt status for doling out excess benefits to officials.
"New Georgia Project's recent tax returns leave so many questions, it's difficult to know where to even begin trying to understand these important documents," said Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of the charity watchdog Americans for Public Trust. "Filing a fraudulent return with the IRS carries hefty penalties, and any evidence of financial malfeasance should be taken seriously."
While the unaccounted for half a million that the group says was sent to the Black Male Initiative is the largest discrepancy involving other groups, it is not the only instance where another organization's books don't match with New Georgia Project's.
Another discrepancy involves the New Georgia Project Action Fund’s payments to its "independent affiliated political committee," the Committee for a New Georgia. In 2021, the Action Fund reported that it made a $25,000 contribution to the Committee for a New Georgia. But the latter group’s campaign finance filings show it received $36,000 from the New Georgia Project Action Fund on Oct. 19, 2021.
The reason for the $11,000 discrepancy is unclear. Fenika Miller, who the Committee for a New Georgia lists as its chairman, told the Free Beacon that she has not been involved with the group since 2020. Miller had no answer for why the Committee for a New Georgia has identified her as its leader, which it did as recently as this January in a filing to the Georgia State Ethics Commission.
The fact that Committee for a New Georgia's stated leadership has no affiliation with the group makes getting answers difficult. Whatever the explanation, the missing $11,000 is one of many "discrepancies and omissions" in the New Georgia Project’s filings that "raise serious questions that warrant a full investigation by both the IRS and Georgia enforcement authorities," according to Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group.
"Not only are civil fines and penalties possible, but so is criminal liability," Kamenar added.
The New Georgia Project did not return requests for comment.
Published under: Democratic Donors , Feature , Fundraiser , Georgia , IRS , Stacey Abrams