Warnock Voter-Registration Group Received $482,000 in PPP Loans

Georgia Dem candidate has attacked opponent for putting 'political games' ahead of relief

Raphael Warnock
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) / Getty Images
December 8, 2020

While Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock has slammed his Republican opponent for "playing political games" with COVID-19 relief, the voter-registration group he ran raked in $482,000 in coronavirus bailout money.

The New Georgia Project, a voter-registration nonprofit founded by Stacey Abrams and helmed by Warnock until earlier this year, took in the nearly half-million-dollar sum from the Paycheck Protection Program, new data show. The loan program was created to help small businesses struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Warnock has attacked his opponent, Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, over the distribution of the loans.

"Georgians are wondering when are they going to get some COVID-19 relief," Warnock said during a Sunday debate. "They're wondering who is going to put small businesses in front of the large corporate giants."

The Senate hopeful's website advocates for greater transparency in the program to make sure small businesses are not ignored "in favor of wealthy corporations that are politically well-connected."

The Warnock-tied nonprofit works to register black voters in the Peach State. Abrams launched the group in late 2013 with the ambitious goal of registering hundreds of thousands of new minority voters. Warnock served as its CEO from 2017 to February 2020.

The New Georgia Project says it registered 500,000 new voters ahead of the November 3 elections. In the month following the elections, the group says it has registered an additional 10,000 voters. As part of mobilization efforts leading up to the January 5 runoffs, it plans to knock on one million doors and contact five million voters via text and calls.

Through Abrams, the nonprofit has connections to high-level Democratic donors and operatives. In April 2018, the failed gubernatorial candidate appeared at a closed-door meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a billionaire donor club, and led a panel that included talks of fighting for reparations by 2022. Top Democratic operatives, such as DNC chairman Tom Perez, attended the gathering.

The New Georgia Project also partners with the Democracy Alliance-backed Center for Popular Democracy, whose network includes dozens of liberal advocacy groups. Abrams has asked members of the alliance to give cash to her group in the past.

While the New Georgia Project does not disclose its donors, the identities of some recent funders can be gleaned from public records. During the 2020 election cycle, it received $46,775 from the MVP Justice Fund, a super PAC that receives all of its cash from another super PAC called Defeat by Tweet. Defeat by Tweet is bankrolled by a handful of individuals, including Michael Novogratz, the CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners. In 2018, the New Georgia Project's action fund received $35,000 in donations from the Working Families Party independent expenditures committee. The group reported nearly $2 million in donations on its most recent tax forms.

The New Georgia Project has also come under fire for alleged financial mismanagement. During her tenure leading the group, Abrams faced criticism for paying herself a $177,500 salary for 20 hours of work per week. The nonprofit is now under investigation by Georgia's secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, for allegedly sending ballot applications to non-residents.

Warnock's campaign and the New Georgia Project did not respond to requests for comment.