The Republican Governors Association (RGA) launched a television ad on Tuesday lambasting Stacey Abrams, a tax attorney and Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, over a decision to loan her campaign $50,000 while owing over $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The ad, which comes only weeks after Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp obtained the Republican nomination for governor, attempts to paint Abrams as lacking the fiscal restraint and judgment required to serve as a state's chief executive.
"Stacey Abrams is a tax attorney, she made a million dollars over the past five years," the ad's narrator states. "But she didn’t even pay her own $54,000 tax bill. Instead, she loaned herself $50,000 to run for governor. Nice present. Guess every day is Christmas for Stacey Abrams."
In March, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Abrams owed more than $54,000 in back income taxes to the IRS and had over $170,000 combined in credit card and student loan debt. Financial disclosure forms filed with Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission show she owed the IRS $40,201 for income earned in 2015 and $13,851 for 2016.
It is unclear if the candidate owes any money to the IRS for income garnered in 2017 as the disclosure forms filed only covered the preceding year.
As the ad notes, Abrams chose to lone her gubernatorial campaign $50,000 in the early stages of the race, rather than using the sum to alleviate her outstanding IRS debts. Abrams attempted to defend her decision during a March interview with WABE FM, Atlanta's National Public Radio affiliate, by claiming the loan was an investment in the campaign's "startup phase" and would be applied to her debts upon repayment.
"I loaned my campaign money because we were in a startup phase," Abrams said. "As the campaign pays me back, I’m applying those dollars to take care of my debt to my obligations."
RGA Communications Director Jon Tompson castigated Abrams for placing political ambition above financial responsibility in a statement announcing the ad's launch.
"Despite making over $1 million as a tax attorney, Stacey Abrams failed to pay her own taxes. Instead of paying her fair share, Abrams loaned herself $50,000 to support her own campaign," Thompson said. "Georgia deserves a leader committed to fiscal responsibility, not a reckless politician who puts their own political ambitions ahead of paying their fair share."
This is not the first time Abram's personal finances have become a campaign issue.
When the initial story surrounding Abram's debts broke in March, much emphasis was placed on the fact her overall debts, including those to the IRS, ran upwards of $228,000.
Abrams financial disclosures indicate $96,512 owed in student loans, despite having finished graduate studies in 1999, and $77,522 in debt across nine credit cards. Compounding problems for the candidate is the fact her total income for 2017 was $177,522, greatly dwarfed by her total expenses of $255,886. Abrams compiled the debts even though her annual earning were over three times greater than the median household income in Georgia of $51,037, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In April, the Democrat attempted to halt criticism of her financial judgment from both Republicans and Democrats by penning an op-ed in Fortune Magazine. Abrams explained her predicament resulted from being forced to financially support her elderly parents and from student debt, amassed while pursuing two graduate degrees. Her degrees include a jurist doctorate from Yale University–one of the most expensive law schools in the country.
"But despite earning nearly six figures, my financial situation was fraught. I had racked up student loans, and throughout college and beyond, I’d swiftly turned every credit card application into those magical slivers of plastic that allowed me to pay for daily necessities," Abrams wrote. "Paying the bills for two households has taken its toll. Nearly twenty years after graduating, I am still paying down student loans, and am on a payment plan to settle my debt to the IRS."
On Wednesday, Abram's Republican opponent took to social media to echo the RGA's criticism.
"Stacey Abrams made over a million dollars in the last few years. Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign," Kemp tweeted. "If that's not criminal, it should be."
Stacey Abrams made over a million dollars in the last few years. Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign. If that's not criminal, it should be. #gapol #gagop #tcot #gafirst #gagov
— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) August 8, 2018
Kemp and Abrams are locked in a competitive race to succeed incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who is term-limited from running again. If elected, Abrams would be the first Democrat to serve as governor since 1998 and likely the first romance novelist to occupy the office.