Last Updated on October 30, 2022
Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, who is a long-time friend of Democratic Candidate for Governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams, is a partner at Lawrence & Bundy, the legal firm which received $9.4 million in 2019 and 2020 from Abrams’ group, Fair Fight Action. The firm recieved payment for legal work on the case, Fair Fight Action, Inc. v. Raffensperger (1:18-CV-5391-SCJ).
“We first became good friends when I was an associate, and she was a summer associate at [the Atlanta-based law firm,] Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. And we both worked with the same partner,” Lawrence-Hardy said. “We became very good friends there.”
Fair Fight Action is a group founded by Abrams, whereas Lawrence-Hardy was a college classmate of Abrams at Spelman College in Georgia in the early 1990s before the duo went on to attend Yale Law Schools. Abrams graduated from Yale University three years after Lawrence-Hardy, in 1999.
Legal Ethics Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Kathleen Clark, was critical of the exorbitant cost of the failed suit filed by the Abrams-led group.
“Fair Fight Action ought to explain why this lawsuit cost so much. I think there are significant questions about this choice of firm and just why this lawsuit was so much more expensive. And there may be perfectly, valid, innocent explanations to both of these questions. But I don’t know what they are,” Clark said. “It is essential that non-government organizations, that charitable organizations be run so they actually further their stated purposes. It’s important that we have assurances that it is pursuing its stated goals, rather than feathering someone’s nest.”
Norm Eisen contended that this is the status quo in American politics.
“It happens all the time. It is the way our system is built, that the political leaders and the policy leaders are one in the same,” Eisen said. “We not only countenance it, we embrace it; that is the American political, legal and ethical system.”
Dara Lindenbaum, the general counsel for Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign and later, legal counsel for Fair Fight Action, made the claim that Lawrence-Hardy would have been chosen regardless of her relationship with Abrams.
Lindenbaum is currently the Vice Chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
In the legal case Fair Fight Action, Inc. v. Raffensperger (1:18-CV-5391-SCJ), the Abrams-founded group that claims to “promote fair elections around the country” sued Brad Raffensperger (R-GA) in his official capacity as Secretary of State of the State of Georgia and as Chair of the State Election Board (SEB) of Georgia. Lawrence-Hardy was the lead legal counsel for the case which ended last month after a federal judge ruled against Fair Fight Action on all three of the group’s claims.
The initial complaint, filed in December 2018, was filed by Fair Fight Action along with “Care In Action,” the nonprofit arm of the Domestic Workers Alliance, which at the time was run by then-state Senator Nikema Williams (GA-05). In 2019, the two groups recruited four Black churches to join as co-plaintiffs, a group which included the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the home church led by “pro-choice pastor” Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
The legal scope of the case was narrowed by Federal District Court Judge Steve C. Jones after the initial legal attack came on a diverse set of voting issues.
“I call it the incredible shrinking lawsuit. It started off with allegations of tens of thousands of voters that were suppressed across the State of Georgia in the 2018 election,” Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr said. “We’re down to seven individuals who didn’t vote.”
“That’s not what their press conference have been about. That’s not what their fundraising emails have been about. It was about a watershed landmark voter suppression case. That’s what they took to the American people, not just Georgians, they made this a national campaign,” AG Carr said. “We literally went from [20 something] claims to three, and three that don’t go to the heart of affirmatively prohibiting Georgians from voting.”
Fair Fight’s Political Action Committee (PAC) known as Fair Fight, Inc. launched an internal investigation after an October 14th report by FOX News that the PAC Director, Andre Fields, paid tens of thousands of dollars to his sister and a friend for political consulting services when neither has background or experience in politics.
“On October 12th, Fair Fight PAC became aware that PAC funds may have been incorrectly paid to consultants. Our first priority is to organize collective efforts to educate voters, which we will not lose sight of throughout this internal investigation,” Fair Fight PAC said in a statement.
Fair Fight PAC is funded by George Soros through his Open Society Foundations.
The lead attorney for the state, Josh Belinfante, questioned the 2018 campaign manager for Abrams, Lauren Groh-Wargo, as to why the group had challenged the 2018 election but found the 2020 election to be “free and fair.” This point was also examined by Judge Jones.
“Here is what Mr. Belinfante is trying to plant in the court’s mind. 2018, you didn’t prevail. 2020, as you said, the election results were more to your liking,” Jones said. When you list, it wasn’t a free election, but when you won, it was a free election. Should I take the interpretation?”
Despite the fact the entire group and case was manifested due to Stacey Abrams, she did not come to the courthouse once throughout the trial, nor did she tweet about it.
Even in her September 30th tweet where she eventually acknowledged the verdict, she did not use the name “Fair Fight Action.”
Abrams resigned as the Fair Fight Action Board Chairwoman in December 2021 before she announced her second gubernatorial run. Recent financial documents revealed a donation of some $542,000 of Fair Fight staff time and a $1,500,000 donation from Fair Fight Inc. to another PAC run by Abrams.
Judge Jones wrote his decision on September 30th.
“Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenge practices violate neither the constitution nor the [Voting Rights Act,]” Jones wrote.
After her 2018 loss in the gubernatorial race to Brian P. Kemp (R) 48.8 to 50.2 percent, Abrams went on to refuse to accept the results of the election for months afterwards and claimed that minority voters had been suppressed.
In 2019 and 2020, Fair Fight Action raised north of $61 million, at least a third of which was funneled into the Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger case.
For its part, the State of Georgia spent some $6 million to defend its controversial incumbent secretary of state in the case.
One June 23rd, Lawrence-Hardy made her closing argument in front of a half-empty courtroom and three reporters, where she stated she felt the weight of history.
“Obviously, we would not have had the resources without a Stacey Abrams amplifying those voters’ voices. But from the beginning, we could have filed the lawsuit on behalf of Stacey. That, you know, some people do that right? Some candidates do that. But this was always about the voters and the people who work in the grassroots organizations to support the voters. And That’s why it was styled the way it was styled,” Lawrence-Hardy explained.
Lawrence-Hardy declined to say how much money her law firm has been given by Fair Fight Action over the past two years, but it should be reasonable to estimate it is around the same amount she spent in the previous two: $25 million, $9.4 million of which was footed by Fair Fight Action.
If that’s the case, it is unclear what the nearly $20 million spent by Abrams’ group alone and $50 million in total legal fees, accomplished in the case against Raffensperger’s office.
Fair Fight Action maintained that the civil suit served an “important role in drawing attention to voting inequities.”