The federal judge shielding the Georgia voter registration group once helmed by Democratic senator Raphael Warnock from legal trouble owes her spot on the bench to none other than Warnock, who led the charge to get the Biden administration to nominate her for the lifetime judicial position.
District Judge Victoria Calvert in December 2022 blocked the Georgia attorney general’s efforts to charge the New Georgia Project with illegally aiding Democrat Stacey Abrams’s failed 2018 gubernatorial campaign while Warnock was the group’s chairman. It was Warnock who urged President Joe Biden to nominate Calvert to the District Court of Northern Georgia in September 2021. The Senate confirmed Calvert to the lifetime post in March 2022.
Calling Calvert’s move an “attempt to circumvent the rule of law” that “serves only to undermine transparency in our elections,” Georgia attorney general Chris Carr (R.) filed an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 8 demanding it reverse the judge’s decision so he can resume enforcement proceedings against the group.
“New Georgia Project spent millions of dollars in express political advocacy, fought state investigators for years to avoid disclosing any information, and then rushed to federal court to stop this civil proceeding entirely,” Carr said in a statement. “We are filing this appeal to ensure that our state statute is upheld and Georgia’s ongoing proceeding is protected.”
Calvert’s intervention in the case against the charity once led by her chief benefactor in the Senate raises serious conflict of interest concerns. It also comes as the New Georgia Project faces a separate investigation by Georgia’s secretary of state, which began probing the group’s “financial irregularities” following several Washington Free Beacon reports on alleged financial mismanagement by former New Georgia Project executives.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission launched its legal battle against the New Georgia Project in September 2019. As part of its investigation, the state authorities issued subpoenas against the charity that revealed it had failed to disclose over $4.2 million in contributions and $3.2 million in expenditures during the 2018 elections.
The commission passed the case off to Carr’s office in August 2022 after ruling that New Georgia Project likely violated state law by failing to report its political expenditures. New Georgia Project countered the allegations in an appeal to the District Court of Northern Georgia, saying they were exempted from disclosing their financial efforts to help elect Abrams because it spent millions more on other non-election related activities.
Calvert ultimately ruled in favor of New Georgia Project in December 2022, granting their motion to enjoin Georgia authorities from enforcing state campaign finance law in part because the charity’s free speech rights were at stake.
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