Ever wonder how politicians end up earning enough in office to go from bartender to tony DC Navy Yard digs, or affording a palatial estate on Martha’s Vineyard, or owning several homes while screaming about taxing the rich?
Look to Stacey Abrams’ rise to get an idea of at least one avenue for generating wealth out of a politician’s relatively meager salary.
Stacey Abrams’ net worth skyrocketed over 2,800% in just three years thanks in part to her holdings in a company called Now Corp. (previously called NowAccount or “Now”), a Government Accountability Institute study has found.
In 2018, Abrams reported a net worth of just $109,000 in her personal financial disclosure ahead of her failed 2018 gubernatorial bid in Georgia. Now, as she heads into the 2022 gubernatorial race, Abrams’ campaign filings show her net worth is more than $3.17 million after making more than $6 million in book advances, speaking deals and growing corporate investments like NowAccount.
Abrams cofounded the NowAccount financial technology (“fintech”) start-up in 2010 with business partners Lara Hodgson and John Hayes. Their business got off to a slow start, but NowAccount was able to pay Abrams $80,000 in salary in her first year as senior vice president and $60,000 per year in subsequent years.
In 2013, Abrams’ fintech company pulled in just $100,000 in annual revenue, but thanks to a federal small business loan program overseen by the state of Georgia, NowAccount would soon have the power to distribute nearly $10 million in taxpayer funds to its network of applicants. By 2016, NowAccount’s applicants were defaulting on their loans, and taxpayers were left to bail out more than $1.5 million in bad loans.
NowAccount’s value spiked in October 2021 after a $29 million financing and investment deal that the company made with two private equity firms. Abrams, who has owned as much as 16% of NowAccount, announced her 2022 bid for governor on Dec. 1 — less than eight weeks after the $29 million windfall.
The decision to apply for taxpayer funding under the 2010 Jobs Act was Abrams’ idea. “I read the Jobs Act,” Abrams said. “I brought the provision to” NowAccount’s cofounders. Abrams was aware that her role as minority leader of the Georgia House might pose a conflict so she “talked about it” with her cofounders and said, “Here’s what we can do,” but she emphasized that she “did not want there to be any conflict at all.”
Pay attention to that part about the loan. Her start-up — already paying her a salary of $80k a year, despite getting off to a “slow start” — figured out how to make sure she kept receiving that healthy salary, even with paltry revenue: the federal government’s largesse via a small business loan. One that ultimately left taxpayers on the hook for paying off a million or so in bad loans.
It gets even better.
One of the firms associated with Abrams’ NowAccount was Happy Faces Personnel Group, Inc. Happy Faces was the election night staffing firm hired to scan and count ballots in Atlanta’s Fulton County on election night, Nov. 3, 2020.
According to a devastating 29-page witness report by election observer Carter Jones, Happy Faces presided over a “massive chain of custody problem” when absentee ballots came “in rolling bins 2k at a time” rather than “in numbered, sealed boxes to protect [the ballots].”
Hired by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to report on any voting or counting irregularities, Jones was shocked when he found out that one Happy Faces employee revealed his election night intention to “f-ck sh-t up.”
Fulton County, you may remember, had to stop counting mail-in-ballots in the November 2020 election due to a reported burst water pipe. Fulton County was also the site of the infamous “suitcases” full of absentee ballots that appeared on surveillance footage and were allegedly counted after poll watchers were sent home.
Oh,there was also the registration form shredding that led to dismissal of two Fulton County election office employees.
While Georgia undergoes an investigation into all these strange happenings and grapples with an electorate that suffers from distrust of the system, Abrams — who insists she had nothing to do with NowAccount’s shenanigans — is doing a-ok.
When Abrams first ran for governor in 2018, she had a small retirement account of less than $5,000 and a mountain of IRS tax debt, student loans, and credit card debt. Now, she has paid off all her debts, has a large retirement nest egg of more than $725,000 in stocks and bonds, and more than $3 million in personal net worth.
Because Stacey knows how to work the system and has profited handsomely. Despite a media narrative claiming the opposite, Ms. Abrams’ is not a victim. She’s a player.
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