Lavish spending on things like ‘hype house’, ‘swag truck’ left Abrams campaign short on cash: Report

It was reported earlier this week that Stacy Abrams’ failed gubernatorial campaign in Georgia was $1 million in debt and that many staffers were left empty-handed, this all coming after the candidate had raised more than $100 million to lose for the second time in four years.

As for where all that money went, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution scrutinized campaign expenditures that led to “sharp cuts to TV airtime and employee benefits at a crucial moment in the campaign,” noting that among the expenses was a house rented in an expensive Atlanta neighborhood meant for TikTok creators that sat largely unused, a pop-up shop and “swag truck.”

“Stacey Abrams raised more than $103 million for her failed rematch this year against Gov. Brian Kemp, a record-setting haul for a Georgia gubernatorial race that allowed her to experiment with unconventional ways to promote her candidacy,” AJC reported. “But her campaign’s expenditures have come under sharper scrutiny as new details emerge about the tight cash crunch she faced before her November defeat to Kemp by nearly 8 points.”

Staffers told the newspaper that the campaign spent excessive funding on polls that would end up being disregarded and on consultants with confusing or conflicting roles within the campaign.

More from AJC:

Several staffers said the campaign rented a home near Piedmont Park to be a “hype house” for TikTok videos that wound up largely neglected. Some aides commandeered the vacant five-bedroom craftsman-style house, now available to rent at $12,500 a month, as a makeshift office.

A pop-up shop and “swag truck” were assigned to dispense merchandise, such as T-shirts and hoodies, to win over young voters. But staffers grumbled that there was no apparent strategy behind the giveaways, which they said seemed careless and costly.

Abrams appeared to spend just as lavishly on payroll, with the newspaper citing allies to say the Democrat “ensured that key employees made above-average salaries and paid many rank-and-file canvassers at least $15 an hour — higher than what many other candidates typically offer.” Another benefit offered was allowing staffers to schedule mental health sessions, which had to be cut in October.

While Abrams was celebrated by many in the media as the best thing since sliced bread, with some even assigning presidential aspirations, those closer to the campaign appeared to have a different take.

“It’s incredibly bad planning, and it shows where their values are at,” a senior Democratic official told AJC of the spending. “You can’t look up one day and realize you can’t pay the bills.”

“They probably thought they could keep raising money all the way through November,” one former staffer said. “And they misplayed that badly.”

The article said the spending will come into better focus when financial disclosures are due in January.

“People have told me they have no idea how they’re going to pay their rent in January,” a former staffer told Axios. “It was more than unfortunate. It was messed up.”

Abrams’s campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo blamed a “cavalcade of negative press,” and bad polling, telling Axios this impacted fundraising efforts in the final weeks of the election.

She also said the campaign is trying to sell its donor lists and voter contact spreadsheets to repay its debts.

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