Former Statehouse Democrat Leader Stacey Abrams first ran for Georgia governor in 2018. At that time, she has a net worth of $109,000, and she was still paying a hefty bill from the IRS.
Four years later, she’s seen her net worth increase thirtyfold. She’s now worth an eye-popping $3.17 million, according to last month’s state disclosures reviewed by the Associated Press.
Not bad for just four years worth of work.
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Her rapid ascent into multi-millionaire status corresponds with her rise in national politics. Since her 2018 loss to Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams has become a staple for speaking tours. She was considered as a potential running mate to President Joe Biden and is widely credited with organizing voters in Georgia to help him become the first Democrat to carry the state in the presidential vote in 28 years.
In other words, she became a big name in Democratic politics… and she cashed in. She wrote thriller novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery until last year. Then she started publishing on her own name to great success. She’s written, co-written or reissued six books since 2019, with another reissue on the way later this year.
She’s been collecting huge honorariums for her speaking tours. Seth Bringman, an Abrams campaign spokesperson, said she gave 37 paid speeches in 2021, including a 12-stop fall tour of stand-alone appearances.
Since 2018, she has earned $6 million, mostly driven by $5 million in payments for the books and speeches.
Many politicians build their wealth only after they reach high office. That’s not the case for Abrams, whose loss vaulted her to a level of celebrity unusual for someone whose highest office so far is minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. She particularly cashed in on her status in 2021 before announcing her second bid for governor, with her income spiking to $3.65 million.
Abrams was also paid more than $700,000 over three years as executive director of the Southern Economic Advancement Project, an affiliate of the Roosevelt Institute that seeks to improve economic equity in the South. Abrams has reported no income from Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group she founded and formerly chaired.
Abrams, who last year released a business book with a longtime business partner, also reports investments in a number of companies. Some are longtime holdings including Now Account Network Corp., which finances businesses by buying invoices. Abrams in November joined the board of Heliogen, a California company that seeks to use sunlight to concentrate heat for industrial processes, electricity generation and hydrogen fuel production. Abrams reported $65,000 in Heliogen stock.
Abrams also had $96,000 in student loan debt and $83,000 in accumulated credit card debt in 2018. She only had a positive net worth because a publisher had paid a $150,000 advance on her first nonfiction book. In that book, “Minority Leader,” Abrams wrote that she borrowed at a time when “my understanding of personal finance barely scratched the surface.”
She paid off her IRS debt, student loans, and credit card debt in 2019. When she first ran for governor, Abrams had a paltry retirement account of less than $5,000. Now she has more than $725,000 in stocks and bonds.
Not bad for a politician that hasn’t won an election in years.
As her financial picture has brightened, Abrams has also traded up from her old townhouse to a mansion.
The $975,000 property she bought just outside the Atlanta city limits near Emory University in 2020 is financed by a $760,000 mortgage, according to Abrams’ financial disclosure. She bought her parents a $370,000, 3,300-square-foot house in suburban Atlanta in 2019, owing more than $280,000 on a mortgage, records and disclosures show.
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It’s unclear how much Abrams is paying in taxes or how much she is donating to charity, although her assets include $560,000 set aside in a “tax account.” Bringman said Abrams would release her returns later this year after she files her 2021 taxes.
Marko Klasnja, a Georgetown University professor who has studied the causes and consequences of politicians’ wealth, said Abrams’ multi-millionaire status won’t alienate her from working-class voters and that “in the U.S., people don’t care about wealth per se, and I don’t think that they would think that’s a negative, necessarily.”
“I don’t think this is going to hurt Abrams that much, and I think, if people know this is coming from things like book deals, they’re going to be thinking about this differently than, ‘She’s lining her pockets because she’s on boards of corporations and things like that.’”
Some Republicans have criticized her for becoming a cash machine instead of an lawmaker.
Her newfound wealth has Republicans hoping o portray Abrams this year as an elitist out of touch with average Georgians. Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson for the national Republican Party, accused Abrams of using her campaign “as a platform for her own financial gain.”
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In an interview, Abrams said it was ironic for Republicans to criticize her financial success, something the party often praises as the result of hard work.
“It is remarkable to me that success is now being demonized by the Republicans,” she said. “I believe in success. I believe that every person should have the opportunity to thrive. And because I had three years where I was in the private sector, I leveraged all three years, and in that time, I’ve done my best to not only be successful personally, but to do what I can to help Georgians.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.