Fair Fight, the political and advocacy organization focused on voting rights that was started by Stacey Abrams, is restructuring and making significant layoffs to its staff, citing the financial toll of complex legal battles.
Fair Fight Action Board Chair Salena Jegede, in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, blamed prolonged processes for two “vital” voting rights lawsuits and “a contraction in investment [that] has affected most civic actors in our space.”
“We had the moral obligation to field these suits on behalf of voters. However, due to the complex nature of litigation, the organization unfortunately faces a serious funding deficit that makes our current trajectory unsustainable,” Jegede added.
Cianti Stewart-Reid resigned her role as Fair Fight’s executive director and Lauren Groh-Wargo will return to the group as interim CEO, according to Jegede. Groh-Wargo, a co-founder of the group, had led Fair Fight before stepping down to manage Abrams’s second unsuccessful run for Georgia governor in 2022.
Fair Fight’s staff cuts were first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Groh-Wargo confirmed to the New York Times that Fair Fight would lay off 20 people, about three-quarters of its staff, while adding that the group was $2.5 million in debt with only $1.9 million cash on hand.
Abrams, a former Georgia state representative, launched Fair Fight in 2018 after losing her first run for Georgia governor and expanded the organization’s scope into a multimillion-dollar, multistate effort ahead of the 2020 elections. Fair Fight raised about $100 million from 2018 to 2021.
Though she no longer has a formal role within Fair Fight, Abrams shared her disappointment with the staff cuts on social media on Wednesday.
“Fighters for democracy face tough challenges; and I am saddened for all the @fairfightaction warriors impacted by staff cuts,” Abrams wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Because of your hard work, we have valiantly led the charge. Thank you to the amazing crew that has made FF such a critical voice — we will get good done.”
Politico reported that the organization spent more than $25 million on legal fees, mostly on a single case, from 2021 to 2022. Last year, Fair Fight Action and other plaintiffs were ordered to repay the state of Georgia $231,000 to cover the state’s legal fees after the group lost a voting rights case.
Jegede said the group’s goal “is to revise the operating model so that the organization can endure and be strongly positioned for the many battles ahead.” Fair Fight plans “to focus on how we serve Georgia and American voters for the 2024 cycle and beyond. This will require tough choices to meet outstanding financial obligations and right-size for the work ahead.”
Groh-Wargo said of Fair Fight in a social media post Wednesday, “The dedicated staff has guided us ably and now we face heartbreaking but vital decisions for the good of our mission. I’m returning as interim CEO to help chart our course for 2024 and beyond.”