Stacey Abrams spent more than $1.2 million on security leading up to her loss in the Georgia governor’s race

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  • Stacey Abrams’ campaign directed most of its security spending to an Atlanta-based firm.
  • The firm, Executive Protection Agencies, has also worked for an Abrams-tied advocacy group.
  • Lawmakers and candidates have increasingly turned to campaign funds for personal protection.

In the months before her November 8 election loss to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams spent more than $1.2 million of her campaign money on security — an extraordinarily large amount for a political candidate and a sum that experts say reflects the rising threat of political violence in the United States.

Abrams, a prominent Democrat who had previously run against Kemp in 2018, directed nearly all of her security spending to a single firm: Executive Protection Agencies LLC.

The Atlanta-based firm previously received a separate seven-figure sum — also more than $1.2 million — from Fair Fight, political action committee tied to Abrams, for unspecified “security” services during 2021, according to federal campaign finance disclosures. Abrams launched the advocacy group to address voter suppression following her narrow loss to Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia.

Abrams’ security spending underscored how candidates — at the state and federal levels — have grown increasingly concerned about partisan violence amid a rise in violent political speech.

Just two weeks before Tuesday’s election, that threat reached the doorstep of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose husband underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture after an intruder broke into the couple’s San Francisco home and hit him over the head with a hammer. Inside their home, the man charged with attacking Pelosi shouted, “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?” — a question that eerily echoed what members of the pro-Trump mob yelled during the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

It is unclear what security services Executive Protection Agencies provided to Abrams’ campaign, and neither Abrams’ campaign nor Executive Protection Agencies responded to Insider’s requests for comment.

On its website, Executive Protection Agencies advertises its bodyguards as “current or former elite law enforcement officers.” The firm says that celebrities, models, and other high-profile individuals are “at risk” and need security expertise.

The firm’s CEO, Tim Howard, has promoted his work with Abrams and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia on Twitter, posting photographs of himself with the two Democrats and other prominent figures, including tennis star Serena Williams, actress Halle Berry, and President Joe Biden.

Executive Protection Agencies’ other clients include Rep. Nikema Williams of Georgia and Warnock, according to disclosures. Warnock, in his first run for a full term after winning a special election two years ago, is headed for a December runoff against Republican nominee Herschel Walker.

“These are the facts of life, but you don’t have to let them determine your life. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it comes in the form of professional bodyguards for hire,” the firm states. “You don’t want overpriced bouncers with an attitude; you want experts whose skills and training are focused like a laser beam on one purpose: your total well-being.”

After initially focusing on Georgia, Fair Fight has expanded in recent years to work with Democrats in multiple swing states to prevent voter suppression, elevating Abrams along the way. Abrams brought a higher national profile to her rematch against Kemp and was credited with helping to turn Georgia blue in the 2020 election.

Stacey Abrams

Executive Protection Agencies’ Tim Howard (right) poses with Democratic political activist Stacey Abrams.
Twitter

Of the more than $1.2 million Abrams’ campaign paid for security, only a small sliver went to a firm other than Executive Protection Agencies. On July 26, the campaign paid $1,162.07 to the Georgia-based Superior Security Concepts, according to state campaign finance disclosures.

Changing political security norms

In recent years, members of Congress and political candidates have increasingly tapped into campaign contributions to pay for bodyguards and other security measures.

The Federal Election Commission paved the way for such spending in March 2021, when it ruled that members of Congress could spend campaign funds on “bona fide, legitimate, professional personal security personnel.”

Even before the FEC’s ruling, some lawmakers charged protection-related expenditures to their campaigns — particularly in the weeks after the Capitol attack, a moment that served as a wake-up call to the threat of political violence.

During the attack, then-Vice President Mike Pence and Pelosi were whisked to safety while members of Congress huddled behind closed doors guarded by police.

“There is a reasonable fear that I think any campaign might have of being targeted. We’ve not only seen the January 6 attacks but a growing number of election officials being threatened,” Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America who has studied political violence, told Insider earlier this year. “There’s a growing movement of far-right activists who are basically spoiling for civil war.”

Following the attack of Pelosi’s husband, the chief of the Capitol police said he would allocate more “resources” to the protection of lawmakers, with added “redundancies” to measures already in place for congressional leaders.

Capitol police Chief Tom Manger acknowledged that lawmakers have been seriously wounded in attacks preceding January 6.

“During this time of heightened political tension, we continue to monitor thousands of cases across the country — in an effort to stop potential threats before they make headlines,” Manger said this month.

In 2011, a gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, in the head during constituent event, nearly killing her. In 2017, a gunman shot Republican House Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana while he was practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Virginia.

During the Trump administration, the number of recorded threats against members of Congress increased more than tenfold, to 9,625 in 2021, the New York Times reported. The US Marshals Service documented a similar rise in threats against federal judges and other protectees.

As for Abrams, her political future is uncertain after going 0-for-2 in major races since 2018.

But she indicated she won’t be disappearing.

“What we have architected in this state does not end today,” Abrams said in her concession speech Tuesday night.