U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., is facing questions about his ethics in a new report from the Washington Free Beacon that points out he voted for a COVID relief bill that sent $75,000 to a social justice group run by his church, which still is paying him $120,000 a year.
Warnock, who is attempting to defend his seat against the Republican candidate, Heisman Trophy winner and National Football League star Herschel Walker, was the deciding vote in the March 2021 vote on the American Rescue plan, which was adopted in the Senate on a 50-49 vote.
At the time, Warnock boasted, “We were able to deliver on our promise to Georgia to pass historic COVID-19 relief. Georgia in a very real sense is delivering relief to the whole country.”
But the report revealed that legislation “steered $75,000 to a nonprofit social justice group he founded that’s run by the church that supplements his Senate salary to the tune of more than $100,000.”
The report cited government records, explaining, “The Martin Luther King Sr. Collaborative, a community activist group that Warnock led as CEO until at least 2020, sought and received COVID relief funding from the American Rescue Plan in September 2021.”
The report said the fund was founded by the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is still employed as lead pastor and which paid him $120,000 last year in addition to his Senate salary.
The Free Beacon noted that the scheme “raises questions about whether Warnock or his employers used Warnock’s position as a senator to benefit from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that some leading economists have blamed for skyrocketing inflation.”
Notably, the Americans for Public Trust, an ethics watchdog group, suggested there are “concerns” about Warnock’s outside income, and whether it is a conflict of interest.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Warnock gets a housing allowance from the church of nearly $7,500 per month.
“It’s not a great look to learn that a U.S. senator cast the key vote that awarded his former nonprofit tens of thousands of dollars,” explained Caitlin Sutherland of Americans for Public Trust. “And now that it’s been revealed that Warnock is receiving a housing allowance from Ebenezer, this arrangement seems rife with potential conflicts of interest.”
The organization’s state filings listed Warnock as CEO until April 2021, after he voted on the American Rescue Plan, and the report confirmed his links to the group continued after he gave up that title.
The report said the group’s new board chairman and CEO, Kenneth Palmer, is also on the board of trustees for the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which employs Warnock and pays his salary, and the “Collaborative” uses the church’s address.