This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
Officials in the state of Georgia have begun an investigation into a charity run by Sen. Raphael Warnock’s church, which still pays him a handsome “housing allowance” while he collects his full Senate salary.
The charity is a branch of the church that runs a housing complex in Atlanta, and was caught evicting residents during COVID-19 – just as Warnock was lashing out at his opponent for the Senate seat he now holds, stating, “Unemployment benefits have expired, rent is due today, and many Georgia families are at risk of eviction in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Free Beacon confirmed the Georgia Secretary of State Office’s Securities and Charities Division wrote to Ebenezer Building Foundation, which is owned essentially by Ebenezer Baptist Church, to explain why it is operating without registration.
“The Ebenezer Building Foundation has reported in each of its Form 990 tax returns filed with the IRS since 2011 that it is registered to operate as a charity in Georgia. But the Georgia Securities and Charities Division told the Free Beacon that Warnock’s charity is not registered with state authorities,” the report explained.
The foundation lists Warnock as its principal officer in its Form 990s and says it delegates all management duties to Ebenezer Baptist Church, “where Warnock pulls a salary on top of a lucrative tax-free housing allowance as he serves in the Senate,” the report said.
A lawyer for the state warned, in a letter to church trustee Kenneth Palmer that there could be administrative penalties for operating as a charitable organization without a registration, which is a violation of state law.
WND previously reported on the dispute involving the church and its housing branch. It seems the housing organization was evicting poor people from a tower of apartments for past due amounts of as little as about $28 even while paying $7,417 a month for the senator’s “housing.” He also takes a salary.
The scandal immediately caught the attention of commentators at Twitchy, who said, “How quickly do you all think the mainstream media will ignore this bombshell story about Raphael Warnock and his church? Gonna guess if Free Beacon didn’t break this story we’d have never known about this shockingly bad story. Keep in mind, this is a church and this guy is a PASTOR.”
The Free Beacon noted that Warnock, a Democrat, said on social media in August 2020, that, “Unemployment benefits have expired, rent is due today, and many Georgia families are at risk of eviction in the middle of a pandemic.”
“It may be good political rhetoric, but Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the senator serves as senior pastor – drawing a salary as well as a generous $7,417 monthly housing allowance – has moved to evict disadvantaged residents from an apartment building it owns, one of whom it tried to push out on account of merely $28.55 in past-due rent,” the report charged.
The report explained the church is the 99% owner of Columbia Tower at MLK Village in Atlanta, and the corporation operating the building filed a dozen eviction lawsuits against residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, from February 2020 to last month, involving a total of some $4,900.
The report pointed out that the figure “could have been covered by one of Warnock’s monthly housing stipends from the church.”
“The lawsuits were filed by Ebenezer Baptist Church’s business partner, Columbia Residential, the 1 percent owner of the building, which manages its day-to-day operations,” said the report, which also pointed out the church closed out 2021 with “cash and ‘cash equivalents'” of more than $1.2 million.
“They treat me like a piece of s—. They’re not compassionate at all,” Columbia Tower resident Phillip White told the Free Beacon.
He’s a 69-year-old African American who says he served in Vietnam and received an eviction notice on Sept. 20 for failure to meet a $192 rent payment. He says he’ll fight it but will do so without a lawyer, as he cannot afford one.
“It was Columbia Tower’s second attempt to evict White, who received his first eviction notice in September 2021 for $179 in past-due rent. That case was dropped after White paid up, plus an additional $325 in fees,” the Free Beacon reported.
While the eviction fights were developing, Warnock was accusing his Senate race opponent that year, Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., of failing to protect Georgia families by not supporting COVID-19 eviction moratoriums.
The report said it wasn’t clear if Warnock knew of the evictions going on at his church-owned complex “as he was railing against such actions,” but he didn’t respond with a comment.
The apartment complex describes itself as a refuge for those who have fallen on hard times, but the building also has benefited from more than $15 million in federal and state funding designated for helping shelter the chronically homeless since 2005, the report said.
Just weeks ago, Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, awarded Ebenezer $5 million in leftover federal COVID-19 funds to renovate all the apartment units in Columbia Tower.
As its ownership is a charitable group, the property, valued at about $1.72 million, has paid only $77.77 in property tax over seven years, the report noted.
The report said the church owns the tower through a network of shell organizations linked to the Ebenezer Building Foundation, a charity that assigns management duties to the church and identified Warnock as its principal officer in IRS filings.
The report noted, “Ebenezer Building Foundation owns its 99 percent share of the building through a shell company called MLK Village Corporation. The Ebenezer Building Foundation and the shell company share the same address and the same three officers, business and charity records show.”
Warnock now is running to keep his Senate seat in a race against Republican nominee Herschel Walker.