Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia (D) is under scrutiny for allegedly bypassing outside income limits by $125,000 through a loophole in his financial disclosure.
The Democratic senator reported a salary of $155,000 from Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church on his 2022 financial disclosure. He claimed that $125,000 of this amount was “deferred compensation for services before Jan. 20, 2021”, which would allow him to avoid overstepping the roughly $30,000 outside income limit imposed on senators.
However, the watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) has questioned the legitimacy of these claims. The organization pointed out that neither Warnock’s 2021 disclosure nor the church’s financial records for 2020 and 2021 list the $125,000 as an asset. Because of this discrepancy, FACT has called for the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Warnock violated ethics rules.
According to Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT, if Warnock and the church had entered into a deferred compensation agreement before he became a senator, it should have been disclosed earlier. She emphasized that the Senate Ethics Committee has a responsibility to investigate clear indications of violations and hold the senator accountable if any violations are found.
Warnock has served as a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church since 2005. The church, which once counted Martin Luther King Jr. as a co-pastor, is affiliated with the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Alongside the outside income limit law, federal rules also require senators and Senate candidates to report all “deferred compensation” plans, including the “parties, dates, and terms of the agreement.”
FACT highlighted that the Ethics in Government Act does not permit members to break the law without consequence. It warned that lawmakers who skirt the law could face fines of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to one year.
The Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which reviews misconduct allegations against lawmakers, approved Warnock in 2021 to bypass the earned income limit. However, his 2022 disclosure did not mention receiving approval for the “deferred compensation” arrangement.
The senator had disclosed earning $120,000 from Ebenezer in 2021, with $89,000 of that sum reportedly coming from a non-taxable “parsonage allowance” he obtained to pay for his million-dollar home in Atlanta. As of now, neither Warnock’s office nor the Senate Ethics Committee have responded to requests for comment on the issue.