Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) more than doubled his income since joining the Senate last year, with most of his half-a-million-dollar haul coming from outside employers and book deals, according to his financial disclosure records.
Warnock disclosed a total income of $532,781 in 2021, a significant bump from the $221,602 he earned in the year before his election. Less than half of his income last year came from his Senate salary, which was $164,816. Ebenezer Baptist Church paid him an additional $120,964, including a $7,417-per-month housing allowance. Penguin Random House also paid him $243,750 as an advance on his memoir that was published in June, and he received $5,750 in speaking fees.
Warnock’s spike in earnings comes two years after he accused his predecessor, former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, of "us[ing] the people’s seat to enrich yourself." The income is likely to feed the perception that holding public office is a means to enrichment given how many lawmakers find a way to leverage their positions—over time—into multimillion-dollar fortunes. Warnock's 100 percent income increase shows how quickly that can happen, as he's doubled his take-home pay in just two years.
Warnock has already drawn public scrutiny for some of his unusual financial arrangements. While senators are prohibited from accepting more than $29,000 in outside income, Warnock raked in $120,000 last year from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—but dodged the income cap by taking most of that money as a "housing allowance." He was also hit with election finance complaints in July for using campaign funds to fight personal lawsuits that predated his run for office.
Herschel Walker, the Republican challenging Warnock in the competitive Senate race, slammed the Democrat over his outside work, claiming he "only cares about making a better life for himself, not the people of Georgia."
"Raphael Warnock cares more about himself than the people of Georgia. He has been trying to cash in on his job since day one," a Walker spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. "Warnock is always looking for another chance to use his position to make more money and misuse campaign funds."
Warnock’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Warnock was able to avoid ethics rules that prohibit lawmakers from earning over 15 percent of their income from outside employers through a unique financial agreement with the Ebenezer Baptist Church. His campaign said $89,000 of his salary from Ebenezer Baptist Church was a "personal parsonage allowance" to pay for his housing, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Warnock’s home in Atlanta is worth around $1 million, the AJC reported.
Republicans also filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Warnock in July, alleging that he violated the law by using his campaign funds to pay unrelated legal fees. Warnock’s campaign paid lawyers who are representing him in a lawsuit stemming from his time as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
"Because the conduct that gave rise to the lawsuit occurred long before Warnock was a candidate for federal office, the conduct had nothing to do with Warnock’s now-status as a candidate and officeholder," said the complaint filed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Last February, Warnock’s ex-wife Oulèye Ndoye filed a custody suit against him claiming that he left her "financially strapped" by saddling her with unpaid childcare expenses even as his "income has substantially increased."
Warnock’s significant growth in earnings is notable after he accused his 2020 opponent Loeffler, a multimillionaire, of being out-of-touch with Georgia voters, where the median housing income is $61,000. During the campaign, he also claimed Loeffler profited as a senator by selling off millions in stocks after attending a confidential COVID briefing.
"I’m okay with the fact that she wants to make money, I just think you shouldn’t use the people’s seat to enrich yourself," said Warnock during a debate. "You ought to use the people’s seat to represent the people."
Warnock is locked in a tight race against Walker for the seat, which could determine party control of the U.S. Senate next year.