A New York Times profile of Sen. Raphael Warnock quotes a federal official who downplays the Georgia Democrat’s ties to a management company that evicted low-income residents. But the Times neglected to disclose one thing: The official was a paid Democratic operative who helped elect Warnock in 2020.
Derrick Harkins, director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told the Times it is "just not correct" to say Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church had a direct hand in filing eviction notices against residents of its low-income apartment building. The Democratic National Committee paid Harkins over $175,000 in political consulting fees in 2019 and 2020. As the DNC’s director of interfaith outreach, Harkins boosted Warnock in his runoff campaign against former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.).
Maya King, the Times reporter who wrote the profile, did not return a request for comment.
Harkins’s defense of Warnock comes as the Democratic senator has relinquished a sizable lead over his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, amid a deluge of negative ads that have cut against his favorability rating. Warnock now trails Walker by 1.4 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average with just over a week remaining until Election Day.
Harkins told the Times that Warnock "is certainly not overseeing the operational elements of a property that is part of the larger portfolio that’s under the umbrella of what Ebenezer has put together." But Ebenezer Baptist Church lists Warnock as the principal officer of a charity through which it owns 99 percent of Columbia Tower at MLK Village. Warnock serves as senior pastor of the church, which pays him a $7,417-per-month housing allowance on top of his Senate salary.
Ebenezer contracted with Columbia Residential to manage the property on its behalf. The company, which owns the remaining 1 percent of the building, was one of the top corporate landlord evictors in 2021. Out of 1,587 corporate landlords across the country, only 30 filed more eviction lawsuits in 2021 than Columbia Residential, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Court records show Columbia Residential filed 15 eviction lawsuits against residents of the building during the pandemic. Fulton County marshals have carried out two court-ordered writs of possession at the property since 2020, the records show, and one resident accused the building in September of changing his locks and temporarily evicting him without notice.
Columbia Residential told the Times that it only files eviction notices in "certain circumstances," and that its legal threats rarely reach the point where it actually evicts and removes residents from their homes. The property management company also said no evictions have been carried out at the property since 2020.
But Columbia Tower residents had to pay burdensome court fees to stave off Columbia Residential’s eviction threats during the pandemic. One building resident told the Free Beacon in October that she was served an eviction notice after having been just one day late paying her rent. The resident said she had to pay more than $300 in court fees—a figure equivalent to about two months of rent—before Columbia Residential dropped its eviction lawsuit.
According to the Times profile, Warnock compared himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. when asked by a supporter about "criticism of his mixing of faith and politics."
"That puts me in good company," Warnock said. "That’s what they did to Dr. King. They challenged his Christian identity."