Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) has been accused of misusing election campaign funds to pay Mark Elias’ Law firm — along with other Atlanta-based attornies — to defend him in a personal lawsuit, stemming from before his time in office.
Politico reported on the issue earlier this week and stated Warnock had used the campaign cash to cover legal fees, for a matter dating back to his days as a church minister — which raises serious questions regarding federal rules that dictate how those funds may be spent.
“The case, first filed in 2019 by Atlanta resident Melvin Robertson, involved baffling and seemingly baseless allegations against Warnock that date back to 2005 when he was a pastor,” the article reads. “It was dismissed by a federal district court judge in Georgia without any of the defendants being served.”
“But Robertson refiled a similar lawsuit in April 2021,” the story continued. “Outlining the same allegations against Warnock while also suing Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he has long served as senior pastor, and other public figures.”
By this time, however, Warnock had been sworn into the U.S. Senate — and due to this fact, his attorneys at Elias Law Group and Atlanta firm Krevolin & Horst insist the now-Senator’s actions were legal.
Federal Election Commission (FEC} guidelines say funds can be used to cover “litigation expenses where the candidate/officeholder was the defendant and the litigation arose directly from campaign activity or the candidate’s status as a candidate.”
Warnock is gearing up for a tough election fight this fall against former Heisman Trophy Winner and Georgia native Hershel Walker. With GOP generic ballot leads increasing, this news couldn’t come at a worse time for his re-election campaign.
Following two controversial runoff elections in 2020 which saw the elevation of Warnock and failed House candidate Jon Ossof to the Senate — Democrats regained the Upper Chamber giving Biden more breathing room to make federal appointments and at least attempt to pass part of his legislative agenda. A loss to Walker in November could spell disaster for Democrats nationally, as their chances of holding onto Congressional power continue to dwindle.
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“This frivolous lawsuit against Senator Reverend Warnock and other public officials was served at his official office and is based on laws that only apply to him because of his status as a sitting office holder,” Elias, known for his high-profile Democrat election lawsuits, said in a statement to Politico. “It’s completely legal and appropriate to have used campaign funds on this legal matter, as many federal office holders have done before. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false.”
Charlie Spies, a GOP lawyer who specializes in political law commented on the case as well to Politico, saying, “If Warnock is using campaign money to pay for a lawsuit that predates his running for office, then by definition it existed irrespective of his candidacy and would be impermissible to use campaign funds on.”
“Personal use” of campaign funds, Spies added, is “something the FEC is particularly focused on… The seriousness of the violation will depend on whether the FEC considers it to be knowing and willful.”
“I don’t think his donors are giving, for him to fund personal lawsuits,” Spies concluded.
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