During the lone debate of one of the most closely contested Senate races in the country, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) first dodged, then denied, evictions of low-income tenants at an apartment complex affiliated with the church he pastors.
The eviction story, involving litigation and a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, is a growing controversy for the incumbent Democrat in a close race with his GOP challenger, former SEC football star Herschel Walker. At issue are at least a dozen lawsuits filed by disadvantaged tenants evicted from Columbia Towers, some owing as little as $28 dollars on their rent. The apartments are owned by the Ebenezer Building Foundation—affiliated with the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Warnock is the senior pastor.
“Here’s how you know I’m running against a desperate candidate,” Warnock said in response. “Anytime a candidate would stoop to the level of trying to sully the name—he and his allies—sully the name of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church and John Lewis’s church, you know that’s a desperate candidate.”
Walker responded that the senator had “a problem with the truth.”
“He won’t answer that about evicting from the church,” Walker said. “I told him that I would pay [their rent.]
Warnock claimed the tenants have not been evicted, contradicting multiple media reports of the court-ordered evictions sought by his organization.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported that a dozen eviction lawsuits were filed against Columbia Tower low-income tenants between February 2020 and September 2022. The Free Beacon further reported the total sum of past due rent cited in the lawsuits was $4,900. That is well under the $7,800 per month housing subsidy the church pays Warnock on top of his salary, the news site noted.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state’s largest newspaper, has also reported on the matter.
“He is so desperate, he really wants that seat, he is now telling you I didn’t evict anyone. It was written in the paper,” Walker told the debate audience. “Well, senator, you did [evict tenants], and it’s OK to speak the truth. Do not bear false witness.”
The debate occurred two days after the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative ethics watchdog, filed the IRS complaint seeking an audit of Warnock, the principal officer of the Ebenezer Building Foundation, and three other officers. The complaint alleges the foundation’s annual filings with the IRS did not disclose the ownership of a 96-unit Atlanta apartment building known as Columbia Tower.
“This is just another example of a liberal organization’s hypocrisy in serving its community while evicting people who owe as little as $28,” Paul Kamenar, counsel to NLPC, told InsideSources. “Warnock also voted for 87,000 more IRS agents to fan out like a plague of locusts against average Americans while he hides his ownership in the building. That’s another layer of hypocrisy.”
The building foundation had total revenue of $743,292, total expenses of $775,881, and assets of $6,100,787, according to the most recent publicly available Form 990 information from 2020.
The complaint has not been adjudicated and no determination has been made. Inside Sources reached out to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Warnock’s Senate office, and Warnock’s campaign for this story. None immediately responded.
“Sen. Warnock is the principal officer [in the building foundation]. If he didn’t know what was going on, he should have known what was going on,” Kamenar said.