Ethics watchdog files complaint against Herschel Walker after donation report

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

A Washington-based watchdog group has filed a complaint against former Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, accusing him of directing campaign donations to one of his businesses.

The group, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington, or CREW, is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Walker and his company, HR Talent, and take action against what it called “direct and serious violations” of campaign finance laws.

The complaint is based largely on emails obtained by The Daily Beast, which reported this week about Walker’s conversations with a Montana billionaire who wanted to support his unsuccessful campaign last year. The Daily Beast said emails show Walker asking Dennis Washington for a $600,000 donation, directing the bulk of it, $535,200, to HR Talent.

The messages also appear to show Washington’s staff later trying to have the money redirected to 34N22, a super PAC supporting Walker. In a follow-up article, Washington’s team told The Daily Beast that the money was ultimately returned.

Noah Bookbinder, the president of CREW, said the emails show Walker soliciting campaign donations well above the allowable amounts for candidates to receive directly from individuals. The fact the money later was refunded to Washington doesn’t negate the seriousness of the matter, he said.

“The fact that the donor realized that there was something that wasn’t right here, asked for the money back and the campaign, reportedly at least, returned it to him: That doesn’t change the fact that it was illegal — blatantly illegal — for Herschel Walker,” Bookbinder said.

An attorney for Walker did not respond to a request for comment about the complaint. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution could not reach a representative for Washington, but his spokesman told The Daily Beast that the $535,200 initially sent to a “nonpolitical account” was returned. That statement did not say when the refund took place.

When the FEC receives complaints, it first reviews the documentation to ensure the matter falls within its jurisdiction before launching a fact-finding investigation. Complaints can take months to sort out, and only after cases are closed is documentation made public.

The first emails cited in The Daily Beast report were dated March 1, 2022, which was three weeks before Walker won the Republican primary in the Senate race. The contest was pushed to a December runoff, where Walker lost to incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.