Warnock receives housing allowance from Ebenezer, offsets Senate cap on salary

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

U.S. Senate Ethics Committee signed off on the arrangement

Ebenezer Baptist Church paid its head pastor, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, about $7,417 a month as a housing allowance in 2021, according to his campaign.

Ethics rules limit how much U.S. senators can earn in addition to their $174,000 government salary. But the housing payments — the campaign calls it a “personal parsonage allowance” — are not subject to that cap, the Senate Ethics Committee said. Warnock’s disclosure form includes a footnote that says the committee staff reviewed the parsonage benefit and signed off on it.

Warnock has remained the head pastor at Ebenezer while he serves in the Senate. Before his election, he earned a salary and benefits worth about $200,000 a year from the church. That was adjusted after he was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021, disclosures show.

Warnock received $120,964.59 in salary and benefits during 2021. The housing allowance amounts to $89,000 of that, his campaign said.

His Atlanta home was assessed at just over $1 million in 2022, according to Fulton County property records.

Ethics experts said the arrangement between the senator and Ebenezer is unusual but appears to be within the Senate’s rules. Kenneth Gross, a Washington-based campaign finance lawyer who used to sit on the Federal Election Commission, said he hadn’t encountered anything similar.

”I don’t see an issue, but I don’t think I’ve come across something like that before,” he said.

Although there are several members of Congress who are ordained ministers, including Georgia U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, most do not currently hold positions as clergy.

Warnock is a rare instance of a lawmaker pulling double duty as a congregational leader. Others include retiring U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who pastors a church in Chicago but did not report any income from there, and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who turned over the reins of his Kansas City, Missouri, church to his son four years after becoming a member of Congress.

Both the House and Senate limit what members can earn from jobs outside their federal offices, and their compensation can amount to no more than 15% in excess of their congressional salaries.

Warnock’s financial disclosure form shows that the biggest source of income for him in 2021 was a $243,750 book advance for his new memoir, “A Way Out of No Way,” which was released in June.

In total, Warnock reported $367,965.76 in income. That’s down slightly from the $386,439 he reported for 2020 when he was a private citizen. His reported 2021 income does not include his Senate salary.

Warnock also earned $5,750 for five paid speeches in 2021, but all that money was donated to charity per Senate ethics rules.

His bank accounts, pension and various mutual funds are worth between $654,014 and $1.5 million. And his income on these assets, which are reported in ranges, was between $10,606 and $29,800.

Warnock is facing Republican Herschel Walker in November’s general election. Walker has faced questions about his financial disclosure forms.