Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., used campaign funds to defend himself in a personal lawsuit stemming from his time as a church minister, reports Politico.
Warnock was sued in 2019 by Atlanta resident Melvin Robertson over Warnock's church services and the loss of a man's personal belongings in a storage locker — a complaint dismissed by a federal district court judge in Georgia.
Robertson sued Warnock again in 2021, but the senator enlisted his campaign attorneys from Elias Law Group and Atlanta firm Krevolin & Horst to represent him, which runs afoul of Federal Election Commission guidance.
Warnock's campaign told Politico the use of campaign funds is allowed because the lawsuit was filed when he was in office.
"It's completely legal and appropriate to have used campaign funds on this legal matter, as many federal office holders have done before," Marc Elias, an election law attorney representing Warnock's campaign, told Politico.
The report, said Quentin Folks, Warnock's campaign manager, "intentionally misrepresents reality by relying on Washington Republican's attacks instead of the actual facts."
The lawsuit "was never a personal lawsuit, it was a frivolous lawsuit filed against multiple public figures and handled according to the law," he added.
According to the FEC, campaign money can only be used on "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."
Caleb Burns, an attorney who specializes in election law, told Politico the rationale for this prohibition "is to honor the campaign contributors' intent that their contributions be used for political purposes and not, for example, to relieve the candidate of a personal obligation."
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