Ethics experts say Herschel Walker’s U.S. Senate financial disclosure bears further scrutiny
Trump-backed Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s personal financial disclosure is missing key information that could help voters spot potential conflicts of interests if elected, several campaign finance experts say.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and frontrunner in the race to face Sen. Raphael Warnock is the wealthiest candidate in the contest, with a reported net worth between $29 million and $65 million. He reported more than $4 million in income from late 2020 to December 2021, when his disclosure was filed.
For some categories found on the financial disclosure, federal law only requires ranges of amounts instead of specifics, so the exact value of Walker’s investments are not known.
A review of Walker’s financial disclosure shows inconsistencies in reporting sources of income and positions (both compensated and uncompensated) held, as well as a failure to list any sources that paid Walker more than $5,000 in 2020 and 2021.
Three campaign finance and government ethics experts who reviewed Walker’s disclosures said the lack of required information could prevent voters from understanding potential conflicts of interests if he becomes a U.S. senator.
All three also had questions about H. Walker Enterprises LLC, Walker’s flagship company, which has a reported value of between $25 million and $50 million and netted him more than $3 million in shareholder income from 2020 to 2021.
The business is listed on the disclosure form as “business consulting and professional services.” But without a listing of clients that might have paid Walker or the company more than $5,000, the true picture of Walker’s finance is incomplete, said Stephen Spaulding with government watchdog group Common Cause.
“According to this candidate’s financial disclosure form, no person or entity paid more than $5,000 for any services provided by him — at the same time, he disclosed an interest in an LLC valued at more than $25 million and that provides ‘business consulting and professional services,’” Spaulding said. “This may raise questions for voters trying to screen for conflicts of interest who want to know more about who got what from the consulting and professional consulting firm that bears his name and pays him millions in shareholder income.”
A spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment or clarification about his financial disclosure and H. Walker Enterprises. Walker did report a salary of $100,000 and lists a position as “Trustee” of Renaissance Man Food Services LLC, a subsidiary of H. Walker Enterprises.
According to federal Paycheck Protection Program data, Renaissance Man took more than $180,000 in PPP loans in 2020 and 2021 and had eight employees listed.
A website for H. Walker Enterprises lists several “brands,” including Renaissance Man, 34 Promotions, Herschel’s Raw Talent and Patriot Support Programs, for which Walker reported wages of $331,589 to serve as a national spokesman.
Walker also reported $415,000 from paid speeches, with $175,000 coming in the immediate aftermath of declaring his run for Senate.
While most of the sources that paid Walker can be inferred without looking at the final section left blank on the disclosure form, the bulk of Walker’s income from recent years needs further explanation, the campaign finance experts said.
“The lack of sources of compensation over $5,000 definitely raises some red flags,” said Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center. “It’s very odd that there would be somebody who has a consulting firm, has a lot of money from that consulting firm but is not reporting any clients that are paying over $5,000.”
Marsco said it is possible for H. Walker Enterprises to be worth tens of millions of dollars and for Walker to earn millions in shareholder income as listed, but there should be more explanation from the campaign about how his business works. She added that candidates filing incomplete or sloppy disclosure forms is a widespread problem.
“It raises questions when we're at the candidate phase of if they're going to be forthcoming with this information when they're actually in charge,” she said. “If they actually get elected, how much information are we going to get when there's policy on the line?”
Marsco said ethics disclosure forms are complicated and confusing, especially for first-time candidates, but the information is still important to see to whom they could potentially be beholden if elected.
Brett Kappel, a Washington, D.C.-based campaign finance attorney, also said the way H. Walker Enterprises was listed on the form is unclear and echoed the other experts’ questions about what, if any, consulting the company actually does.
“It isn’t clear whether or not Mr. Walker himself provided those services,” Kappel said. “If so, he should have disclosed the identity of each client who paid the LLC $5,000 or more for his consulting/professional services in Part 10.”
Kappel also added that Walker did not disclose whether or not he held a formal position with H. Walker Enterprises, listed in Part 8 of the disclosure.
“You would expect that an individual whose name is included in the name of the LLC would have a formal position with the LLC — as a member, the managing member or as the sole member of the LLC,” he said.
Walker’s two listed positions are with Renaissance Man and as a director of Sotherly Hotels, a boutique hotel chain that includes The Georgian Terrace in Atlanta.
Walker is not the only U.S. Senate candidate whose disclosures had errors.
Gary Black, a Republican and Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner, also failed to list any source that paid him more than $5,000, but his campaign said it was an error they would correct.
“That was an oversight and it’s being fixed,” spokesman Dan McLagan said in a statement. “Gary’s income is from his job as agriculture commissioner and is public information. Aside from his salary, he might sell a cow now and then.”
McLagan also said the latest questions into Walker’s finances was more evidence that he would lose to Warnock in the November election.
“Herschel is a kamikaze pilot who would crash Republicans into a fiery wreck on the ground,” he said. “He doesn’t care — he’d just go back to Texas.”
A first-time candidate, Walker’s personal and professional background has made continued headlines since his entry into the race last fall. A Columbus Ledger-Enquirer report found Walker failed to repay $625,000 in loans he personally guaranteed for a pizza chain called Zoner’s, listed on his disclosure under “Corporate Securities, Non-Public Stock.”
The Associated Press did a deep dive on Walker’s “exaggerated claims of financial success,” and found his business records were inflated.
Walker is the GOP’s financial and polling frontrunner in the primary, which is May 24.