Did Donald Trump's US Senate pick also cook his company's books?

Did Donald Trump's US Senate pick also cook his company's books?

Former professional football player Herschel Walker moved from his long-time home in Texas to Georgia to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate, apparently believing that his celebrity as a former star in the state would provide an easy path to victory. Walker, who used to work as a running back for Donald Trump in the failed United States Football League, has received the dubious "total and complete endorsement" of the former president.

A report in today's Atlanta Constitution-Journal reveals that Walker appears to have much in common financially with Trump. The paper reports that its investigation of the candidate has uncovered context-convenient declarations about the size and profitability of his various business interests, as well as a long list of defaults, settlements, and lawsuits alleging that Walker and his businesses owed millions of dollars in unpaid loans. The discrepancies are not dissimilar to those being investigated of Trump's businesses in New York.

While Walker attributes his wealth to his business acumen, much of it seems to be derived from his celebrity status as a football legend through speaking engagements and brand ambassadorships, according to campaign financial disclosures.

“There are a lot of fine qualities in his background as an athlete to celebrate, of course. In the business world he is not anywhere in the league of any of his Republican predecessors,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for leadership studies at Yale, who reviewed the AJC’s findings.

Walker's campaign declined an interview request to discuss his business career. In a pair of statements, it defended his record but did not address specific questions about his past business problems. His campaign said Walker is “extremely proud” of his accomplishments and his record of success and, pulling a page from Trump's playbook, accused the AJC of a “witch hunt” because Walker is leading in the polls.

AJC reports that his political opponents say the questions about his business experience are emblematic of a greater problem in his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. “If you can’t run your own business,” asked Democratic state Sen. Emanuel Jones, “how can you run the nation’s business?”

The paper reports: "The largest venture within H. Walker Enterprises appears to be Renaissance Man Food Services, a poultry products and distribution company, according to court records and Walker’s own public statements. In his December financial disclosure, Walker reported earning a $100,000 salary from the company.

"He has described the company as a 'mini Tyson Foods' and touted it as the largest minority-owned business of its kind in the country. He told the Dallas Morning News in 2009 that Renaissance Man Food Services employed more than 100 people and grossed $70 million a year. In a more recent interview, Walker told Fox News that the company employed 600 people."

But Walker told a different story in government documents and in court records. During the pandemic, Renaissance Man Food Services reported just eight employees on applications for two Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal Small Business Administration totaling $180,000. The first loan in April 2020 amounted to $111,300 and has since been forgiven.

Sonnenfeld told the AJC: "Walker’s litigious business past and misrepresentations of his success raises questions about his trustworthiness, especially as a candidate that has no political record to run on.

“It shows that he will exploit false information for personal gain. If there’s nothing else you need in public office, you have to have somebody that you can trust,” said Sonnenfeld, who previously taught at Emory University for nearly a decade. “The most important thing there is that he hasn’t established himself as a pillar of trust.”

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