Republican Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker has been under fire for misrepresenting his work for a for-profit company accused of exploiting veterans and service members. But it appears that another controversial company for which he worked may also have targeted veterans in a multilevel marketing scheme.
Walker, a former professional football player and contestant on former President Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" game show, is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
He has repeatedly been caught lying and exaggerating about his past: overstating his work on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition; lying about having graduated from college; and significantly exaggerating his achievements in business and the number of employees he hired.
Walker has frequently presented himself as having worked to help members of the armed services and assist them with mental health challenges. He has touted his work with a program called Patriot Support, which he claimed to have created to provide treatment for thousands of soldiers annually.
But an AP investigation in May found that Patriot Support, which was founded 11 years before Walker was hired to be its spokesperson, is actually a for-profit program created and offered by the hospital chain Universal Health Services. The program has been accused of fraud and of exploiting veterans and service members.
The company paid Walker $331,000 in 2021 alone.
A spokesperson for Walker's campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this story. However, in response to an ad released by the Warnock campaign criticizing Walker's involvement with Universal Health Services, the campaign said in a statement: "The accusations levied in the ad were brought against Universal Health Services. Herschel Walker played zero role in the founding of Universal Health Services, and the allegations against the company had absolutely nothing to do with Herschel."
In July, CNN broke the story that, starting in 2012, Walker worked as a "partner" and "spokesman" for Momentis, which was then a multilevel marketing subsidiary of an energy company called Just Energy.
The report noted that Just Energy had been accused by regulators and state governments of deceptive practices, including tricking older customers and people who are not fluent in English into signing long-term contracts.
In 2014, Mother Jones included Just Energy on its list of "6 Shady Power Providers," noting that it and its predecessor had been fined by states for deceiving and misleading customers.
CNN's reporting noted that it does not appear that Walker's role or the online marketing service he touted were targets of any state investigation.
A spokesperson for Just Energy, which filed for bankruptcy in 2021, said in an email the company "sold all of the assets of Momentis in March 2014 and has had no relationship with Momentis since that time."
While Walker was working for Momentis in 2012, it launched "Project Hope," a "veterans business development program" targeting military families and veterans.
"US Military Veterans and their spouses need opportunities for income both during and after serving in the US Military," reads the description accompanying a YouTube ad for Momentis for Veterans. "Momentis has designed a program, in fact are the only company to date that has created a Military marketing program allowing military families to participate as a business owner.”
The Federal Trade Commission warns about multilevel marketing on its consumer advice website:
Businesses that involve selling products to family and friends and recruiting other people to do the same are called multi-level marketing (MLM), network marketing, or direct marketing businesses. Some MLMs are illegal pyramid schemes. ... If the MLM is not a pyramid scheme, it will pay you based on your sales to retail customers, without having to recruit new distributors. Most people who join legitimate MLMs make little or no money. Some of them lose money. In some cases, people believe they’ve joined a legitimate MLM, but it turns out to be an illegal pyramid scheme that steals everything they invest and leaves them deeply in debt.
Walker will face incumbent Sen. Warnock in the November general election. Warnock was elected in a January 2021 special election runoff against appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler to fill the final two years of the term of the late Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. He is now running for a full six-year term.
During his year and a half in office, Warnock has backed legislation to expand health care for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving and introduced S. 4561, the Increasing Home Ownership for Service Members Act, and S. 4563, the Building More Housing for Service Members Act.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.