U.S.

George Santos, charged with gross campaign finance violations


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A complaint the accused representative submitted on Monday to the Federal Election Commission. George Santos (RN.Y.), who admitted to fabricating key details from his biography of wide-ranging campaign finance violations.

The alleged wrongdoing included concealing the true source of his campaign funding, misrepresenting his campaign expenses and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses.

The complaint, filed by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, could prompt a formal investigation of Santos by the federal regulator, the latest chapter in a saga testing the limits of political lying. Santos is exposed to have lied about his heritage, education and professional qualifications during his campaign for Congress last year.

New York Republican George Santos, who has been accused of fabricating details of his past, began his new job in Congress on January 3. (Video: Michael Cadenhead/The Washington Post)

“Especially in light of Santos’ mountain of lies about his life and qualifications for office, the Commission should thoroughly investigate what appears to be equally brazen about how his campaign raised and spent money,” the complaint alleges.

The complaint names Santos and his primary campaign committee, along with his company, the Devolder Organization, and his treasurer, Nancy Marks. Santos, whose elections to the Long Island Congress last year helped the GOP secure its narrow majority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marks has not returned phone calls in recent days.

The congressman’s scams have already caused an investigation from the District Attorney’s Office in Nassau County, New York. Authorities in Brazil are also looking to revive fraud case against him since 2008.

As investigations against Santos multiply, questions about how his campaign raised and spent money have become increasingly acute.

He reported lending his campaign more than $700,000 in the 2021-22 cycle, despite only having $55,000 in earned income during his previous 2020 congressional run, according to a financial disclosure. The Campaign Legal Center called his claims of earning millions over the previous two years from the Devolder organization “vague, unsubstantiated and not credible in light of his many previous lies.”

Instead, the complaint alleges that “unknown individuals or corporations may have illegally funneled money” to Santos’ campaign through his firm — part of what the Campaign Legal Center describes as a scheme for the candidate to act as a straw donor for his own your candidacy for Congress. Although candidates are allowed to contribute or borrow unlimited amounts to their campaigns, the complaint alleges that the money Santos gave to his campaign was not his own, but rather was given to him “under the guise of a salary and dividends’ in order to make undisclosed or prohibited contributions that exceed legal limits.

The complaint also accuses Santos of misrepresenting his campaign expenses. It noted that his campaign reported “an astonishing 40 payments between $199 and $200, including 37 payments of exactly $199.99”, thereby avoiding the requirement to keep a receipt, invoice or canceled check for all expenses over $200.

In some cases, the reported expenses did not stand up to scrutiny, according to the complaint. He highlighted a reported payment of $199.99 for a “hotel stay” on Oct. 13, 2021, at the W South Beach, a Miami hotel whose cheapest room for a midweek stay in October is priced at more than $700. On one day in November 2021, the campaign twice spent exactly $199.99 on food and drinks at an Italian restaurant in Queens, according to its public disclosures.

“This is almost certainly not an accurate reporting of campaign expenditures and instead suggests that the payments were either misreported or structured to avoid passing the $200 mark,” the complaint alleges.

Finally, the complaint alleges that Santos illegally used campaign funds to cover personal expenses, including paying rent on his personal residence in Huntington, New York. Payments related to the property were identified as “staff apartment rent” or “rent and rent deposit,” while Santos himself lived in the house in the suburbs, according to the complaint.

The Campaign Legal Center is asking the FEC to find reason to believe Santos and others named in the complaint violated federal campaign finance law and to conduct an investigation. Enforcement by the federal regulator is through such complaints or through audits or referrals from other state agencies. Any inquiry would require four votes from the six-member body, which is split evenly by party.

The regulator’s analysts have already found inconsistencies in Santos’ regular campaign filings, requesting information from his committee on more than 20 separate occasions over the past two years. Although such requests are routine and may require amendments or additional disclosure, the volume in this case is remarkable. The campaign has changed several filings, but according to the Campaign Law Center, it has left various issues unresolved, including apparently excessive contributions flagged by FEC analysts.

The regulator’s latest letter to the Santos campaign, issued last week, said the commission failed to properly identify all donors who gave more than $200 and appeared to have accepted donations that violated limits set by federal law. The FEC requested a response by February 8.


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