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“A Total Fraud”: Democrats File an Ethics Complaint Against George Santos

They urge the House Ethics Committee to investigate the Santos campaign’s questionable financial practices.

Rep. George Santos is seen outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the U.S. Capitol on January 10, 2023.

Rep. George Santos (New York) is facing several government investigations and an increasing number of legal complaints, including the first one filed in Congress on Tuesday.

Two House Democrats have filed an official complaint against Santos with the House Committee on Ethics, asking the committee to investigate him for potential violations of campaign finance laws in relation to his $705,000 loan to his campaign and late and apparently incomplete financial forms.

The Democrats said that the lawmaker, who has admitted to fabricating huge swaths of his professional and personal background, has filed “sparse and perplexing” financial disclosures in both his 2020 and 2022 campaigns for the House, which require further scrutiny. The lawmakers requested that the committee investigate Santos and potentially punish him, if investigators find impropriety.

“At a minimum, it is apparent that he did not file timely disclosure reports for his most recent campaign,” wrote New York Representatives Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres. “Moreover, his own public statements have contradicted some information included in the 2022 financial disclosure and confirmed that the 2022 financial disclosure failed to disclose other required information.”

The complaint comes on top of several other legal issues that Santos is facing. One complaint, filed against Santos by the Campaign Legal Center on Monday, raises questions about the Santos campaign’s financial practices. Santos is also facing investigations from New York prosecutors over his lies, as well as from Brazilian authorities for an alleged crime in which he stole a checkbook from an employee of his mother’s in 2008.

One area in which Santos seems to have violated disclosure requirements is in the timing of his first financial disclosure report, Goldman and Torres say. While Santos was required under campaign finance disclosure laws to file his first annual financial disclosure by May of 2021, they wrote, Santos didn’t file any financial disclosures until September 6, 2022 — nearly a year and a half later.

By neglecting to file a disclosure for so long, Santos made it impossible for officials to track how, according to filings from 2020 and 2022, he was able to grow his income from $55,000 during his first campaign to $750,000, from his company Devolder, in 2021 and 2022. His failure to file a disclosure also made it hard to determine where the $705,000 he gave to his campaign came from.

The fact that public reports found in mid-2022 that Devolder only had revenue of about $44,000 and that the company was dissolved just two weeks after Santos’s September 2022 campaign disclosure also raises questions, the complaint says. If Devolder did experience the success that it did due to “multi-million dollar agreements” that Santos struck with clients, as he claims, then Santos failed to identify clients who paid Devolder more than $5,000 for his services, which is required by law.

As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) fails to address Santos’s lies and potential financial improprieties, it is crucial for House investigators to probe Santos and his campaign to hold him accountable, the lawmakers said.

“George Santos, by his own admittance, is a total fraud,” said Goldman in a statement. “[T]here are a number of deeply concerning lies Mr. Santos has told about his finances that have since led to multiple criminal and civil investigations. House GOP leadership views Santos’s disinformation campaign as a running joke, so it is once again left to Democrats to stand up for Santos’ constituents and protect our free and fair elections.”

The Ethics Committee, however, does not generally give harsh punishments for ethics violations; the committee often just hands out fines, which government watchdogs say isn’t enough to deter lawmakers from brazenly breaking financial disclosure guidelines.

Further, in the GOP’s new rules package for the House, passed on Monday, Republicans voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent group tasked with ensuring that House members follow ethics rules. The weakening of the OCE could make it even easier for Santos to get away with potential ethics violations.

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