Rep. George Santos (R-New York) appears to have broken campaign finance laws with a questionable loan and suspiciously-valued expenditures, according to a new complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by a government watchdog.
On top of the numerous fabrications that Santos created about his resume and religious and racial identity, the Republican appears to have told “equally brazen lies” about his campaign’s financial practices, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) wrote in its complaint filed Monday. The nonpartisan group urged the FEC to investigate Santos’s campaign for the potential violations.
“As part of his latest campaign of duplicity, Santos also appears to have violated federal campaign finance laws by knowingly and willfully concealing the true sources of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting how his campaign spent its money, and illegally paying for personal expenses with campaign funds,” the complaint reads.
The complaint could spark an investigation into the lawmaker, who is already under investigation by New York prosecutors for his lies on the campaign trail and by Brazilian authorities for a 2008 case in which he allegedly stole a checkbook from an employee under his mother to spend nearly $700 on clothing under a false name. An investigation would require authorization from four out of the six FEC commissioners.
CLC highlights three ways in which it says Santos, his campaign, and his company, Devolder, appear to have broken the law.
First is Santos’s loan of $705,000 to his campaign. Though it is not uncommon for lawmakers to lend money to their own campaigns and get reimbursed, it is unclear how Santos was able to loan this amount of money to his campaign as, just two years before the campaign in 2020, he reported making only $55,000 in income and was apparently in thousands of dollars of debt.
In recent years, Santos said that he made millions of dollars from his work with Devolder, but these claims “are vague, uncorroborated, and non-credible in light of his many previous lies,” CLC wrote.
Santo has reported that the value of his company is between $1 million and $5 million in filings, even though Devolder was only incorporated in May of 2021 and he has not reported that any clients have paid him more than $5,000 for his services. Further, one of the first of his loans for the 2022 campaign cycle was made just six weeks after Devolder was incorporated, and the loan was valued at $80,000.
The way that the Santos campaign spent that money has also raised concerns. CLC highlighted campaign filings that show that the Santos campaign filed 37 expenditures during the 2022 campaign valued at exactly $199.99 — one cent below the threshold at which campaigns must save expense receipts for the FEC.
“This almost certainly is not an accurate accounting of the campaign’s expenses and suggests instead that the payments were either falsely reported or structured to avoid crossing the $200 mark,” the complaint says.
Not only is it suspicious that there were dozens of transactions at $199.99, CLC wrote, but spending that exact amount on at least several occasions appears to have been impossible. For instance, in mid-October, the campaign listed a $199.99 expense for a “Hotel Stay” at the W Hotel South Beach in Miami, Florida, but CLC found that such a stay would cost more than $700. The campaign also reported a $199.99 disbursement to travel company CLEAR, but CLEAR’s standard annual membership is $189.
Finally, the CLC points out that Santos appeared to have illegally used campaign funds for his own rent payments, totalling $13,500.
The FEC has already raised questions about Santos’s campaign filings, as CLC notes that it has sent 20 letters to the campaign over things like campaign contributions — an unusual amount of requests from the FEC for a campaign. The most recent letter by the FEC says that the campaign has failed to properly identify donors who gave over $200 and has accepted donations over legal limits.