Newly uncovered campaign records filed by Rep. George Santos (R-New York) show dozens of expenditures just one cent below a crucial reporting limit, raising yet more questions about the embattled freshman Republican’s financial practices during his campaign.
Records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show 37 expenses valued at $199.99 — one penny below the $200 threshold over which campaigns must keep receipts for expenses. The expenses were supposedly used to cover things like Uber rides, restaurants, hotels, and office supplies, some of which were paid for on the same day; one day in October of 2021, according to filings, the campaign paid $199.99 for an Uber and another $199.99 for a parking fee at an airport.
This is an unusual number of transactions at this exact amount, and is only one of several unusual and potentially illegal financial practices that have been revealed from campaign documents for Santos, the newly-elected Republican who has admitted to fabricating much of his personal and professional history on the campaign trail.
Experts say that the $199.99 transactions could be evidence that the Santos campaign was deliberately skirting campaign finance reporting laws.
“My view is a bunch of expenditures right below legal requirement for the committee to keep receipts is evidence that he knew what he was doing,” Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, told CNN. “If in fact he did misuse campaign funds, this was a blatant effort to evade detection.”
The filings also show an uncommonly large number of expenses below $200 for the campaign, totaling more than 800 transactions, which far exceeds the number of similar expenditures for other campaigns of this size. This points to potential criminal activity, Ryan said.
“I consider deployment of this tactic strong evidence that the violation of law was knowing and willful — and therefore meeting the requirement for criminal prosecution,” Ryan told The New York Times.
Other expenditures from the campaign have raised questions about whether the campaign used funds illegally. Several expenditures show, for instance, that the campaign paid a cleaning company called Cleaner 123 nearly $11,000 in rent over the course of four months.
The expenses, which were purportedly for “apartment rental for staff,” were listed for an address in Huntington, Long Island, where Santos had previously claimed to be living with his sister. But, according to The New York Times, neighbors said that Santos and his husband were living in the house, not staff— even though Santos had registered to vote using an address in Whitestone, Queens. Using campaign funds for rent could constitute a violation of campaign finance laws.
The Santos campaign has denied wrongdoing, blaming expenses on consultants for the campaign who a campaign representative said spent money “unwisely.”
Santos has already undergone scrutiny for another questionable transaction. For years, he faced financial difficulties that resulted in him owing thousands of dollars to creditors and landlords, but his luck seems to have very suddenly turned around within the last two years: in 2022, Santos personally loaned his campaign $700,000 despite his previous financial misfortunes. He has not fully accounted for how he was able to muster this amount of money in such a short period of time.
The Republican is already facing legal scrutiny from at least two groups. New York county prosecutors have opened an investigation into Santos for potential wrongdoing during his campaign, saying that his lies are “nothing short of stunning.”
Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities are planning to reopen a fraud case against Santos over an incident from 2008 in which he allegedly stole a checkbook from a man who worked for his mother and then used it to spend nearly $700 under a false name at a clothing store outside of Rio de Janeiro.
Santos has admitted to the fraud. In 2009, he wrote on social media, “I know I screwed up, but I want to pay.” In 2010, he and his mother admitted to the police that he had stolen the checkbook and used it for fraudulent purchases, but by the time a judge approved the charge against him, he was in the U.S. and not reachable by Brazilian authorities. Santos now denies wrongdoing.