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The investigative subcommittee of the House Committee on Ethics released a 56-page report on Nov. 16 that found Rep. George Santos of New York “placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles.”
“The ISC’s investigation revealed a complex web of unlawful activity involving Representative Santos’ campaign, personal, and business finances,” the report said. “Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”
The report, which was unanimously adopted by the full committee, accused the Republican freshman congressman of stealing from his campaign, deceiving donors, reporting fictitious campaign loans, engaging in “questionable business dealings,” and lying about his background and experience. Santos also faces a federal indictment on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, making false statements, falsifying records, credit card fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and theft of public funds.
A day after the ethics report was released, the committee chairman introduced a resolution to expel Santos from the House. The Republican-controlled House is expected to consider the resolution after its Thanksgiving break.
“The evidence uncovered in the Ethics Committee’s Investigative Subcommittee investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment, is expulsion,” Rep. Michael Guest said in a statement. “So, separate from the Committee process and my role as Chairman, I have filed an expulsion resolution.”
Santos called the report “a disgusting politicized smear” and said he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2024.
Here we recap the findings of the ethics committee.
Campaign Finance Violations
In the report, the investigative subcommittee said it “uncovered significant campaign finance violations” in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles by Santos and his campaign committees, including the misreporting of personal loans, repayment for loans Santos didn’t make and the personal use of campaign funds.
Santos has tried to blame Nancy Marks, his treasurer, who in October pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge for reporting false donations to the Federal Election Commission and a fraudulent $500,000 personal loan from Santos to his campaign.
But the investigative subcommittee said Santos was “the ultimate beneficiary and knowing participant of much of the fraudulent reporting” and “was repeatedly advised by multiple members of his team about concerns regarding Ms. Marks, but he failed to take meaningful action.”
The report said “there is substantial evidence” that most of about $827,000 in personal loans Santos’ campaign committee and his leadership PAC reported that he had made either weren’t made or weren’t “properly disclosed” to the FEC.
In the 2020 cycle, Santos’ campaign committee reported six personal loans from Santos totaling $81,250, but the House investigation only found evidence that $3,500 was loaned, according to bank records and financial statements. Santos was then repaid $31,200, the report said.
There’s no evidence of personal loans in the 2022 cycle of $80,000 and $500,000 that were reported by his campaign committee, the report said. The amounts enabled the campaign to report having more than $800,000 cash on hand as of March 31, 2022, to the FEC, despite allegedly having only one-tenth of that amount. The campaign later reported different loan amounts on different dates, “which more accurately reflects the campaign’s bank records,” the report said, but the campaign hadn’t amended the prior filings.
Citing the court filing charging Marks, the report said that the fraudulent $500,000 loan on March 31, 2022, “was falsely reported to make the campaign committee appear more financially sound, in order to mislead the FEC, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and the public, so that Representative Santos would receive campaign support from the NRCC.”
The report said there was no evidence that Santos’ leadership PAC – GADS PAC – received $27,000 in personal loans from Santos in the 2022 cycle, contrary to what the PAC reported to the FEC.
The investigative subcommittee “found substantial evidence that Representative Santos was an active and knowing participant in a scheme to falsely report personal loans during his campaigns given his contemporaneous communications regarding the loans, the fact that he was repaid for some of the loans, and his involvement in the oversight of his campaign’s financial operations,” the report said.
The report also cited evidence that campaign funds were spent for personal use.
An unreported transfer from the campaign of $20,000 to Santos’ company Devolder Organization on Nov. 29, 2022, was subsequently used for $6,000 in purchases at Ferragamo, a luxury clothing brand; to pay Santos’ rent; and for two ATM withdrawals worth $1,800, one of them at a casino, the report said.
Several expenditures by the campaign don’t appear to have a legitimate campaign purpose, the report charged, including nearly $2,300 spent at Atlantic City resorts; about $4,000 in payments to spas/estheticians, with two of those expenses labeled as “Botox” in spreadsheets provided by Marks; a July 2022 Airbnb expense of $3,332.81 incurred when the campaign’s calendar said Santos was “off at [the] Hampton’s for the weekend”; and Las Vegas taxi and hotel expenses charged to the campaign credit card in December 2021, when Santos told staff he was on his honeymoon.
The report alleged Santos engaged in a fraudulent scheme to solicit donations for an LLC he set up and then spent the money on personal expenses. The LLC, RedStone Strategies, was formed in Florida in November 2021, with Devolder Organization, Santos’ company, as one of two authorized managers.
An unnamed individual solicited donations from two people in October 2022, saying RedStone was an independent expenditure committee “set up to exclusively” help Santos win – despite the company not being registered with the FEC. Santos contacted one of the donors directly, saying he needed “some help on the outside for next week on TV.” RedStone’s bank account received $25,000 from each of those donors, and the amounts were then transferred to Santos’ personal accounts, the report said.
It alleged the $50,000 total was used to pay credit card and other debt; spend about $4,100 at Hermes; and spend smaller amounts for meals, parking and Sephora. The investigative subcommittee “did not find evidence” that the contributions “were used to support Representative Santos’ candidacy.”
In another alleged incident involving RedStone, Santos sent an April 1, 2022, text message asking a staffer of Marks to wire money from his New York political committee, RISE, to RedStone for “ads that we were supposed to pay and I forgot,” the subcommittee report said. The $6,000 that was transferred to RedStone was then moved to Santos’ personal checking account, which at the time had a balance of $136.93, the report charged.
The subcommittee couldn’t find evidence that the money was used to pay for ads. Instead, “$5,000 was withdrawn and personal credit card balances were paid.”
Financial Disclosure Violations
The investigative subcommittee report alleged that required financial disclosure statements from Santos’ two campaigns for Congress contained “major errors and omissions” and that evidence shows those “were knowing and willful actions as part of an ongoing ruse by Representative Santos to fabricate a wealthy persona.”
As a candidate and congressman, Santos has had a statutory requirement to provide financial disclosure statements since 2020. But some years he has not, and the ones he did file were riddled with errors, the report stated.
The subcommittee said the evidence it collected about Santos’ personal finances was “drastically different” from what he disclosed on financial disclosure statements “and even more irreconcilable with the narrative he broadcast to his constituents, campaign supporters, and staff.”
In reality, the report stated, Santos “was frequently in debt, had an abysmal credit score, and relied on an ever-growing wallet of high-interest credit cards to fund his luxury spending habits.”
During his campaigns, Santos “referenced a background in finance as part of his qualifications for election to the House.” But, the report stated, “that background was largely fictional.” According to the report, “Had Representative Santos filed accurate and complete FD [financial disclosure] Statements, his constituents may have had cause to question whether he was actually ‘good at’ money management and growth, or balancing costs and budgets — or, indeed, whether he had any experience in finance at all.”
When questioned about wide income fluctuations reported in disclosure statements, Santos claimed during an interview on MSNBC that he made $400,000 in 2019.
Santos, MSNBC interview, May 10: So, the way I look at it is, they’re not understanding. The question is simple. George, why was your income 55-thousand in 2020? And why is your income drastically higher [in 2022]? Well, here’s the answer to that: We struck a deal with a company so nobody went unemployed and got reduced to like a very basic salary. As we called it “livable wages” in the company, so we could get by.
Because our industry was capital introduction via vis-à-vis conferences, vis-à-vis speed dating, all that in private equity, and managing limited-partner, general-partner relationships in investment groups. So, long story short, I went from 2019 bringing in 400-and-something-thousand dollars, to yeah, in 2020 my reported income was 55k. Couldn’t be more legitimate. I actually qualified for unemployment.
According to the subcommittee report, however, there is no record of him earning income over $400,000 in 2019, nor has he provided evidence of any investments or assets he held in 2019-2020.
Santos’ own campaign provided him with a “vulnerability report” on Dec. 1, 2021, that raised questions about how he had loaned his 2020 campaign over $80,000 “when his personal financial disclosure did not show any assets and only a $55,000 salary,” and why he didn’t report a salary from Harbor City Capital Management, which was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, on his 2020 financial disclosure report. It also questioned his failure to file any 2021 financial disclosure form at all.
Although his campaign staff encouraged him to drop out of the 2022 congressional race, Santos “denied the findings in the vulnerability report, and for every concern raised, he made an excuse. He told one of the campaign consultants that his sparse 2020 FD [financial disclosure] Statement could be reconciled with his claims of wealth because he did not need to disclose a ‘family trust.’” The subcommittee said it “found no evidence that such a trust exists.”
In his 2022 financial disclosure statement, Santos “reported four assets: (i) an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil valued between $500,001 and $1,000,000; (ii) a checking account with between $100,001 and $250,000; (iii) a savings account with between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000; and (iv) 100% ownership of Devolder Organization, valued between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000, with dividends of over $1,000,001 in both 2021 and 2022.
“Each of these disclosures was false,” the subcommittee report stated.
The report said Santos’ counsel reported that Santos “does not and has never owned real property.”
As for the checking and savings accounts, “the Committee found no record of him having a savings account or any personal bank account that ever had more than $100,000 (let alone more than $1,000,000) at any time as of the date of his 2022 FD filing. At the start of the date of his filing, the balance in his primary savings account was $6,692.23; by the end of that day, it was down to $3,068.63 (after a rent check he had written a few days before was processed). His primary checking account had a beginning balance of $1,579.18; by the end of the day it was down to $35.15 (after several personal credit card accounts were paid). Likewise, Devolder Organization’s bank accounts never amassed a value of over $1,000,001, let alone net income, remotely close to this amount.”
As for his 2023 financial disclosure statement, Santos still hasn’t submitted that, despite several notices from the committee that it was late. “As a sitting Member of Congress he has continued to flout his statutory obligation to file an FD Statement for the current year,” the report stated, “despite the Committee and his personal staff having advised him of the statutory requirements, and widespread attention to his lack of transparency regarding his financial situation.”
The report alleged the errors and omissions in his financial disclosure statements not only violated House rules, but because he “willfully failed to file a report or has willfully falsified or failed to file required information” he may have also violated criminal law. As a result, the committee said it has referred the issue to the attorney general.
Lack of Diligence and Candor
The subcommittee found that Santos violated the first two clauses of the House’s code of conduct by failing to respond to its investigation with “diligence and candor.”
Santos publicly declared that he would “comply 100%” with the investigation. But the subcommittee report said his claim to “cooperate with the investigation was just another falsehood.”
The New York Republican refused to testify before the investigative subcommittee and failed to “submit a declaration attesting under penalty of perjury to the accuracy of any information” he or his counsel submitted to the subcommittee, the report said.
The report also said he provided “limited documents … often following lengthy delays.”
The subcommittee gave Santos a request for information in March, but he didn’t provide any documents until September. “That production, which was not complete, consisted of documents that had been previously produced to the federal grand jury but were inexplicably withheld from the ISC for over five months,” the report said.
In some cases, the limited information provided by Santos and his counsel was inaccurate.
For example, his attorney gave the subcommittee the name of a tax preparer who helped Santos fill out his financial disclosure statements. But that person told the subcommittee “that she did not provide those services.” In fact, the report said, “Santos appears to have submitted the FD Statements on his own.”
“Throughout this matter, Representative Santos evaded the ISC’s straight-forward requests for information,” the report said. “The limited responses he did provide included material misstatements that further advanced falsehoods he made during his 2022 campaign.”
The report noted that Santos “did provide a substantive and relatively prompt document production in response to allegations of sexual misconduct raised by a prospective staffer.” The subcommittee found that allegation to be unsubstantiated.
“But his ability to provide a robust response to the sexual misconduct allegations, while failing to provide similar responses to the ISC’s campaign and financial disclosure related inquiries, suggests that his willingness to comply with the ISC’s processes turned on whether he believed doing so was in his personal interest, rather than fulfilling his duty to cooperate with the ISC’s investigation and facing accountability through the House’s disciplinary process,” the report said.
The report also addressed several of the false and unsubstantiated statements that Santos made about his personal history — including claims about his family, finances and education — while running for office.
In summary, it said:
House Committee on Ethics, investigative subcommittee report: Representative Santos’ congressional campaigns were built around his backstory as a successful man of means: a grandson of Holocaust survivors and graduate from Baruch College with a Master’s in Business Administration from New York University, who went on to work at Citi Group and Goldman Sachs, owned multiple properties, and was the beneficiary of a family trust worth millions of dollars left by his mother, who passed years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a result of long-term health effects related to being at one of the towers. No part of that backstory has been found to be true.
After his campaign’s “vulnerability report” raised concerns about some of his claims, three campaign workers resigned. In response, “he downplayed the significance of the report, telling new staff who were brought on to replace those who had left, and those who stayed, that the report was inaccurate,” the subcommittee said. It added, “Following the turnover in his campaign staff, he continued to lie about his background, and found more ways to defraud his campaign supporters.”
Santos has acknowledged padding his resume, at least.
“My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry,” he told the New York Post in a December 2022 interview. That was after the New York Times published an article questioning what appeared to be misrepresentations about his background.
Santos admitted to the Post that he never graduated from any college or university, and that he “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
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