George Santos’s week ends with more investigations, reported lies
New York Rep.-elect George Santos’s tumultuous week continued with reports of new inquiries into a life story filled with both holes and outright fabrications.
According to ABC News and CBS News, federal investigators were beginning to look into the newly elected Long Island Republican congressman, who revealed recently that he lied repeatedly during his successful campaign for the seat. Santos admitted this week that he does not hold degrees from Baruch College nor New York University, as he had stated, and that he had never worked directly for Citigroup nor Goldman Sachs, which he also had claimed.
CNN reported that Santos had also lied about having ever attended the prestigious Horace Mann prep school. Additionally, the 34-year-old claimed that his mother, who passed away in 2016, survived the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but died “a few years later.” Victim advocacy and legal groups representing 9/11 victims said they had no record of Fatima Devolder filing a claim or entering any lawsuits.
The New York Times reported late Thursday evening that Santos’s campaign had a number of unusual expenses, including a high number of filings falling one cent below the $200 threshold at which receipts are required, as well as indications that the campaign was paying for his housing.
Santos has said he plans to take the oath of office, with Republican leadership thus far remaining quiet in what will be a narrowly divided Congress. Any formal investigations into Santos are likely to focus on his campaign finances. When he ran for a House seat in 2020, Santos listed an income of $55,000 from LinkBridge Investors and no major assets. In 2022, he listed an income of $750,000 from the Devolder Organization and millions in assets.
Santos told the outlet Semafor that he made his money doing “deal building” and “specialty consulting” for “high net worth individuals” but didn’t provide the names of any clients. In an interview with City and State NY, Santos said he opened his own firm, and “it just worked because I had the relationships and I started making a lot of money. And I fundamentally started building wealth,” adding, “I decided I’d invest in my race for Congress. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Santos lent his 2022 campaign more than $700,000. He has also drawn scrutiny for receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a Russian businessman with Kremlin ties while criticizing President Biden’s support for Ukraine’s self-defense against Russia’s invasion.
Additionally, Santos admitted to the New York Post that he owed a former landlord thousands of dollars in back rent. The New York Times had reported that a judge ordered Santos to pay more than $12,000 to the landlord for several months of unpaid rent and that Santos had written a check that bounced. The Times also reported that Santos owes $5,000 to a former roommate.
The North Shore Leader, a Long Island outlet, reported in September that Santos had filed his disclosure 20 months late and with an “inexplicable” rise in his net worth to $11 million. One place where Santos did actually work recently, Harbor City Capital, was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a Ponzi scheme. The next round of financial disclosure forms for congressional members and their senior staff members is due on May 15.
On Wednesday, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, a Republican, announced her office was looking into Santos.
"The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-Elect Santos are nothing short of stunning. The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress," Donnelly said in a statement. "No one is above the law, and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”
The Queens District Attorney’s Office also said it would be “reviewing whether Queens County has jurisdiction over any potential criminal offenses.”
Santos could also face an investigation from New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who told local TV news outlet NY1 last week her office would review the situation.
Santos's lies extend beyond income and employment history. He previously represented himself as Jewish, later backtracking to say he was “Jew-ish.” He told the Post he “never claimed to be Jewish,” but the Forward reported Tuesday that he had done just that, calling himself “a proud American Jew” in a position paper his campaign shared with Jewish and pro-Israel leaders. Also, while Santos ran as an openly gay candidate, the Daily Beast reported this week that he had a previously undisclosed divorce from a woman in 2019.
“I dated women in the past. I married a woman. It’s personal stuff,” Santos told the Post, adding, “I’m very much gay. I’m OK with my sexuality. People change. I’m one of those people who change.”
While Santos could choose to resign, his removal from office requires a vote from two-thirds of the chamber and is unlikely. (Santos has said he’d support current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker in what is expected to be a close vote for the position.) The last member to be booted was Ohio Democrat Jim Traficant, who was voted out 420-1 after being convicted on 10 counts of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering.
If Santos is found to have lied on his official filings, the penalty can include fines and up to five years in prison. Earlier this year, former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., was sentenced to two years probation after being found guilty of lying to the FBI about illegal contributions to his reelection campaign.
Santos could face a House Ethics Committee investigation if he assumes office next week.
In a combative interview with Fox News on Tuesday evening, Santos said, “So, look, I understand everybody wants to nitpick at me. I’m gonna reassure this once and for all. I’m not a facade. I’m not a persona. I have an extensive career that I worked really hard to achieve. And I’m going to deliver from my experience because I remain committed in delivering results for the American people.”