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28
Sat, Jan

GOP Congressman Santos Hit With Four Campaign Finance and Ethics Complaints

LGBTQ POLITICS - Serial liar and Republican U.S. Congressman George Santos was the subject of four complaints filed Monday by advocacy groups alleging campaign finance and ethics violations, including an alleged scheme to hide the true and unknown source of over $700,000 in campaign funds.

End Citizens United filed separate complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Election Commission (FEC), and Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) over Santos' (N.Y.) campaign spending, fundraising, and financial disclosures.

"All this takes place amid Santos' compulsive lying about his entire background—and a pattern of serious reporting problems the FEC already knows about, including excessive contributions."

The group said in a statement that its DOJ complaint "argues that Santos violated the Ethics in Government Act by not only filing a required financial disclosure almost a year late, but likely making several omissions related to various purported assets he holds."

The complaint with the OCE alleges Santos "violated federal law by soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for attending a swearing-in event on Capitol grounds," the statement added. The  FEC filing "focuses on a purported $700,000 personal loan that he made to his campaign that the group says either came from a 'shell company' or was a prohibited corporate contribution."

The OCE complaint also alleges that nearly 40 payments of $199.99 made by the Santos campaign constitute an attempt to evade federal laws requiring receipts for campaign purchases over $200.

End Citizens United president Tiffany Muller toldInsider's Brian Metzger, who first reported the group's complaints, that "Congressman Santos has shown a blatant disregard for the law and has flagrantly brushed aside the transparency voters deserve from their elected officials."

"His actions are not only unethical, but illegal, and call into question his ability to serve," Muller added. "The FEC, the DOJ, and the OCE should immediately begin investigations and hold him accountable for his shady and unlawful actions."

Meanwhile, a similar complaint filed Monday by the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges that Santos concealed the sources of his 2022 campaign's funding, that he lied about campaign spending, and that he illegally used campaign funds for personal spending.

According to the complaint, Santos, campaign treasurer Nancy Marks, and unknown accomplices hatched a straw donor scheme to conceal the source of $705,000 that the congressman claimed to loan to his campaign. They are also accused of lying on FEC disclosure forms and other reporting violations; and of unlawfully spending campaign funds on personal expenses like the house Santos rented during his 2022 run.

"All this takes place amid Santos' compulsive lying about his entire background—and a pattern of serious reporting problems the FEC already knows about, including excessive contributions. The FEC sent the Santos campaign 20 letters in the 2022 cycle about these," CLC senior researcher Roger G. Wieand tweeted Monday.

"We think that rather than Santos making overnight millions from a business he can't explain, he, and others unknown, engaged in a scheme to provide secret, illegal contributions to his campaign," Wieand continued.

"Santos has become a punchline in the national media, but these campaign finance violations are no joke," he added. "We think the people of New York's 3rd District deserve truth and transparency about where Santos' money came from and how it was spent. We're asking the FEC to investigate."

CLC senior vice president and legal director Adav Noti said in a statement:

George Santos has lied to voters about a lot of things, but while lying about your background might not be illegal, deceiving voters about your campaign's funding and spending is a serious violation of federal law. That is what we are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate. As the agency responsible for enforcing America's campaign finance laws, the FEC owes it to the public to find out the truth about how George Santos raised and spent the money he used to run for public office, and to ensure accountability for Santos' illegal conduct.

The new complaints follow a January 3 OCE filing by the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century requesting an investigation of Santos' alleged failure "to file timely, accurate, and complete financial disclosure reports," as well as the possibility "that he may have even falsified information on his disclosure report."

Monday's filings also came after a Republican New York prosecutor last month announcedan investigation into Santos' "numerous fabrications and inconsistencies" involving his education, employment, and property ownership history as well as his racial and religious background.

As the complaint notes, "Santos is also wanted in Brazil for using stolen checks to make fraudulent purchases in 2008—a crime for which he was charged by Brazilian authorities and to which he reportedly confessed in 2010."

The barrage of ethics complaints against Santos comes as House Republicans—who now narrowly control the lower chamber under Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—plan to gut the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted Monday; "We cannot stress this enough: Kevin McCarthy's plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics in the rules vote tonight would be a disaster for everyone except corrupt politicians."

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen also noted Monday that "McCarthy plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics TONIGHT."

"The same office that investigates any congressional wrongdoing," the group added. "The same office that would investigate George Santos and [former President Donald] Trump's cronies. Pay attention. This isn't a coincidence." 

(Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)