The U.S. House Ethics Committee released a scathing report finding “substantial evidence” that U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) knowingly violated various federal ethics and campaign laws.
The report accuses the openly gay freshman Republican of deceiving donors and using his campaign as a personal slush fund.
The committee’s report based its conclusions on more than 170,000 pages of documents, including financial statements. It also relied on testimony from dozens of witnesses compiled since the investigation launched in March.
The full committee unanimously agreed to adopt the findings of the committee’s Investigative Subcommittee (ISC), which concluded there was “substantial evidence” that Santos “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.”
He also used campaign funds for personal purposes, set up a company to raise money from donors without being subjected to campaign contribution limits, and “engaged in knowing and willful violations of the Ethics in Government Act as it relates to his Financial Disclosure (FD) Statements filed with the House.”
The report accuses Santos of “blatantly” stealing funds by deceiving donors into contributing to him under the assumption that their money was going to his campaign but used the money to enrich himself personally.
He reported “fictitious loans to his political committees” to incentivize donors to make further contributions, using that money to repay his own loans.
The report found that Santos moved “at least $200,000” from the bank accounts of RedStone Strategies, LLC — the company Santos allegedly set up to circumvent campaign finance laws and donation limits — to his personal accounts through a series of smaller transactions in 2022.
He then allegedly used that money, on various occasions, to make purchases at the luxury store Hermès, personal care and beauty retailer Sephora, and the adult-oriented website OnlyFans, as well as pay for meals, parking, and pay off his personal credit card bills.
His FEC reports included payments for Botox, a luxury vacation in the Hamptons, taxis and hotel reservations during his honeymoon in Las Vegas, and personal spa treatments.
“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” the HEC report reads. “He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit…. He used his connections to high-value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings. And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”
The Ethics Committee noted that Santos already faces 23 criminal charges related to his financial dealings, including credit card fraud, identity theft, wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making “materially false statements” to the U.S. House of Representatives on his financial disclosure statements.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and continues to deny any wrongdoing.
The committee has referred its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice. However, whether the Justice Department will file additional charges against the embattled congressman remains to be seen.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), a member of the Ethics Committee and former federal prosecutor, told The New York Times he believed the investigation had uncovered additional evidence that could be used to prosecute Santos. “Most of us have never seen anything like this — this extensive, this brazen, and this bold,” he said.
The committee noted in its report that Santos refused to fully cooperate with the investigation, rejecting the opportunity to submit a signed written statement responding to the allegations against him, stonewalling investigators’ requests for documents, and declining to testify or provide a statement under oath addressing his actions.
“Representative Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House,” House Ethics Chairman Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Susan Wild (D-Pa.), said in a joint statement.
The Ethics Committee report did not recommend specific punishments for Santos. Instead, the report was publicly released so lawmakers could read it and “take whatever action they felt necessary,” according to The Washington Post.
The release of the report prompted U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), who, like Santos, is openly gay, to pledge to introduce a second resolution to expel Santos when members of Congress return from Thanksgiving recess on November 28.
Garcia previously introduced a privileged resolution to expel Santos in May, but House Republicans sidestepped the vote, referring the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
Earlier this month, Santos survived an expulsion vote after his fellow New York Republicans brought forth their own privileged resolution based on the additional charges against him. But many Republicans and several Democrats said they wanted to wait until the House Ethics Committee found wrongdoing before voting to expel Santos, with some members claiming they’d prefer that a vote be postponed until the criminal charges against Santos are resolved — potentially taking years.
Guest, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, reportedly plans to file his own motion calling for Santos’s expulsion on Friday, according to the right-wing Washington Examiner. Under a privileged resolution, the House must act within two business days, either by avoiding a vote and referring the matter to a committee, or taking an up-or-down vote on the resolution. However, that clock won’t start until the House reconvenes later this month.
A motion to expel a member requires a two-thirds majority vote, meaning 291 members of Congress must approve the resolution. If all 213 Democrats vote in favor of expulsion, at least 78 Republicans would have to join to remove Santos from his seat, creating a vacancy and triggering a special election in a hotly contested swing district.
It is unclear whether enough Republicans will vote to expel Santos if it weakens their party’s hold on power.
Santos, who had previously pledged to seek re-election, announced in a lengthy post on X that he would no longer do so, citing the intense media scrutiny he and his family members have received.
“[M]y family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time,” he wrote.
Santos also blasted the Ethics Committee, claiming that he is the victim of a political hit job.
“If there was a single ounce of ETHICS in the ‘Ethics committee,’ they would have not released this biased report,” Santos screeched. “The Committee went to extraordinary lengths to smear myself and my legal team about me not being forthcoming (My legal bills suggest otherwise). It is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depths of how low our federal government has sunk. Everyone who participated in this grave miscarriage of Justice should all be ashamed of themselves.”
If there was a single ounce of ETHICS in the “Ethics committee”, they would have not released this biased report. The Committee went to extraordinary lengths to smear myself and my legal team about me not being forthcoming (My legal bills suggest otherwise).
It is a disgusting…
— George Santos (@MrSantosNY) November 16, 2023
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