Last week, Mother Jones reported that more than a dozen top donors to Rep. George Santos’ first congressional campaign did not appear to exist. The donations from people whose names or addresses could not be confirmed totaled more than $30,000. This pattern of questionable contributions, Mother Jones has learned, extends to Santos’ successful campaign last year.
According to Santos’ campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission, his recent campaign pulled in more than $45,000 from relatives who lived in Queens. This included a mail handler who gave more than $4,000, a painter who donated the maximum of $5,800, and a student who also contributed $5,800. One of Santos’ relatives, who was recorded as giving $5,800, says that they did not make any donation to Santos.
On Tuesday, a Mother Jones reporter visited the Queens home of this relative. Informed that two donations of $2,900 each were listed under this person’s name and address in Santos’ campaign finance reports, the relative, who asked not to be identified, said, “I’m dumbfounded.” The relative had no idea where the money for these donations came from and remarked, “It’s all news to me.” This person added, “I don’t have that money to throw around!”
The relative’s account raises the possibility that money was improperly donated to Santos’ most recent campaign. Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to make a contribution using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, recently told Mother Jones. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.”
Neither Santos nor his attorney replied to requests for comment.
Santos’ 2022 campaign filings list his sister Tiffany giving more than $5,000. (She also ran Rise NY, a political action committee that paid her more than $21,000.) When a Mother Jones reporter contacted her on Tuesday, she would not confirm whether she or her relatives had made the contributions attributed to them by Santos’ campaign. Last month, the Daily Beast reported that New York court records show that Tiffany was facing potential eviction for failure to pay rent.
In the previous story, Mother Jones detailed instances of suspicious donations to Santos’ 2020 campaign, which he lost by 12 points. The examples included maximum contributions from Victoria and Jonathan Regor, who were listed as residing at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey. A search of various databases found no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, that address does not exist, according to Google Maps and a resident who lives on that street. One of Santos’ New York relatives is named Victoria Devolder Rego. There is no record of her living on New Mexico Street. (Santos’ recent campaign reported donations made under the name of Victoria Devolder for $5,800.)
Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also listed Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and noted that he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But the homeowner who lives at that address, William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, said, through a spokesperson, that he “does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived” at the address listed in Santos’ FEC filings. Brandt also said he never contributed to Santos.
According to FEC records, a donor named Stephen Burger contributed $21,600 to Santos’ campaign and political committees supporting Santos during the 2022 campaign. The address listed for him could not be confirmed through public records.
In the requests for comment sent to Santos and his lawyer, Mother Jones inquired about the Burger donations.
The questions sparked by contributions to Santos’ campaign add to a number of money mysteries dogging Santos. He has yet to identify the source of $705,000 he loaned his 2022 campaign. Nor has he explained his curious personal finances. In 2020, he declared on his financial disclosure form that he had made $55,000 in salary that year working for a company that organized investor conferences. In 2022, his financial disclosure filing stated that he had made between $3.5 million and $11.5 million through a company he set up in May 2021, after another firm he worked for had been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a Ponzi scheme. Santos has not detailed how the firm he created generated so much money for him in such a short time. And he has repeatedly lied about his career, education, family history, and much more.
On Tuesday, Santos said he would recuse himself from his committee assignments—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had placed him on the Small Business and Science committees—until his assorted ethics issues are resolved. Last week, Nancy Marks resigned as Santos’ campaign treasurer. She had held this post for both his 2020 and 2022 efforts. She has been treasurer for many Republican candidates and political action committees and also struck a curious business deal with Santos in 2021.
As Mother Jones previously reported, Marks and her relatives contributed more than $30,000 to Santos’ 2022 campaign. This included Marks’ two children who were, respectively, 19- and 22-year-old students when they started donating to Santos, according to public records. They and other relatives ended up maxxing-out at $5,800 each. Marks’ family members gave to no other candidates during the 2022 campaign. Marks has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Several complaints regarding Santos’ campaign finances have been filed with the FEC. He is under investigation by local, state, and federal law enforcement. The Justice Department recently told the FEC to stand down as federal prosecutors pursue a criminal investigation of Santos’ campaign finance practices.
Additional reporting by Isabela Dias