The bizarre saga of George Santos as a member of the US House of Representatives is heading toward its finale. One way or another. On Thursday morning, the New York Republican and champion liar announced that he will not seek reelection. This came after the release of a humiliating House Ethics Committee report—which itself might lead to an even earlier finish to Santos’ congressional career.
The 56-page report—which is accompanied with hundreds of pages of exhibits and evidence—is no surprise, but it is still an incredibly damning document. It depicts Santos as a total con man who perpetuated an almost unimaginable series of frauds involving campaign money and his personal finances. The committee details many of the schemes in which Santos is already implicated and provides federal prosecutors with more potential crimes to investigate. The House Ethics Committee voted to refer evidence to the Justice Department, which has already charged Santos with 23 counts of criminal activity in two indictments this year. The report raises the possibility that Santos could be indicted yet again before a trial scheduled set to begin in September 2024.
Among other potential crimes, the Investigative Subcommittee of the Ethics Committee (known as the ISC) found that Santos had falsified personal financial disclosures and used campaign funds for personal expenses. The report details cases where Santos allegedly spent campaign funds on botox, OnlyFans, an Atlantic City casino, a skincare spa, and other things unrelated to running for Congress. The ISC recommended that the Ethic Committee publicly condemn Santos as having engaged in conduct “beneath the dignity of the office” and having “brought severe discredit upon the House.”
As Mother Jones reported earlier this year, Santos’ campaign listed fake contributions during his 2020 and 2022 House campaigns. Santos has tried to blame the alleged campaign finance violations he has been charged with on his former treasurer, Nancy Marks. The report makes clear that Santos and Marks collaborated closely. Santos told campaign staff that Marks was “untouchable,” and a former staffer compared the campaign’s finances to a “black box” that only Santos and Marks could access. Marks has pleaded guilty to plotting with Santos to falsify his campaign’s financial reports.
The ISC calls Santos a total fraud:
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.
It notes he was non-stop grifter:
Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. 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 reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign—and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported “repayments” of those fictitious loans. 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.
In December 2021, according to the report, Santos’ own campaign team presented him with a 141-page “vulnerability report” that made clear that the candidate was running on a fabricated record. His staff pushed him to drop out of the race, and three staff members quit the campaign when he refused to do so. “This was a key moment wherein Representative Santos could have put an end to all the lies he told, or at a minimum, taken steps to correct the record about his background and personal and campaign finances,” the ISC report says. “Instead, he downplayed the significance of the report.”
The ISC report reveals that Santos was such a liar that his campaign aides believed he suffered from a psychological condition that required professional care:
Since winning his election, Representative Santos has admitted that he “embellished” parts of his background in order to be taken seriously as a candidate; however, the ISC’s review revealed significantly more fraudulent activity by Representative Santos. As an initial matter, members of Representative Santos’ own campaign staff viewed him as a “fabulist,” whose penchant for telling lies was so concerning that he was encouraged to seek treatment.
The report is overflowing with plots Santos allegedly cooked up for private profit. During the 2020 campaign, he reported more than $80,000 in personal loans to his campaign. In reality, he’d only loaned the campaign $3,500. Nevertheless, the campaign repaid him more than $30,000.
The ISC recounts numerous instances when campaign funds were transferred to Santos’ personal bank accounts or to the account for his private business, the Devolder Orgnaization. Here’s one:
The $20,000 transfer to a Devolder Organization account…was made at a time when that account had a negative balance; in the week after it was transferred to Devolder Organization, it was used to make about $6,000 worth of purchases at Ferragamo stores, withdraw $800 in cash from an ATM at a casino, withdraw $1,000 in cash from an ATM near Representative Santos’ apartment, and to pay Representative Santos’ rent.
A $50,000 transfer of money from political contributors ended up, according to the report, in “Santos’ personal accounts, [and] the funds were used to, among other things: pay down personal credit card bills and other debt; make a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes; and for smaller purchases at Only Fans; Sephora; and for meals and for parking.”
The Justice Department, the report notes, has been investigating a suspicious payments totaling $800,000 that Santos received in late 2022, around the same time Santos made significant loans to his most recent campaign. The report states that investigators “had serious questions regarding whether these payments were intended to benefit Representative Santos’ campaign and thus were unlawful excessive contributions.” They did not pursue those questions due to “specific deferral requests” from the Justice Department.
After all this digging, the investigators remained mystified by some aspects of Santos’ finances. They compiled a record that included more than 170,000 pages of documents. Still, they point out they couldn’t figure out all the convolutions of his money flow:
Representative 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. He occasionally deposited large amounts of cash that he has never accounted for, moved money between his various bank accounts in a highly suspicious manner, and made over $240,000 cash withdrawals for unknown purposes.
Santos’ congressional financial disclosures were filled with lies, the ISC found. Looking at his 2022 disclosure, the investigators state:
Representative 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 ethics committee report is a total evisceration of Santos. It blows up every lie that Santos has told to cover-up his previous lies. It notes that he lied to the committee investigators. Though Santos survived a recent move to expel him from the House—when most Republicans backed him—this report certainly serves up plenty of ammunition for another effort to oust him. (Some Democrats who opposed the expulsion cited the need for due process and said they wanted to see the investigative findings of the ethics committee.)
Following the release of the report, Santos tacitly acknowledged that his time as a lawmaker could be drawing to an inauspicious close. After saying he would not seek reelection—which, given his upcoming trial, might not even be an option for him—he wrote on social media that he would continue to serve in Congress “up until I am allowed.” The phrasing suggests Santos recognizes and accepts a painful reality for him: This report could soon bring about the end of his days in Washington.