Cousin of Russian oligarch donates nearly $30K to Devolder-Santos campaign

Cousin of Russian oligarch donates nearly $30K to Devolder-Santos campaign
George Santos during his election night watch party in 2022. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Republican congressman-elect George Devolder-Santos received nearly $30,000 in campaign donations from the American cousin of a Russian oligarch, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

Andrew Intrater, who heads the investment firm Sparrow Capital (formerly Columbus Nova), donated $29,500 to Devolder-Santos’ successful campaign against Democrat Robert Zimmerman for the state’s 3rd Congressional District in November. Intrater is the cousin of Viktor Vekselberg, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose net worth is $7.65 billion.

Vekselberg, who was born in Ukraine, made his first million from selling scrap copper before purchasing several aluminum smelters and forming the conglomerate Sual Holding in 1996, according to Forbes. Vekselberg merged Sual Holding with Russian Alumnium to create UC Rusal.

Columbus Nova described itself as “the U.S.-based affiliate” of the oligarch’s Renova Group, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents in 2007.

The rebrand of Columbus Nova to Sparrow Capital came in 2018, following the U.S. Department of Treasury’s freezing of nearly all the company’s assets.

The oligarch’s $90 million, 255-foot yacht was seized by the Spanish government in April at the order of the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice said the yacht “was subject to forfeiture based on violations of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes.”

Federal officials stressed the importance of monitoring the activity for individuals and organizations that fueled Russia to continue the war against Ukraine launched earlier this year.

“Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement following the seizure. 

Devolder-Santos, who recently attended a press conference to welcome Ukrainian Consulate General Oleksii Holubov to Long Island, described Ukraine as a “totalitarian regime” to the Washington Post earlier this year.

“Look, if the Ukrainians really hated Russia so bad, the eastern border of Ukraine wouldn’t have welcomed Russians into their provinces,” Devolder-Santos said in a February article. “They feel more Russian than Ukrainian.”

Less than a week before the Washington Post article was published online, Devolder-Santos tweeted “Pray for Ukraine!”

Efforts to reach Devolder-Santos for comment on the matter were unavailing.

Election commission filings also showed Intrater donated $11,600 to Santos for his 2020 congressional campaign, which ultimately resulted in a loss to current U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

The Daily Beast publication said Intrater gave $56,100 to committees tied to Santos, but Blank Slate Media could not confirm those figures on the Federal Election Commission’s campaign financing page.

The congressman-elect was also scheduled to attend the New York Young Republican Club’s annual black-tie gala event Dec. 11, along with Donald Trump Jr., U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani along with a number of far-right individuals.

Devolder-Santos has been criticized by Democratic officials for his ties to far-right politicians such as Greene. Greene was criticized for saying at the Young Republicans dinner that the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building would have featured “armed” rioters if she and Steve Bannon, the chief strategist under former President Donald Trump, had organized it.

“If Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won,” Greene said during the event. “Not to mention, it would have been armed. Yeah. See, that’s the whole joke isn’t it?”

Greene, in a subsequent statement, said her comments were sarcastic and denied having any involvement in the insurrection.

“My comments were making fun of Joe Biden and the Democrats, who have continuously made me a political target since Jan. 6th,” she said in a statement.

The White House described the congresswoman’s comments as “violent rhetoric” and a “slap in the face” to those who defended the Capitol against rioters and, in several cases, lost their lives doing so.

Santos, a Trump supporter, urged officials to intervene in the counting of Electoral College votes following the insurrection. He is also quoted as saying he was “at the Ellipse on Jan. 6,” the day of rioting at the U.S. Capitol, and is quoted on video saying he “wrote a nice check for a law firm” to aid the rioters who stormed the building.

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