Ethics report finds ‘substantial evidence’ George Santos violated federal law as Congressman announces he will not run in 2024

Ethics report finds ‘substantial evidence’ George Santos violated federal law as Congressman announces he will not run in 2024
U.S. Rep. George Santos. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The House Ethics Committee Thursday found “substantial evidence” that embattled Republican Congressman George Santos violated federal law.

The 56-page report from investigators concluded that Santos used campaign funds for personal purposes, defrauded donors and filed false or incomplete campaign and financial disclosures.

Santos in response to the long-awaited report said on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter, that he will not be seeking re-election in 2024 while a third resolution to expel him from Congress was filed Friday. 

“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,” Santos said on X of  the report Thursday, which he called “biased” and a “disgusting politicized smear.” “I will however NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024 as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time.”

Santos, who represents northern Nassau County and a portion of northeast Queens, sought to “fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” the report said, adding that his campaign was maintained “through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”

The bipartisan committee did not call for the expulsion of Santos–who they said did not fully cooperate with them–following the nine-month investigation but that it planned to immediately refer its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Investigators said they found Santos’ conduct to be “beneath the dignity of the office and to have brought severe discredit upon the House.”

The report said during Santos’ first bid for Congress in 2020 that he reported lending his own campaign $81,250 through several installments when he only transferred $3,500.

After the campaign ended, findings show he repaid himself most of the original fraudulent loans, making $27,700 in profit. 

During his campaign in 2022, where he successfully flipped a Democrat seat in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, he reported that spring lending his campaign over $700,000, which was eventually made in multiple transfers that fall. 

Santos is accused of using his campaign funds for personal gain. Specific expenditures by investigators include over $2,000 spent at an Atlantic City resort, over $3,000 reported to the Federal Election Commission as a “Hotel Stay” when his calendar said he was “off at [the] Hampton’s for the weekend,” and charges in Las Vegas when he told his staff he was on his honeymoon.

Investigators detailed another scheme this year involving Florida-based RedStone Strategies, a company Santos registered in 2021 and told donors was an “independent expenditure” group although it was not registered with the FEC. 

After receiving $25,000 from two different donors, Santos allegedly transferred the money to his personal account and spent some of it on paying down personal credit card bills, spending over $4,000 at Hermes and smaller purchases at Sephora and OnlyFans, a subscription service widely used for creators to sell explicitly photos and videos to subscribers. 

Santos has repeatedly denied any involvement himself in response to the campaign finance investigations, blaming his ex-treasurer Nancy Marks and saying she had “gone rogue.”

Marks, who previously worked for other Long Island Republicans, pleaded guilty in October to fraudulently reporting hundreds of thousands in fake loans that Santos claimed he raised during his campaign.

Investigators refuted Santos’ version of events, saying he was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of his campaign and that witnesses told them Santos shared a close relationship with Marks.

Representative Santos had login credentials to access the campaign’s bank accounts online, reviewed FEC reports, tracked money as it was coming and going out of the campaign, reviewed invoices, and received weekly finance reports,” the report said. 

Along with Marks, an ex-campaign aide to Santos, Samuel Miele, pleaded guilty earlier this month to wire fraud and impersonating former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s former chief of staff Dan Meyer as part of a plea deal.

Santos himself pleaded not guilty to the 10 new charges against him including identity theft, credit card fraud and conspiracy in October. He also pleaded not guilty in May after being charged with 13 counts including wire fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds. 

The congressman’s trial date is set for September 2024.

Recently-appointed Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement Thursday night did not discourage members of his party from expelling Santos. 

“As members from both parties, members of the Ethics Committee and Representative Santos return to Congress after the Thanksgiving break, Speaker Johnson encourages all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further,” Raj Shah, spokesman for Johnson, said.

Republican Anthony D’Espositio, Santos’ Congressional neighbor in the state’s 4th District, once again called for Santos’ expulsion after previously co-sponsoring a privileged resolution to expel him earlier this year alongside New York Republicans. 

“The newly released House Ethics Committee report on George Santos is in alignment with my long-held belief that this fraudster has no place serving in the People’s House, and I once again call on my colleagues to join me in advocating for George Santos’ expulsion from Congress,” D’Espsotio in a statement.

Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat candidate who lost to Santos in 2022, said the committee’s decision not to call for Santos’ expulsion is “a glaring betrayal of their responsibility to the American people.”

“The Committee’s inaction is an affront to our democracy, fostering the dangerous illusion that lying, cheating, and committing crimes carries no consequences,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “While I’m optimistic that our justice system will soon bring accountability, we must not ignore or excuse what this report represents. It is a shameless attempt by the Republican majority to retain and protect their slim party control at the expense of the rights and representation of over 700,000 people from Nassau County and Queens in the 3rd Congressional District.”

Santos would need to be expelled via a two-thirds vote in the House. Only five members of the House have previously been expelled, three for disloyalty in the Civil War and two after being convicted of criminal activity. 

If Santos is expelled, a special election would be held to replace him, where party officials would pick their respective candidates.

Among the Democrat field of candidates includes Tom Suozzi, who held the seat for six years before deciding not to run for re-election amid a gubernatorial campaign last year, and ex-state Sen. Anna Kaplan. Other Democrat candidates include Austin Cheng, Scott Livingston and Darius Radzius. Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat candidate for the seat in 2021, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.  

Republican challengers facing incumbent Santos are Afghanistan war veteran and former  J.P. Morgan Vice President Kellen Curry, retired NYPD Det. Mike Sapraicone and Air Force veteran and personal injury lawyer Greg Hach. Other candidates include small business owner from Queens Daniel Norber, Jim Toes and Thomas Charles Ludwig. 

A previous version of this article was published. It has since been updated.

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