It’s getting to where you would need to be a forensic accountant to understand Rep. George Santos’ campaign finance filings—but you don’t need any kind of special expertise to understand that they’re shady as hell. Santos didn’t just report spending exactly $199.99, a penny below the amount at which campaigns are required to keep receipts, more than any other campaign in the country, for instance. He briefly reported having spent $254,000 in payments to "anonymous," mostly in increments of $199.99, and then changed his campaign filings. And now The New York Times has found $365,399.08 in completely unexplained spending buried in Santos’ FEC filings.
That’s a lot of money to spend without explaining where it went. It is not at all typical for a congressional campaign, either—the Times reports that where the campaigns of other House members from New York failed to account for between 0% and 2% of their spending, Santos’ campaign failed to account for 12%.
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It’s especially noteworthy that this much money wasn’t accounted for, given that Santos’ campaign clearly felt free to invent spending numbers. A sushi meal that cost $60.54 in one filing was raised in a subsequent filing to, you guessed it, $199.99, then removed entirely from the next filing.
But then there’s more than $365,000 for which his campaign couldn’t even be bothered to blatantly make stuff up. To be fair, that’s so much money it would be difficult to make stuff up: at $199.99 a pop, it would have to involve 1,800 different vendors. George Santos lies a lot, but coming up with 1,800 places to claim to have spent money might be difficult even for him.
All of this is in addition to the $700,000 Santos claimed to have lent to his campaign despite having no obvious way to have $700,000 in personal funds at all. A recent campaign filing amended the claim that the money came from him, though, by unchecking a box certifying that the loans came from “personal funds of the candidate.”
Then there are the supposed Santos campaign donors who deny having given him money, or as much money as his campaign claimed they gave. There is at least one real $25,000 donation to RedStone Strategies, a Santos-affiliated group that was supposedly going to run a big ad campaign for him—except RedStone wasn’t registered with the FEC to do any such thing and never did.
Between the $700,000 loan and the fake donors, a lot of money appears to have flowed into Santos’ campaign with no apparent legal source. One possibility is that the money never existed, that the claims that it did were part of a con to get actual money out of actual donors. But another is that someone out there bought themselves a U.S. congressman.
It doesn’t stop there! The Santos campaign claimed to have paid $206,000 in fees to WinRed, the Republican effort to compete with ActBlue, but given the amount the campaign raised through WinRed, it only should have paid $33,000 in fees. Did someone pocket the $173,000 difference between what the campaign should have paid and what it claimed to have paid? Was his name Anthony Devolder?
There’s a constantly accumulating stream of evidence that George Santos is an out-and-out con man. There’s the GoFundMe raising money for life-saving surgery for a service dog that Santos refused to turn over to the dog's owner. The alleged $15,000 in bad checks for puppies. The ongoing claims that he ran an animal rescue 501(c)3 when no such organization had ever been registered with the IRS. The check fraud charge in Brazil. The lies he reportedly told to lure investors to turn money over to Harbor City Capital, the alleged Ponzi scheme at which he worked shortly before running for Congress.
Santos’ campaign finance reports look like a much bigger con than he had ever run before. And if he had lost, it’s possible that no one would have noticed or followed up on it. Since he won and his lies and problematic campaign filings were discovered, Santos is under investigation. One hopes that there’s a whole team of forensic accountants on his trail now.
Sarah Longwell is a longtime Republican strategist and prominent never-Trumper. Her podcast, The Focus Group, is a peek at the thousands of hours of focus groups she has conducted all across the country. Sarah comes on to give her thoughts about the state of the current Republican Party and why its future remains bleak.
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