Why would anyone donate to Rep. George Santos’ reelection campaign? Santos was indicted in May by the federal government on 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds, and lying on federal disclosure forms. He has pleaded not guilty.
This week, House Democrats put Republicans on the spot by introducing a resolution to censure Santos for his many lies about his background. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, given his slim and often fractious majority, has rejected efforts to expel Santos, but told Fox News last month that he wanted to defend the seat “with another Republican.” In January, Nassau County Republican leaders demanded that Santos resign from the House over his lies, calling him a “stain” on his district.
But Santos persists. In April he announced his reelection bid. And despite the looming federal criminal charges, he still managed to raise $179,000 from April to June for his campaign, The New York Times reported, citing filings with the Federal Election Commission last Friday.
Now that’s not much for a candidate running in a New York swing district that’s rated lean-Democrat. But Santos put the money to good use to benefit himself.
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The Times wrote:
Mr. Santos used $85,000 of the money on May 30 to repay himself. He had previously reported giving his own campaign more than $700,000 in personal loans.
The Times noted that only three of the donors to Santos’ reelection campaign reported living inside the congressman’s district which includes parts of Long Island and the New York City borough of Queens.
The Daily Beast and Mother Jones both reported that Santos cashed in big with supporters of exiled indicted Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who is an ally of right-wing agitator Steve Bannon.
Guo and Bannon share something else in common: both face criminal fraud charges alleging that they had fleeced their supporters. In fact, in August 2020, federal agents arrested Bannon on Guo’s luxury yacht after he was indicted on charges of defrauding donors who gave money to a foundation he set up to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump pardoned Bannon in the final hours of his term, but he was indicted on similar charges by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in September 2022.
Guo fled China in 2014 to avoid fraud charges there. In the United States, he gained a following of supporters in Chinese communities by establishing himself as an outspoken foe of China’s communist government. But he ran afoul of the law in the U.S. Mother Jones wrote:
In March, the Justice Department charged Guo with deploying a series of fraudulent business schemes to fleece his fans out of more than $1 billion. Federal prosecutors alleged Guo used investors’ funds to pay for mansions and fancy cars, $36,000 mattresses, and a $27 million yacht. He has been indicted for wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Guo claims the feds are after him at the behest of the Chinese government to silence him.
Guo has been held without bail since his arrest on March 15 because he’s considered a flight risk.
The Daily Beast, citing a report from the Hark Herald Press, an independent outlet that monitors Chinese political operations, said that almost all of the new donors to Santos’ campaign were connected to a group that Guo and Bannon formed called the New Federal State of China (NFSC). The group advocates a regime change in China and has proclaimed itself an anti-communist Chinese government in exile. Guo also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to Mother Jones.
Mother Jones reported that of about 50 total contributors on Santos’ campaign finance report, about three dozen of them, spread across the U.S. had Chinese or Asian names and each had donated $3,300 to Santos, the maximum amount allowed under federal law for a primary election campaign. These donations accounted for about $130,000 of the campaign donations reported by Santos.
These donors included a part-time cashier from Georgia, students from Pennsylvania and California, a masseuse from Texas and a member of a stage crew from New York, according to the Times. The three news outlets were only able to reach a handful of these donors. Xuehong Zhang, a masseuse from Plano, Texas, who identified herself as a Chinese immigrant, told the Times that she donated to Santos because “I see him want to take down C.C.P. (Chinese Communist Party). I just want to take down C.C.P.” She said she learned about Santos on Gettr, though she did not mention Guo by name.
Gettr is a conservative social media platform which ex-employees told The Washington Post is controlled by Guo. Its chief executive and public face is Jason Miller, a former senior adviser to Donald Trump.
Asked about these donations, Santos told The Daily Beast that he assumed “a fundraiser” had taken place without providing any details. That didn’t explain how tens of thousands of dollars poured into his campaign at the same time from donors scattered around the U.S. Mother Jones said that Guo supporters had at one point distributed a list to help collect campaign donations for Santos.
So what did Santos do to endear himself with Guo’s supporters? The campaign donations began flowing in around mid-May after Santos developed a sudden obsession with the plight of Guo, who also goes by the name of Miles Guo. This began just days before the DOJ indicted Santos on May 10.
On May 5, Santos showed up at Guo’s mansion in Mahwah, New Jersey, which the Justice Department has alleged Guo purchased with funds from scamming his supporters, Mother Jones reported. Santos gave an interview to Guo aides that aired on Gettr in which he pledged to ensure that “Miles Guo is free and given an opportunity to a trial.”
On May 6, Santos tweeted a brief video statement: “Miles Guo is a political prisoner of the CCP inside of the United states. Let that sink in. Free Miles Guo.”
Santos also sponsored a total of 11 bills targeting the CCP, the Daily Beast reported. Santos also delivered a speech on the House floor in which he declared: “The charges against Miles Guo are simply part of an organizing campaign of political persecution brought against him by the CCP,” Mother Jones reported.
Mother Jones wrote:
He then introduced a bill he called the “Guo Act,” which is premised on the unsubstantiated notion that China is corruptly influencing US courts to advance its interests. The bill would require federal judges and senior federal prosecutors to submit financial disclosures supposedly aimed at assessing whether they have received payments by foreign governments. The bill is not going anywhere.
And in June Santos joined Bannon in attending the third anniversary celebration of the New Federal State of China in New York.
Santos even went so far as to brazenly blame his own indictment on his support for Guo. In a fund-raising pitch on the day of his indictment, Santos tweeted: “I asked questions about #MilesGuo & the DOJ indicts me 5 days later!” He added that he needed financial support “to keep me fighting for freedom.”