The U.S. House Ethics Committee says it has gathered “overwhelming evidence” of legal violations committed by New York Republican Rep. George Santos.
- An investigative ethics committee found that George Santos fraudulently exploited his political candidacy for personal financial gain.
- He also faces a federal charge that alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and used their credit cards for unauthorized charges.
- The House of Representatives is expected to vote on his expulsion at the end of the month.
The panel said it forwarded its findings to the Justice Department, concluding categorically that Mr. Santos cannot be trusted after a months-long investigation into his conduct.
The investigative report released Thursday reveals that Mr. Santos allegedly used campaign funds for personal expenses such as high-end retail purchases, botox and on OnlyFans, an adult content website.
Mr Santos called the findings in a tweet on X a “disgusting politicized smear” but said he would not seek re-election for a second term.
He gave no indication, however, that he would step down before his term ends next year, promising to continue his “conservative values during his remaining time in Congress.”
But a new attempt to expel him from the House was quickly launched.
The House could vote on expelling him as soon as he returns from the Thanksgiving holiday later this month.
The panel said Mr. Santos knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission, used campaign funds for personal purposes and violated the Ethics in Government Act regarding financial disclosure statements filed with the House.
“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his candidacy for the House for his own personal financial gain,” an investigating subcommittee said in a 56-page report unanimously adopted by the full committee .
The report also details Santos’ lack of cooperation with the investigation and says he “evaded” requests for direct information.
“Representative Santos’ lack of candor during the investigation itself was particularly troubling,” the committee determined.
The committee investigating the allegations against Mr. Santos gave him the opportunity to submit a signed written statement, provide documents responding to the committee’s request for information and provide a sworn statement.
But he didn’t, according to the report. The information he provided, according to the commission, “includes significant inaccuracies that further reinforce the lies he told during his 2022 campaign.”
The commission’s investigative panel said that without Mr. Santos’ cooperation, it had not been able to verify whether some of the expenses reported by his campaign were legitimate.
But some expenses, at first glance, seemed unrelated to the campaign. For example, he cites US$2,281 ($3,525) spent at resorts in Atlantic City and US$1,400 ($2,163) spent at a skin spa for what one spreadsheet describes as “botox”.
The panel also identified an expense of $3,332 ($5,148) for a hotel stay, although the campaign calendar indicated he was “on leave in the Hamptons for the weekend.”
There were also taxes and hotel fees on the Las Vegas campaign credit card, at a time when Mr. Santos was telling his campaign staff that he was on his honeymoon and would not There was no corresponding campaign event on the calendar.
The investigation also focused on at least US$200,000 ($309,000) transferred from a Florida-based company, RedStone Strategies LLC, to Mr. Santos’s personal bank accounts.
The report said at least three people transferred money to RedStone after being told the money would be used for political purposes, but the funds were transferred to Mr. Santos’ personal accounts.
He used some of that money to pay his credit card bills, make a $US4,128 ($6,378) purchase at high-end retailer Hermes, and smaller purchases at OnlyFans, Sephora, as well as for meals and parking, investigators said.
The Ethics Committee determined that Mr. Santos’ conduct “warrants public condemnation, is unworthy of the dignity of the office, and has brought grave discredit to the House.”
The findings of the commission of inquiry are perhaps the least of Mr. Santos’s worries.
The congressman faces a 23-count federal indictment that alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fees. authorized.
Federal prosecutors say Mr. Santos, who has pleaded not guilty, wired some of the money into his personal bank account and used the rest to replenish his campaign coffers.
Mr. Santos, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, is also accused of falsely telling the Federal Election Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 ($772,678) when in reality he had given nothing and had less than $8,000 ($12,362). ) in the bank.
The fake loan was intended to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate, worthy of their financial support, the indictment says.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the ethics report, as did the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which is handling the case against Mr. Santos.
Earlier this week, a former fundraiser for Mr. Santos pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge, admitting that he posed as a high-ranking congressional aide while raising campaign funds for the embattled New York Republican.
Mr. Santos easily survived the vote earlier this month to expel him from the House, with most Republicans and 31 Democrats opting to withhold punishment while his criminal trial and ethics committee investigation continued .
But the committee’s report could change that.
Rep. Susan Wild, for example, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee, said she no longer has to maintain neutrality because the committee’s work is now complete.
“I intend to vote yes on any preferred eviction resolution that comes forward,” Ms. Wild said.
Representative Jeff Jackson of North Carolina, one of the Democratic lawmakers who voted against expelling Mr. Santos earlier this month, said he had now been given due process.
“This report is totally damning,” he tweeted at X. “I will vote to expel him.”
Representative Nicole Malliotakis, who also voted no in the last expulsion vote, said it was not enough for Mr Santos to say he would not run again.
“He should immediately resign or be expelled so that his constituents can be represented by someone who is not a fraud,” Ms. Malliotakis said.
Expulsion, the harshest form of punishment, has occurred only five times in House history — three times during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union and twice after convictions on federal charges , the last in 2002.
If Mr. Santos were to be expelled, it would reduce the Republican Party’s already slim majority in the House, which now stands at 221 to 213.
But many of his New York Republican colleagues support expelling Mr. Santos from the House as they seek to distance themselves from his actions.
Even though Mr. Santos now says he will not run again, his campaign was already severely under-resourced and candidates from both parties were rushing at the chance to challenge him.
Campaign records show he had about $28,000 ($43,269) on hand at the end of the fundraising quarter ending in September — an incredibly small sum for an incumbent president.