George Santos’ Questionable Campaign Accounting
Could it be that he was untruthful?
One of my least favorite cliches about politics is the “all politicians lie.” I don’t like it for a variety of reasons, but not the least of which is that it becomes a weird defense when specific politicians do, in fact, lie. For example, I saw one retort about George Santos that referred to Elizabeth Warren’s unfortunate, but still basically true, reference to Native American ancestry. Because, see? They all lie!
But, and I say this as an observer of politics my entire life, most of which professionally, and as a person who knows more than a little history, that I cannot think of a fabulist quite like Representative-elect George Santos (R-NY03).
His biography augmentation is truly stunning, as it includes:
- A claim to be Jewish (he later claimed he said that he was “jew-ish”). He is neither.
- That his family escaped the Holocaust. They didn’t.
- That his mother died as a result of the 9/11 attacks. She didn’t.
- That he had employees killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. He didn’t.
On a more mundane level, he lied about his education and work history (and I am not downplaying those lies by calling them “mundane”–it is just more standard stuff as compared to Holocaust grandparents, 9/11 moms, et al.). There are even more lies listed here.
This isn’t exaggerating. This isn’t spinning. This isn’t making a campaign promise you didn’t keep. This is all pure fabrication. It is almost the purest form of lying: just making things up to make yourself look good and hoping it gets you what you want while hoping that no one will notice.
I would argue that there is currently enough evidence of blatant lying about his biography that he should be immediately investigated by the House Ethics Committee should he be seated in January and that, really, the Republicans ought to move to expel him. No one should be allowed to have been that dishonest on the campaign trail and then be allowed to take their seats.
I do realize that the like outcome of a special election to replace him is a Democrat winning, so expect the House GOP will find that to be too high of a price to pay for an ethical response to Santos’ outrageous behavior.
All of this leads me to the NYT: Santos, a Suburban House and $11,000 in Campaign Payments for ‘Rent’
The company was called Cleaner 123, and over the course of four months, it received nearly $11,000 from the campaign of George Santos, the representative-elect from New York who appears to have invented whole swaths of his life story.
The expenditures were listed as “apartment rental for staff” on Mr. Santos’s campaign disclosure forms and gave the address of a modest suburban house on Long Island. But one neighbor said Mr. Santos himself had been living there for months, and two others said that they had seen Mr. Santos and his husband coming and going, a possible violation of the rule prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal expenses.
The payments to Cleaner 123 were among a litany of unusual disbursements documented in Mr. Santos’s campaign filings that experts say could warrant further scrutiny. There are also dozens of expenses pegged at $199.99 — one cent below the threshold at which federal law requires receipts.
The travel expenses include more than $40,000 for air travel, a number so exorbitant that it resembles the campaign filings of party leaders in Congress, as opposed to a newly elected congressman who is still introducing himself to local voters.
It is not known if the spending was in fact illegal, or merely unusual. Federal and local prosecutors said this week that they would begin inquiries into Mr. Santos’s finances and background.
The story also raised questions about Mr. Santos’s financial circumstances, which disclosures show have improved drastically since 2020, when he reported earning just $55,000 a year.
I will certainly acknowledge that these are all just suspicious expenditures and may end up having plausible legal explanations. But I am thinking that someone who is willing to lie about all that Santos was willing to lie about is unlikely to have been scrupulous in campaign accounting. As such, I have some hope that he will be called to task in the campaign finance arena, even if his co-partisans find expelling him to be too high a political price to pay.
There are a lot of details in the story, but this leapt out at me:
Over the course of his campaign, Mr. Santos spent $30,000 on hotels, $40,000 on airfare and $14,000 on car services — and campaign records suggest he also retained a campaign vehicle.
I mean, sure, traffic can be bad in NYC, but I am thinking that flying probably wouldn’t be of much use.
Indeed, apart from maybe going to out of state fundraisers, I can’t think of any reason Santos would have need to fly, let alone that much.
By way of comparison, Nick LaLota, the Republican representative-elect from the First Congressional District, in Long Island’s Suffolk County, spent roughly $900 on hotel stays, $3,000 on airfare and $900 on taxi services, according to his campaign filings. Sean Patrick Maloney, the outgoing head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who lost to a Republican in the Hudson Valley, spent just $8,000 on air travel, according to his filings.
So, we shall see how this plays out, but it seems rather likely that this is more than just unusual activity.
To reiterate: Santos does not deserve to be seated in the US House and if he had any ethics (which clearly, he does not) he would resign the seat. If the House Republicans (as the incoming leadership) had any ethics, they would deny him the seat, but this seems unlikely. It is unfortunate to have to wait on financial investigations to force such an outcome.
Quite honestly, I am not sure how long it would take to expel Santos and then hold a special election so the actual political cost to the caucus might be relatively small. Still, I won’t hold my breath.
Interestingly, NY state R’s are far more concerned about Santos than House R’s. Of course he reflects poorly on NY R’s and for the house he’s simply another grifter.
Speaking as someone who does believe that most if not all politicians lie, I think the problem isn’t that this claim is incorrect, it’s that there are vast differences of degree here. To use an analogy I’ve made before: a driver going at 57 on a 55-mph highway is technically violating traffic laws. But that doesn’t mean a guy going at 120 in a school zone should be placed in the same category.
I’ve come across a few fabulists in my life, meaning someone who lies as a matter of course rather than occasionally or towards a specific end. I could never get inside their head, or really understand how it affected them, but it sure as heck wrecked the lives of those around them.
In paragraph 5, you may wish to edit “the purest form of laying.”
My usual line is that all politicians lie, but Republicans lie all the time about everything. Perhaps bothsides qualitatively, but a couple orders of magnitude difference quantitatively.
@Kylopod: It isn’t that I don’t think it is accurate, but rather I find it a combination of useless and lazy.
Useless because not only do all politicians lie, all humans lie. And, as you note, not all lies are equal.
I fill compelled to quote a (fictional) psychiatric patient:
“Everybody lies,” Gregory House MD
We should differentiate our lies, here. All politicians lie because all voters on all sides demand that they lie. Voters don’t want the truth, they want to hear what they want to hear, and a politician who fails to tell them their preferred fairy tales soon becomes an ex-politician.
But voters did not order these lies. And there’s the issue. If you go through the Wendy’s drive-thru thinking you’ve been handed a spicy chicken sandwich and it turns out to be a single with no cheese, well, you get upset, don’t you? These are not the lies we ordered! And where’s the ketchup?
@Michael Reynolds: While I don’t disagree with your point, I’d broaden it a little: I think that if politicians are lying by adopting the positions voters want, then democracy is working the way it should. The problem is that a great deal of the time today, politicians’ behavior is not a response to voters, it’s a response to donors, and with gerrymandering, it’s the politicians choosing the voters rather than the other way around. It’s not the lying that’s the key problem, it’s the toxic incentives.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Disagree. The moral obligation to tell the truth attaches to all people, and there’s no, ‘but I’m a Congressman!’ exemption. And it’s very bad for the country to simply keep feeding people’s delusions – Right or Left – and actively concealing the truth. So things are only working the way democracy should if one sees government as nothing but fan service with no larger goal. Congressweasels don’t swear loyalty to re-election, or to their district, they swear loyalty to the Constitution of the United States, and pursuing the best interests of the nation is their sworn obligation.
This is much more than a lie. This is a classic con-man. Almost every single public detail of his life has been fabricated.
At this point, I’d be looking to see where he was actually born. There is no record that I’m aware of of him being born in Queens. as he has stated a few times. In fact, his wikipedia page lists nothing about his birthplace or birth date. That’s odd. If he was born in Brazil, when did he become a US citizen, since all of his Grandparents and both parents were born in Brazil? And much of his upbringing was in Brazil, as we know from records. I grew up in Queens, NY, and can say I attended PS 143 for first and second grade. There is no record him attending anyelementary school or high school in Queens. His bio list no schools at all on his own website.
When did he become a US Citizen? And how?
A cursory reading suggests that the Republicans playing short term vote calculus are probably making the wrong calculation. The fact pattern rather suggests a high chance that the fellow has openly dirty money in his accounts and a rather decent chance of a plain vanilla criminal indictment.
Cutting him loose is likely cutting losses early and getting ahead of a problem – and would provide cheaply bought moral high ground.
Of course coldly logical and rational calculus appears outsdie of the realm of Trumpist capacity.
All politicians obfuscate, shade the truth, cherry pick facts, and yes, every now and again just flat out lie.* But that is not what Santos has done here and will continue to do as long as he lives.
@MarkedMan: My ex was one such and what I went thru in extracting myself from her web of lies defies belief, and what she has done to my sons is staggering. My sons have forgiven her and that is their right to do so and may well be the only way they can heal. Me? No, I won’t. I won’t belabor the whys and wherefors, I’ll just say that deliberately harming my sons is a bridge too far. I will also note that the best thing she ever did for my sons was going to prison for 6 1/2 years.
My DiLs don’t understand, my sons’ friends don’t understand, why I refuse to acknowledge her presence on the few occasions where we are in the same room. And I will never say.
*and as noted by others above, this is all part of the human condition.
Are you going to let facts get in the way of a good story?
My family history is a collection of implausible stories passed down the generations. For instance, upon coming to America, a great, great grandfather changed the family name upon hearing of the rampant antisemitism in the United States which he inexplicably thought was a hatred of the Dutch. He also allegedly claimed to be German, while avoiding actual Germans who might catch him in his lies.
Is this literally true? Almost certainly not, but it’s better than the truth because it’s ridiculous and preposterous and brings to mind a man pretending to like sauerkraut and really just committing to a bit. It speaks to a higher truth.
The problem with Santos being such a fabulist is that he’s not crafting a good story, he’s just inserting himself into every notable event to claim a personal connection. It’s lazy. It’s bad storytelling.
@Lousbury: That you, Louns?
SOP for Republicans. The whole Trumpist “America First” thing is simplistic short term thinking. Obama and Biden put America first, but smart and long term. As you say,
Still more truthful than Trump.
@gVOR08: Tedious party political posturing about the inherent evil of your opposition is really quite boring. As is partisan self-back-patting.
The irrelevant America interest first self-congratulation entirely misses the point made – that is political self-interest coldly calculated. The feverish populist idiocy is self-cripping.
There is every sign that Mr Santos is very likely on the road to felony criminal indictments of the plain vanilla type – one can very reasonably guess that the sudden source of funds ties back to non legal sources, perhaps laundering of the ponzi scheme monies from the one confirmed firm he really did work for, moneies which one can read were never fully recovered, or other sources. Equally a strong basis to rather suspect his marrage to a woman was possibly an immigration fraud…
As such, non-frothing at the mouth Rs should rather coldly calculate that sacrificing him would be a low cost win – as the seat is rather likely to be lost to criminal indictment and better to gain political capital from a cheap moral win than what they are doing now.
@EddieInCA: the fact set of known information from young adult arrest in Brasil to including the marriage to a woman rather has the odour of immigration fraud as an added risk area (in addition to at the surface rather large number of reasons to suspect laundering of dirty money as his recent cash flow source).
The Trumpist tendancy reveal themselves to be emotional tribalists most unclever. I should think Mr McConnel must be gnashing his teeth in private for them crippling his reptilian ambitions.
@EddieInCA: I had the same thought. He lived with his mother in Brazil for at least part of his childhood and there is an arrest warrant waiting for him there for passing bad checks. So that seems to argue against citizenship. Contrawise, he might have been a green card marriage to foreign woman, in which case he would have had to have been a citizen. While he appears to be legitimately gay, he was married to a woman for several years, a non-US citizen. So the scam might have run the other way. But who can tell!?!?!?
From your mouth to god’s ear.
@OzarkHillbilly: I thought of you when I wrote that, but the primary example is a woman who is married to a friend and was best friends with another friend. This latter woman had been her roommate in college and after. Long story short, the fabulist told one set of lies that had her roommate on the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend but when she confronted him he provided incontrovertible evidence that what the liar had claimed had happened 1 hour before could not possibly have happened. She sat down on the sofa and unwound ten years of drama and heinous wrongs… and realized she has never personally witnessed a single one.
The fabulist seems to be addicted to lying like a drunk to alcohol.
The issue I have is not that he lied (all politicians lie), but rather that he’s so bad at it.
All the invoices at $199.99? Are you fucking serious?
A) That should trigger the “structuring” law (which this should legitimately apply to, rather than how it’s actually used).
B) He should be banned from office for just for being so fucking bad at hiding his graft. If he can’t pass muster on campaign expenses, how the fuck is he going to be able to navigate the intricacies of the federal government?
@MarkedMan:..The fabulist seems to be addicted to lying like a drunk to alcohol.
One of the first things my ex wife told me when we met (Christmas Eve ’94 in a local roadhouse) was about when she was still in high school her and some friends wanted to go to an outdoor rock concert they had heard about. It wasn’t all that far from where she lived but her mom told her that she would have to drive them to the site and check it out. That’s what mom did. Apparently she gave the site a close look when they got there and as she let the girls off she said: “OK girls have a good time.”
It was Woodstock!
I had no reason to doubt her. When I met her mother at our wedding mom confirmed the story.
I can’t really say when I realized that my wife was a serial liar but it got to the point where I couldn’t believe anything that she said. I am convinced that her drinking had everything to do with it. Or maybe it was the other way around. I do have it on good authority* that she learned to lie at a very young age. Of course I could not see that early in our relationship as I was drinking regularly too. And love really is blind. As bad as her drinking was, she wrecked the car I bought her three times and was in jail twice the first two years we were together all because of her drinking, I still believe that the lying was worse.
*A childhood friend of hers who is a Lutheran minister.
There’s a deeper mystery going on. Pathological liars don’t often make the jump into the reality they claim is theirs. Santos really reminds me of the guy who faked being a Rockefeller, and who ended conning his way into the Algonquin Club and marrying on his fake name. He pulled it off, just like Santos did, or almost did.
Trump Trump trump forever in your brains for the next 2 years LMAO
@One American: You all right, there, bud? Having a stroke? Pretty sure the subject of this post is George Santos. Do you need medical assistance?
He did say his ass fell off…
@EddieInCA: in other words, where is his birth certificate?