top of page

Throwing White Power Hand Signals Won't Get George Santos In Trouble With The GOP

Defrauding Their Wealthy Donors Is Another Matter

Apparently, stunning new revelations about George Santos’ dishonesty— including criminal activities— will never cease. This morning Isaac Stanley-Becker reported on a formal complaint filed today by the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan campaign watchdog, with the Federal Election Commission. The problem: “wide-ranging campaign finance violations, including masking the true source of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting his campaign’s spending and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses.”

“Particularly in light of Santos’s mountain of lies about his life and qualifications for office, the Commission should thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money,” the complaint argues.
The complaint names Santos and his primary campaign committee, along with his company, the Devolder Organization, and his treasurer, Nancy Marks. Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last year helped the GOP secure its narrow majority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marks has not responded to phone calls in recent days.
…As probes into Santos multiply, questions about how his campaign raised and spent money are coming into sharp focus.
He reported loaning his campaign more than $700,000 in the 2021-22 cycle despite having only $55,000 in earned income during his previous run for Congress in 2020, according to a financial disclosure. Campaign Legal Center called his claims of earning millions over the previous two years from the Devolder Organization “vague, uncorroborated, and non-credible in light of his many previous lies.”
Instead, the complaint alleges, “unknown individuals or corporations may have illegally funneled money” [Kremlin-connected Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg] to Santos’s campaign through his firm— part of what Campaign Legal Center describes as a scheme for the candidate to act as a straw donor to his own congressional bid. While candidates are permitted to contribute or loan their campaigns unlimited sums, the complaint argues that the money Santos gave to his campaign was not his own but rather given to him “in the guise of salary and dividends” for the purpose of making undisclosed or prohibited contributions that exceeded lawful limits.
The complaint also accuses Santos of misrepresenting his campaign’s spending. It notes that his campaign reported “an astounding 40 disbursements between $199 and $200, including 37 disbursements of exactly $199.99,” thereby eluding requirements to keep a receipt, invoice or canceled check for all spending above $200.
In some instances, the reported spending did not stand up to scrutiny, according to the complaint. It highlighted a reported $199.99 payment for an Oct. 13, 2021, “hotel stay” at the W South Beach, a Miami hotel whose least expensive room for a midweek stay in October is priced at more than $700. On a single day in November 2021, the campaign twice spent exactly $199.99 on food and beverage at an Italian restaurant in Queens, according to its public disclosures.
“This almost certainly is not an accurate accounting of the campaign’s expenses and suggests instead that the payments were either falsely reported or structured to avoid crossing the $200 mark,” the complaint argues.
Finally, the complaint alleges that Santos illegally used campaign funds to cover personal expenses, including paying rent on his personal residence in Huntington, N.Y. Payments associated with the property were identified as “apartment rental for staff” or “rent & rent deposit,” while Santos himself lived at the suburban home, according to the complaint.
Campaign Legal Center is asking the FEC to find reason to believe that Santos and others named in the complaint violated federal campaign finance law and to conduct an investigation. Enforcement by the federal regulator occurs through such complaints or through audits or referrals by other government agencies. Any probe would require four votes from the six-member body, which is divided evenly by party.
Already, the regulator’s analysts have found discrepancies in the Santos campaign’s regular filings, requesting information from his committee on more than 20 separate occasions over the past two years. While such requests are routine, and may prompt amendments or additional disclosure, the volume in this case is notable. The campaign has modified several filings but, according to Campaign Legal Center, has left various issues unresolved, including apparently excessive contributions flagged by FEC analysts.
The regulator’s most recent letter to the Santos campaign, issued last week, said the committee failed to properly identify all donors who contributed more than $200 and seems to have accepted contributions that breach limits set forth under federal law. The FEC asked for a response by Feb. 8.

Santos is already under investigation by the Nassau County district attorney, the Queen county district attorney, New York’s Attorney General, the Justice Department and the House Ethics Committee. This morning Brian Schwartz reported how Santos duped wealthy GOP campaign donors, a little trick sure to rile up even House Republicans.

One of Santos’ campaign finance staffers, Sam Miele, asked for contributions on the phone and with e-mails by impersonating McCarthy’s chief of staff, Dan Meyer. “The impersonation of the top House Republican’s chief of staff,” wrote Schwartz, “adds to an emerging picture of a winning congressional campaign propelled by fabrications and questionable tactics. Santos now finds himself in the sights of investigators and in danger of losing his political career even after he’s been sworn into office. In raising money for his campaign, Santos fed donors the same falsehoods he gave voters, campaign fundraisers and others say.”

“We were duped,” said a Republican political strategist close to GOP donors and the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The group banned Santos from future events after the revelation that the congressman falsely claimed to be Jewish.
The lies and embellishments helped Santos and his allies raise nearly $3 million for his winning 2022 campaign to represent New York’s 3rd District. The donations were spread between Santos’ campaign, a pro-Santos leadership PAC and two joint fundraising committees that were created to bring in money for his campaign, his leadership PAC and the Nassau County Republican Committee, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Some of the tactics deployed by campaign fundraisers have raised eyebrows among ethics and legal experts. Brendan Fischer, a deputy executive director of the watchdog Documented, and Robert Maguire, a research director at campaign ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, each told CNBC that the impersonation of McCarthy’s chief of staff could have broken the law.
“A person who misrepresented themselves as speaking on behalf of a candidate in order to raise money may have committed a criminal violation, and any other person who knowingly and willfully participated in the plan could also face criminal charges,” Fischer said in an email.
The Washington Times reported last month that one of Santos’ staffers was impersonating Meyer, but didn’t identify who it was. McCarthy’s team first learned about a Santos staffer impersonating the speaker’s chief of staff in August 2021, the Times wrote. The publication said the staffer would call donors pretending to be Meyer and send follow-up emails from a fake address.
…The campaign paid Sam Miele almost $50,000 for fundraising consulting during Santos’ failed 2020 run for Congress, and over $42,000 during the successful 2022 cycle, FEC records show.
Miele’s payments from the Santos campaign during the 2022 midterms went through an obscure limited liability company called The One57 Group, according to FEC records. Florida business records show that Miele is the manager of the company. The final $5,995 payment to the Miele-led company came in January 2022, according to an FEC filing.
Santos’ lawyer Murray said that Miele’s company waslet go about a year ago.”
An archived version of the company’s website boasts clients in New York, Washington, Florida and California. Yet, FEC records indicate that the The One57 Group has picked up very few political clients since it was first formed in New Jersey in early 2021.
Republican Tina Forte, who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), paid The One57 Group $500 in 2021 for what the filing calls “campaign consulting,” according to an FEC filing. A search through federal and state campaign finance records in New York, Florida and California shows that the company has seen only a few payments from any other political operation other than the Santos and Forte campaigns.
The One57 Group received only two payments in 2021 totaling $9,965 from the Rise NY PAC, a GOP-aligned group, according to New York state campaign finance records. Intrater donated $80,000 to the PAC over the course of the 2022 election cycle, state records show.
The payments to The One57 Group are just a fraction of the moves made by the Santos campaign that experts said were, at the very least, bizarre.

bottom of page