Why Hasn't The Department Of Justice Arrested George Santos Yet?
Most members of Congress who break campaign finance laws get away with it. But on Monday night, when McCarthy told George Santos to resign from his two committees that he had never served a moment on, it was clear that the Department of Justice had tipped McCarthy off that their investigation of the Long Island freshmen was going to land him in prison. As Aaron Blake put it this morning, his removal from his committees just days after he got those assignments, “is the surest sign to date that the Republican Party feels compelled to rethink its posture on him. No matter how badly McCarthy needs Santos’ vote, every situation has its breaking point. And even raw political calculus like McCarthy’s must account for his party potentially having to own a scandal that it allowed to fester.” Every day there is a new revelation about Santos. He has more investigators— from the media and from law enforcement agencies— delving into him than the rest of Congress combined (including Matt Gaetz!). This is no longer a narrative about a compulsive liar. This is about a congressman who’s on his way to prison. And this is our 42nd post devoted to Santos!
These were yesterday’s top stories on Google News about Santos, including an insincere apology (“Ive learned my lesson”), his campaign treasurer resigning, several new stories about finance fraud, and stuff about being forced to resign from his committees… But the story I want to focus on, wasn’t there— and no doubt, that will be one that comes up at his trial. Noah Lanard and David Corn reported some more on a very serious part of the Santos saga: straw donors. He was obviously putting illicit money— probably from Putin-connected Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and from Italian (not Italian-American) mobster Rocco Oppedisano, who owns the restaurant where Santos laundered his dirty money— into his campaign (and into his own pockets) by claiming it came from other people, some nonexistent, some relatives who say they never gave him a nickel. It's still illegal to take campaign money from foreigners. By the way, when I said members of Congress get away with finance violations, I forgot to mention that straw donor schemes are serious enough so that not even members of Congress get away with it.
Lanard and Corn wrote that “According to Santos’ campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission, his recent campaign pulled in more than $45,000 from relatives who lived in Queens. This included a mail handler who gave more than $4,000, a painter who donated the maximum of $5,800, and a student who also contributed $5,800. One of Santos’ relatives, who was recorded as giving $5,800, says that they did not make any donation to Santos. On Tuesday, a Mother Jones reporter visited the Queens home of this relative. Informed that two donations of $2,900 each were listed under this person’s name and address in Santos’ campaign finance reports, the relative, who asked not to be identified, said, ‘I’m dumbfounded.’ The relative had no idea where the money for these donations came from and remarked, ‘It’s all news to me.’ This person added, ‘I don’t have that money to throw around!’”
Santos’ 2022 campaign filings list his sister Tiffany giving more than $5,000. (She also ran Rise NY, a political action committee that paid her more than $21,000.) When a Mother Jones reporter contacted her on Tuesday, she would not confirm whether she or her relatives had made the contributions attributed to them by Santos’ campaign. Last month, the Daily Beast reported that New York court records show that Tiffany was facing potential eviction for failure to pay rent.
In the previous story, Mother Jones detailed instances of suspicious donations to Santos’ 2020 campaign, which he lost by 12 points. The examples included maximum contributions from Victoria and Jonathan Regor, who were listed as residing at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey. A search of various databases found no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, that address does not exist, according to Google Maps and a resident who lives on that street. One of Santos’ New York relatives is named Victoria Devolder Rego. There is no record of her living on New Mexico Street. (Santos’ recent campaign reported donations made under the name of Victoria Devolder for $5,800.)
Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also listed Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and noted that he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But the homeowner who lives at that address, William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, said, through a spokesperson, that he “does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived” at the address listed in Santos’ FEC filings. Brandt also said he never contributed to Santos.
According to FEC records, a donor named Stephen Burger contributed $21,600 to Santos’ campaign and political committees supporting Santos during the 2022 campaign. The address listed for him could not be confirmed through public records.
…The questions sparked by contributions to Santos’ campaign add to a number of money mysteries dogging Santos. He has yet to identify the source of $705,000 he loaned his 2022 campaign. Nor has he explained his curious personal finances. In 2020, he declared on his financial disclosure form that he had made $55,000 in salary that year working for a company that organized investor conferences. In 2022, his financial disclosure filing stated that he had made between $3.5 million and $11.5 million through a company he set up in May 2021, after another firm he worked for had been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a Ponzi scheme. Santos has not detailed how the firm he created generated so much money for him in such a short time. And he has repeatedly lied about his career, education, family history, and much more.
And late yesterday, Politico reported that the FBI is investigating Santos’ role in the GoFundMe scheme involving, a disabled U.S. Navy veteran, Richard Osthoff’s dying service dog. Short version: Santos stole the $3,000 he collected for Sapphire’s (the dog) cancer treatment. “Joshua Schiller, a senior trial lawyer who has practiced in the Eastern District, said the veteran’s encounter with Santos could offer prosecutors a quick way to hit the Republican congressman with criminal charges even though they’re also investigating heftier possible financial crimes. ‘I think there is an urgency here because Santos is currently in a position to make laws,’ Schiller said. ‘I can think of examples where the government used a lesser indictment to seize assets and try to cause the defendant to plea to a deal before bringing a second or third indictment on more serious charges, and I bet that is the case here.’”
Freshman Democrat Dan Goldman, an ex-federal prosecutor who has a seat on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability: “Given that a serial liar like Santos is still walking the halls of the Capitol, it is imperative that the Justice Department move quickly to determine whether an indictment is appropriate.”
Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that “Americans remain deeply distrustful of and dissatisfied with their government. Just 20% say they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time– a sentiment that has changed very little since former President George W. Bush’s second term in office.
A report from the Harvard Kennedy School looked at why no one trusts elites any longer. “Democratic governance expert Archon Fung says that since 2016 we have entered a political era dramatically different from the previous 35 years. He calls it a period of ‘wide aperture, low deference democracy.’ In simplest terms, it’s a time when a much wider range of ideas and potential policies are being debated and when traditional leaders in politics, media, academia, and culture are increasingly being questioned, pushed aside, and ignored by a distrustful public. And while developments including social media proliferation and the rise of disinformation have shaped this political moment, he says the fate of those leaders and elites is also significantly of their own making, because they have supported self-interested policies that have resulted in the largest levels of economic inequality since the Gilded Age and a government that is responsive to the wealthy but not to ordinary citizens.”
Justice is very slow for elites. Trump is not just still free, he has still not been indicted and is even running for president again! If Santos isn’t arrested and brought to trial soon, it will just be another national grievance against a government that may murder someone like Tyre Nichols while a crooked congressman walks around free as a bird and a thief like Sam Bankman-Fried who used stolen money to bribe scores of congressmen is allowed to stay at his parents house awaiting trial instead of in a jail cell.