A campaign monitoring group is filing a complaint with the US Federal Election Commission on Monday, alleging newly sworn-in Representative George Santos illegally used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. and concealed the source of the more than $700,000 that New York Republicans had plowed. to your election bid.
The Campaign Legal Center complaint also alleges that the struggling congressman’s campaign falsified the way they spent campaign funds, citing dozens of disbursements of exactly $199.99. US dollars – one cent less than the threshold at which campaigns are required to retain receipts.
The complaint marks the latest potential legal complication for Santos, who has been widely criticized for fabrications about his biography. Federal prosecutors are investigating his finances, and law enforcement officials in Brazil say they will reinstate fraud charges against him, related to a stolen checkbook. in 2008. it filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, urging an investigation into financial disclosure reports that Santos had submitted to the US House of Representatives as a candidate. .
“George Santos lied to voters about a lot of things, but lying about your background may not be illegal, lying to voters about your campaign funding and spending is a serious offence. federal law,” Adav Noti, senior deputy at the Presidential Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.
Santos’ personal attorney, Joe Murray, declined to comment on Monday, saying he has not seen the complaint. CNN has also reached out to Santos through his congressional office and campaign treasurer.
Murray has previously defended the operation of the campaign, saying in a statement, “The idea that the Santos campaign engaged in any illegal spending of campaign funds is irresponsible. duty.”
Santos has publicly admitted to lying about parts of his biography, including the claim that he graduated from college, but he insists he has committed no crime and intends to serve his term in the National Guard. festival. He and other House members were sworn in early Saturday, following Kevin McCarthy’s protracted struggle to become a speaker.
QUESTIONS worth US$705,000
Some of the biggest questions surrounding Santos’ campaign focus on the financial fortunes that allowed Republicans to lend $705,000 for his successful 2022 campaign. Santos overthrew the Democratic-held seat on Long Island in November, giving Republicans a majority in the House.
During Santos’ previous failed congressional run in 2020, his personal financial disclosure form listed no assets and a salary of $55,000, according to a complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center. .
Two years later, Santos reported a salary of $750,000 from the Devolder Foundation, which he said earned between $1,000,001 and $5 million the previous year. He also said he owns an apartment in Rio De Janeiro, a checking account worth between $100,001 and $250,000, and a savings account worth between $1,000,001 and $5 million.
In the complaint, the Campaign Legal Center notes that Santos’ campaign loans and bids to Congress were “essentially concurrent with Devolder’s sudden formation and success.” Santos formed a company called Devolder LLC in Florida three weeks after placing its 2022 bid, according to the complaint and its exhibits.
The cases “indicate that unidentified individuals or corporations may have illegally transferred funds to the Santos campaign,” lawyers for the Campaign Legal Center argued in their complaint.
While candidates may contribute or lend an unlimited amount of personal money to their own campaigns, giving corporate money to a congressional candidate or raising money in the name of of another person or entity is a violation of federal law.
In an interview last month with Semafor, Santos described Devolder as conducting “deal building” and “special advice” for “high net worth individuals” and said he “hit a few million dollar deals” within the first six months. start the company.
His financial disclosure form does not list any Devolder clients, and the Campaign Legal Center complaint notes that Santos previously gave a different description of the company on its campaign website. in his translation, calling it “his family’s company” and describing him as overseeing $80 million in assets under management.
PERSONAL PERSONAL USE
The Campaign Legal Center has also asked federal campaign finance regulators to examine rent payments — including a total of $10,900 to Cleaner 123 Inc. in Huntington, New York. Spending is described in the campaign’s financial statements as “rent” or “employee rent”.
The New York Times, which first published a story about Santos’ campaign records, reported that a neighbor said Santos had lived at the address for months.
The FEC, often stuck on a partisan line, doesn’t always investigate complaints — prompting watchdog groups to sometimes ask the courts to intervene and force the agency to collect civil fines for violations. campaign.
Federal prosecutors have successfully pursued criminal cases involving “straw donors” – when someone donates on behalf of another person – and cases where politicians have moved money from donors for personal use.
The Campaign Legal Center announcement calls for the FEC to act on its own.
“As the agency responsible for enforcing US campaign finance laws, the FEC has a responsibility to the public to uncover the truth about how George Santos raised and spent his money,” he said. used to run for public office”.