Questions remain about the source of George Santos’ campaign funds

NEW YORK – Of all the questions surrounding US Rep. George Santos, one of the most serious has been how he amassed the personal wealth he allegedly used to fund his election campaign. The Republican fabulist filed new campaign funding reports this week, only fueling confusion over whether that money was his alone or came from some other source.

Santos’ campaign on Tuesday provided the Federal Election Commission with altered versions of reports covering the past two years, including forms making conflicting claims about whether money he lent to his campaign — including a half-million-dollar loan in the last spring – came from his own pocket.

The new reports raise new questions about Santos, who has admitted to having invented important parts of his life story and in recent years has worked as a salesman for a company accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

Questioned by reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the first-year congressman from New York again refused to answer questions and denied having any personal involvement in altering the campaign’s financial statements.

“Let’s be very clear. I don’t change anything. I don’t touch any of my FEC stuff, so don’t be disingenuous and report that I did it,” Santos said. “Every campaign hires trustees so I’m not aware of that response but we will have a response for the press on yesterday’s amendments.”

Since announcing his candidacy in 2021, Santos has reported that he has loaned his campaign organization $705,000, which accounts for almost 25% of their earnings over the past two years. This included a $125,000 loan two weeks before the Nov. 8 election

At the time he reported those loans, Santos presented himself as a self-made millionaire with a history of big deals on Wall Street, a sizeable family real estate portfolio, and plenty of money for his own candidacy.

Candidates are allowed to borrow money for their campaigns. They can also take out a personal bank loan and then borrow the money for their campaigns, but if they do, they must disclose the source of the funds, the terms, the repayment period, and the interest rate.

However, Santos’ campaign filings have been inconsistent on whether his reported loans, including $80,000 in June 2021 and $500,000 in March 2022, were made with his own money. Even with the amended forms submitted on Tuesday, there were discrepancies.

Some forms detailing the loans had an “X” in a box indicating they were made with “candidate’s personal funds,” but others did not. Even for the same loans, the response varied from report to report.

For example, when the $500,000 loan was first reported, the Personal Funds box was not checked on a form accompanying an April 2022 quarterly report, suggesting the money was from a source other than Santos comes from box was ticked.

Tuesday’s modified versions had both. In one change, the Personal Funds checkbox was unchecked, again suggesting the money came from someone else. In another it was checked.

The lack of any explanation from Santos made it difficult to tell whether the changes were an attempt to correct a mistake or just sloppiness on the part of his campaign treasurer.

“George Santos keeps changing his life story, so it’s not a huge surprise that he’s changing his FEC filings,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Washington-based nonprofit monitoring organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. “Honestly, it’s hard to trust anything he says to be right.”

Tuesday’s filings are the latest in a series of changes Santos’ campaign has made to its campaign finance disclosures. Many reports published on the FEC website have been amended multiple times. One report is in its seventh revision.

At the same time, the FEC has repeatedly pointed out problems with the campaign’s reports and has sent out more than two dozen letters asking for additional information on Santos’ contributions, donors and loans.

The original version of Santos’ most recent filing, the post-general election report filed Dec. 8, included a mention of his $125,000 October loan but did not include a required separate form about the transaction. The FEC flagged the missing information and the amended report included the form.

The underlying question remains how Santos made the money.

Despite falsely claiming to have worked for large, international banks, he had financial problems up until a few years ago, which led to several New York City home evictions.

When Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, his financial disclosure form listed a modest salary of $55,000 from a financial firm and no significant assets. After losing that race, he took a job and sold investments in a company that the Securities and Exchange Commission later accused of being a Ponzi scheme.

Last summer, Santos filed a financial report that indicated an explosion in his personal wealth. He reported that he was making $750,000 a year with his own company, the Devolder Organization, had $1 million to $5 million in savings, and owned an apartment in Brazil worth up to $1 million.

He has yet to answer questions about how he got so rich so quickly. in a (n Interview with SemaforSantos said he worked as a consultant for “high net worth individuals,” helping broker the sale of luxury goods like yachts and airplanes.

“The amended filing really doesn’t provide clarity as to where Santos got this money from,” said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit regulator that filed a complaint with the FEC about Santos. “How did someone with virtually no wealth or income make millions of dollars overnight and then pour $700,000 of that money into their campaign?”

“Anyone who looks at this becomes suspicious. It raises a lot of red flags when someone is a declared candidate and suddenly gets a pile of money, a large chunk of which they used to run for office.”

Santos has dismissed calls for his resignation, even from other Republican congressmen, and says he wants to go to work to serve his constituents.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Questions remain about the source of George Santos’ campaign funds

Sarah Y. Kim

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