Questions are being raised about the nearly $3 million out Rep. George Santos (R-NY) raised for his 2022 campaign, with some donors saying they were tricked into believing that one of Santos’s staffers worked for one of the most powerful Republicans in D.C. instead of the political newcomer.
A CNBC reports that a Santos campaign staffer named Sam Miele allegedly pretended to be Dan Meyer, chief of staff to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Miele, saying he was Meyer, called and emailed wealthy Republican donors, according to a GOP donor who spoke to CNBC. McCarthy’s team reportedly learned that someone was impersonating them in August 2021 and that Miele used a fake email address to send and respond to emails as Meyer.
This scheme could cause legal problems for Santos if he knew what Miele was doing.
“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,” Brendan Fischer of the watchdog group Documented said.
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Donors have said that Santos lied about his background to them when he raised funds. He has admitted to lying about his education, his work history, his family, and other parts of his past.
“We were duped,” said a GOP strategist who is close to the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Late last month, Santos was found to have lied about being Jewish, with his campaign describing him in a position paper for Jewish donors as a “proud American Jew.” He later said that he meant that he was “Jew-ish” because he “learned” that part of his family had a “Jewish background.”
Eric Levine, a lawyer who donated $500 to Santos’s campaign, said he doesn’t like Santos anymore after news of his lies came out. He said he particularly “soured” on Santos when he saw him cozying up with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and other extremists in Congress.
What “Santos did is disgusting,” Levine said in an email to CNBC. “He deserves to be humiliated and held in contempt.”
Other questions have been raised about how Santos could raise $3 million in campaign funds. The campaign watchdog group Campaign Legal Center is asking the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate the $705,000 that Santos said he loaned to his campaign. Considering he declared an income of $55,000 in 2020, the group wants the FEC to find out “how he could have done so with his own funds.”
“His claims of having earned millions of dollars in 2021 and 2022 from a supposed consulting business that he started in May 2021, Devolder Organization LLC, are vague, uncorroborated and non-credible in light of his many previous lies,” the complaint reads.
The complaint suggests that Santos may have made up the income to hide illegal campaign contributions.
“The volume and timing of Santos’s dramatic increase in income and assets, the lack of a clear explanation of how he generated that income, his well-documented penchant for dishonesty, and the fact that he then used $705,000 from his sudden windfall to fund his subsequent congressional campaign strongly suggests that the rapid shift in Santos’s finances was not a mere coincidence, but a direct result of unknown persons directly, and illegally, giving him money to run for federal office,” the complaint reads.
Santos’s office is not commenting on the stories.
Last month, Santos admitted that he lied about graduating from Baruch College and New York University, working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and having a charity called “Friends of Pets.” He provided no additional proof to back up claims that his mother died in the 9/11 attacks, that his grandparents escaped the Holocaust, and that he lost four employees in the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. He called the lies “a little bit of fluff” on his resume.
His ex-boyfriend, Pedro Vilarva, said that, while they lived together, he paid many bills for Santos. He suspects that Santos stole and pawned his phone for cash.
“He used to say he would get money from Citigroup, he was an investor,” Vilarva said. “One day it’s one thing, one day it’s another thing. He never ever actually went to work.”
He also lied about not writing fraudulent checks in Brazil in the late 2000s, something that he confessed to in 2010 and that Brazilian authorities have said they are re-opening their investigation into.