Fellow New York Republican calls for Santos ethics investigation

1st District Rep.-elect Nick LaLota says incoming GOP majority needs ‘opportunity to govern without this distraction’

Rep.-elect Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., said an investigation by the House Ethics Committee and possibly law enforcement is required into fellow Republican Rep.-elect George Santos, who admitted falsifying parts of his biography during this year's campaign. (Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM/Getty)
Rep.-elect Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., said an investigation by the House Ethics Committee and possibly law enforcement is required into fellow Republican Rep.-elect George Santos, who admitted falsifying parts of his biography during this year's campaign. (Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM/Getty)
Posted December 27, 2022 at 4:54pm

Rep.-elect Nick LaLota, a Republican set to be sworn in next week, on Tuesday called for an ethics investigation into his fellow New Yorker George Santos, who admitted to embellishing parts of his résumé.

“Over the last few weeks I have heard from countless Long Islanders how deeply troubled they are by the headlines surrounding George Santos,” LaLota said in a statement. “As a Navy man who campaigned on restoring accountability and integrity to our government, I believe a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee and, if necessary, law enforcement, is required.”

LaLota’s statement comes as House GOP leaders haven’t commented on Santos, who flipped New York’s 3rd District red last month in his second bid for Congress. A New York Times report last week raised questions about Santos’ biography and financial dealings.

“My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry,” Santos told the New York Post in a Monday interview. 

Santos said he would be sworn into Congress and that he would “be effective” and “good.” 

Among the falsehoods Santos portrayed in his biography, he said he had never worked directly for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup and that he had not graduated from a college or university. He said he does not own any properties, after saying he and his family were landlords. Santos, who is gay, also acknowledged a previous marriage with a woman. 

He said he is Catholic, but “because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.'” His claim that his grandparents fled the Holocaust was disputed by The Forward, which found documents indicating they had been born in Brazil.

In his 2020 bid for office, Santos — who listed his name as George Anthony Devolder-Santos — listed no assets and an income of $55,000 on disclosure forms filed with the House clerk. In a form filed in September of this year, however, he said he had a 100 percent interest in a firm, Devolder Organization, that paid him between $1 million and $5 million in dividends in 2021 and 2022, plus a salary of $750,000 in each of those years. In this year’s election, Santos loaned his campaign $705,000, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

“All of my finances come from the firm. The assets are the contracts with the firm,” Santos said in the interview with the New York Post. 

LaLota’s statement is a sign that Santos’ attempt to downplay questions about his background may not be enough. 

“New Yorkers deserve the truth and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction,” LaLota said.

Another incoming New York Republican, Rep.-elect Anthony D’Esposito, said in a statement Tuesday that Santos’ “fabrications regarding the Holocaust and his family's history are particularly hurtful.”

“While Santos has taken a required first step by ‘coming clean’ with respect to his education, work experience and other issues, he must continue to pursue a path of honesty,” said D’Esposito, who will also represent a Long Island-area seat. 

At least one outside group has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics. Both that office and the House Ethics Committee would only have jurisdiction over Santos after he is sworn into office. 

Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat who lost to Santos in last month’s election, called on Santos to resign and run against him in a special election. 

Santos has said he would vote for California Rep. Kevin McCarthy to be speaker when he is sworn in next week. McCarthy faces opposition from members of the House Freedom Caucus as he seeks to lead the chamber, and he needs 218 of the 222 members of the incoming GOP majority to vote for him if every member votes for a leader. 

In an appearance on CNN on Monday night, former House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said members traditionally have not wanted to make the panel a referee over things that happened during campaigns. He speculated there might be pressure brought on Santos to resign if he becomes a distraction, but that would be after the vote for speaker had taken place.

Herb Jackson contributed to this report.