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Ethics group seeks investigation of Santos campaign finances

Campaign Legal Center questions source of funds for candidate loan, and ‘astounding’ number of expenditures just below important limit

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., walks through the House chamber before the start of debate over electing a House speaker on Jan. 5.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., walks through the House chamber before the start of debate over electing a House speaker on Jan. 5. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Rep. George Santos, the New York Republican who became embroiled in scandal after news reports cast doubt on his stated biography and on his campaign expenditures, faced yet another complaint Monday. 

The Campaign Legal Center, a Washington group that focuses on political money laws, filed a 50-page complaint with the Federal Election Commission detailing potential violations of federal election laws. 

The complaint alleges that Santos’ campaign “deliberately” and “routinely falsified its disclosure of disbursements” by reporting “an astounding 40 disbursements between $199 and $200, including 37 disbursements of exactly $199.99,” which the group determined was “implausible.” 

For disbursements of $200 or more, campaigns must be able to provide receipts in the event of an audit. 

The complaint also questioned where Santos got $705,000 he loaned his campaign last year, noting that when he ran for Congress in 2020, he reported only $55,000 in assets. Santos’ disclosure form filed last year 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.

“Unknown individuals or corporations may have illegally funneled money to Santos’s campaign through the newly formed Devolder LLC,” the complaint said.

The filing comes after Santos already is facing questions from the FEC itself. The FEC sent a letter last week to a joint fundraising committee, which benefits Santos’ campaign, saying that some of the contributions appeared to exceed the limits. “If any contribution you received exceeds the limits, you may have to refund the excessive amount,” a letter to the group’s treasurer stated.

Additionally, members of Congress have called on the House Ethics Committee to probe Santos.

Santos also faces criminal investigations, according to news reports.

“Representative Santos is facing the worst of all possible worlds: being the subject of multiple overlapping criminal and civil investigations by both federal and state authorities,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer with the firm Harmon Curran who is not involved with the Santos investigation.  “Few members of the House have the resources to withstand such a legal onslaught.”

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