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Democrats ask ethics panel to probe Santos’ financial disclosures

New York Republican’s form was filed late for 2022 election

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., walks outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., walks outside a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Two New York Democratic House members filed a complaint Tuesday with the House Ethics panel against their fellow Empire State Rep. George Santos, a Republican who has found himself mired in scandal since winning his seat in November.

Reps. Dan Goldman, a freshman like Santos, and Ritchie Torres, who is serving his second term, requested in a six-page letter that the committee investigate allegations against Santos. They said Santos failed to file “timely, accurate, and complete financial disclosure reports as required by law.” 

It’s just the latest in a string of problems for Santos, who has been the subject of numerous news stories and, subsequently, calls for investigations into his campaign finances and other matters. Santos also faces criminal investigations, according to news reports. 

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday asking the agency to investigate Santos’ campaign reports and detailing potential violations of political money laws. That 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.” 

The CLC 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.

Goldman and Torres’ complaint to House Ethics says that Santos’ financial disclosure reports in 2020 and 2022 “are sparse and perplexing. At a minimum, it is apparent that he did not file timely disclosure reports for his most recent campaign. Moreover, his own public statements have contradicted some information included in the 2022 financial disclosure and confirmed that the 2022 financial disclosure failed to disclose other required information.”

Santos lost a 2020 bid for the seat and launched another run in 2021. The complaint notes his first financial disclosure form was filed in September 2022, after he won the Republican nomination, while House rules require a disclosure to be filed within 30 days of becoming a candidate or May 15 at the latest.

That report also said Santos owned an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, worth between $500,000 and $1 million. But the Democrats noted media interviews in which Santos said he did not own any property. Santos also disclosed earning dividends from a company he owned worth more than $1 million in 2021 and 2022, but Goldman and Torres said the company as Santos has described it would not have assets to distribute dividends.

Members of Congress, and not the general public, may file complaints with the House Ethics Committee, which may conduct its probes in secret. 

The Office of Congressional Ethics, by contrast, will take complaints from outsiders and produces reports that are made public. 

House Republicans, in their rules package for the 118th Congress, made changes to OCE that outside ethics groups said would gut the office, leading to less public transparency of such probes. 

Though the House GOP-backed changes appear subtle, such as imposing term limits on OCE board members, they could make it difficult for OCE to staff up and make other decisions, if the office does not have a full slate of board members. 

“House Republicans’ proposal will handcuff the nonpartisan ethics office, making it more difficult to ensure there are consequences for breaking the rules,” said Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, in a news release Monday evening after the House GOP approved its rules package. “As their first legislative act, Congressional Republicans have decided to significantly weaken the independent ethics office. Their actions are a complete failure of leadership.”

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