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Santos off to slow start on constituent casework

House offices can handle many constituent tax cases a month. The embattled New York Republican hasn’t.

Rep. George Santos reports few results when it comes to constituent casework with the IRS. The New York Republican pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges earlier this year.
Rep. George Santos reports few results when it comes to constituent casework with the IRS. The New York Republican pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When Rep. George Santos took office amid revelations that he fabricated nearly every detail of the life he presented to voters, he claimed that he would nevertheless serve them faithfully in Congress.

“I am committed to serving the people of New York’s 3rd Congressional District,” Santos said when he was sworn in. “The work of Congress is not about my personal life, this is about delivering results for my constituents.”

But a Roll Call investigation has found that the Republican went months without contacting the Internal Revenue Service or Small Business Administration on behalf of constituents.

Roll Call submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to a number of government agencies frequently contacted by congressional offices on behalf of their constituents, asking for correspondence from Santos’ office between his swearing-in on Jan. 7 and the date of the request, May 3. Both the IRS and SBA said they found none. (Other agencies sent similar requests have not yet replied.) 

Reached for comment, a spokeswoman in Santos’ office said that, as of Monday, the office has handled 11 cases between the two agencies. “According to our records, we have [sic] it looks like we have 7 solved cases for IRS and 1 on active/on-hold case. We also have 2 SBA cases solved and 1 Active,” Communications Director Gabrielle Lipsky wrote in an email.

When asked to confirm when those cases were opened, Lipsky responded, “Those are all the IRS or SBA cases we have received, processed, or are currently working on throughout the entire term. Out of all the cases we handle, passports lead the way, followed by immigration, social security, veterans, IRS, SBA, and Medicare.”

The office would not provide other numbers, including a total of all cases it has solved for constituents.

For comparison’s sake, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said his office currently has 30 active constituent cases with the IRS and has, to date, “recovered over a half a million dollars in funds for constituents.”

When told that Santos was reporting only seven closed IRS constituent cases, D’Esposito appeared dumbfounded. “Obviously, there are people calling,” he said. “Are they getting the information and then not moving forward with cases or are they just not answering the phone calls?”

Another neighbor, Rep. Nick LaLota, announced last week that his office had “successfully closed 1,079 constituent cases.” Like Santos and D’Esposito, LaLota is a Long Island Republican first elected to Congress in 2022. LaLota’s office did not respond to requests to break down those cases by agency to provide a more apt comparison, but the release does note that they helped “over 500 families” obtain passports from the State Department.

Even during their first few months, a congressional office can expect dozens, if not hundreds, of requests for help with the IRS, said a constituent coordinator for a House Democrat who asked not to be named because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. She noted that SBA cases usually number one or two a month, so going the period between January and May without one would be unusual, but not unheard of.

Roll Call did not submit FOIA requests regarding Santos’ colleagues’ casework.

Constituent services is considered one of the fundamental duties of a congressional office. As the Congressional Research Service quoted one former member as saying, “You learn more about the job by doing constituent service work than anything else. … It tells you whether or not the legislation is doing what it is supposed to do.”

When Santos’ laundry list of lies first garnered national media attention, D’Esposito announced he would try to help out constituents in that district, which mostly covers the northern half of Nassau County, in addition to his own in the 4th District that covers the southern part of Nassau. But it turns out ethics rules constrain how much members of Congress can do for non-constituents, meaning D’Esposito has had to refer many back to either Santos’ office or the state’s senators, Democrats Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“There has been an abundance in calls not only from my district, but his as well. And, you know, we take them on a case-by-case basis while serving the people of the 4th District and trying to help out the 3rd as best we can,” D’Esposito said. “We do continue to take calls, not only from [Santos’] constituents, but also partners in government that have no interest in dealing with his office.”

Roll Call asked the senators’ offices if they had noticed any increase in requests from Santos’ district. Gillibrand’s office did not respond. “We are always getting a large number of calls from all across the state — because we deliver and we’re fast,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro wrote in an email. “We don’t break up cases by district.”

D’Esposito and LaLota have both called on Santos to resign, as have their fellow New York Republican Reps. Nick Langworthy, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams, and most Democrats. Despite facing those demands and having been charged with 13 federal offenses including wire fraud and lying to Congress, Santos has refused to step down.

Democrats tried to force a vote to expel Santos from Congress in May, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy preferred the measure be referred to the Ethics Committee, and the House voted to follow McCarthy’s lead. The speaker urged the Ethics Committee to move quickly; in the meantime, Santos provides the GOP another vote in a narrowly divided House. 

On Monday, Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres of New York, Dan Goldman of New York and Robert Garcia of California introduced a resolution to censure Santos, saying McCarthy was shielding him from facing consequences for his many lies.

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