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Defendant caucus: FEC filings show Santos ailing, Menendez trailing

Santos posts negative numbers; Kim raises 28 percent more than Menendez

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., paid more in refunds than he got in contributions during the third quarter, new disclosures show.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., paid more in refunds than he got in contributions during the third quarter, new disclosures show. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New filings with the Federal Election Commission show that the two members of Congress facing criminal charges both could be in trouble if they survive their legal battles to run next year, though one is in much worse shape than the other. 

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., actually reported a negative number for total fundraising, and had debts that far exceeded the balance in his campaign account, according to a filing made Sunday covering the three months ending Sept. 30. 

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., meanwhile, raised a healthy $919,000. But Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who decided to run against Menendez after the senator flatly refused calls to resign, took in 28 percent more.

Here’s a breakdown of the disclosures and how things look for the congressional defendant caucus:

Negative numbers

Santos, a freshman whose win in a district covering parts of Queens and Nassau County was one of several in New York last year that helped the GOP take its narrow House majority, was indicted in May on 13 charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements on House disclosure reports.

Prosecutors added 10 more charges on Oct. 10, including accusations that Santos charged $12,000 to a donor’s credit card and then transferred most of it to his personal bank account and inflated what was in his campaign account to get support from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

There’s no sign of false inflation in his latest report, which shows that donations have almost dried up, and Santos paid more in refunds than he raised. Total receipts were reported as minus $17,000, the result of just over $1,000 in contributions and nearly $18,000 in refunds. His top donor during the period was a retiree in Nevada City, Calif., who gave $150, or $50 a month from July through September.

In the second quarter, Santos paid himself $85,000 from funds he had on hand as repayment of loans he said he made to the campaign in the 2022 cycle. No such payments were made in the third quarter, and those outstanding loans still total $630,000, the latest report shows. 

In the third quarter, Santos reported $42,000 in operating expenditures, including $20,000 for legal fees and $12,500 for “compliance consulting.” He also made a $1,000 donation to the We Love Whitestone Civic Association and spent $800 on meals at the Capitol Hill Club.

There was less than $23,000 in his campaign account on Sept. 30, but his report shows more than $123,000 in debts, many with a note saying the campaign treasurer became aware of them during “the current period.” They include $69,000 in legal fees, a $27,500 “win bonus” to a worker on the 2022 campaign and $10,000 for election night catering. 

Santos is fighting the charges against him and has refused calls to resign that have come from some New York Republicans but not from the House GOP leadership. Several of his New York GOP colleagues said after the most recent charges they would move on the floor to have Santos expelled from the House. A similar attempt by Democrats in May was tabled to the Ethics Committee.

Democratic former Rep. Tom Suozzi said last week he’ll seek to win back his old seat from Santos, but there is already a crowd of candidates in both parties running, many of them putting up their own money. 

Democrats running in the district who posted at least six figures raised during the quarter were former Army prosecutor Austin Cheng, who had $611,000 in receipts, with $504,000 coming from personal contributions and loans; former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who raised $333,000; and Democratic fundraiser Zak Malamed, who raised $304,000. Malamed finished the quarter with $530,000, Cheng with $459,000 and Kaplan with $419,000. Suozzi entered after the Sept. 30 deadline, but his account from his previous House runs still has $58,000

Top GOP fundraisers challenging Santos were retired NYPD detective Michael Sapraicone, whose personal loan accounted for $300,000 of his $552,000 in receipts; Air Force veteran Gregory Hach, whose personal loan contributed $200,000 of his $219,000 total receipts; moving company owner Daniel Norber, whose $205,000 includes a $150,000 personal loan; and Navy veteran Kellen Curry, who donated $20,000 of his $149,000 total. On Sept. 30, Sapraicone had $520,000, Curry had $244,000, Hach had $150,000 and Norber had $117,000.

Kim outraises Menendez

Menendez’s indictment became public on Sept. 22, days before the quarter ended, so it may be early to see any effect on donations yet. Still, he starts out in a far better position financially than Santos.

Menendez’s FEC report shows total receipts of $919,000 during the quarter, and he even took in $96,000 in interest or dividends on his campaign bankroll. PACs gave $69,000, including $5,000 each from the leadership PACs of Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who were not among the 31 Senate Democrats who called on Menendez to resign after the indictment. 

Menendez raised $919,000 during the quarter, but a Democratic rival raised more. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

He and his wife are accused of accepting bribes, including cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, from three New Jersey co-defendants, who are businessmen Menendez allegedly used his office to help. A superseding indictment issued Oct. 12 also accuses the senator, who stepped down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee after he was charged, of conspiring to use his office to operate on behalf of Egyptian officials without registering as a foreign agent.

Menendez has said he will fight the charges and be exonerated, but he has not said definitively if he’s running for reelection next year. Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman said after the newest charge was filed that Menendez should be expelled.

Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, one of the first members of the New Jersey delegation to call for Menendez to resign, announced he would run for the seat Sept. 23. 

Kim’s FEC report shows receipts of $1.2 million during the quarter, including $257,000 from people giving less than $200, the so-called small donors that can be a sign of broad voter support. Menendez reported $3,141 in small donations during the quarter.

But Menendez finished the quarter with $8.6 million in his campaign account, while Kim had $1.9 million.

Republican Christine Serrano Glassner filed her statement of candidacy days before the indictment and has already gotten the endorsement of several party officials. She did not appear to have filed an FEC report for the quarter.

Other candidates may get into the race, including other House members. State Democratic leaders have called for Menendez to resign, but there has been little movement to back a successor yet because the party is focused on defending its majorities in the state legislature next month.

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