A nonpartisan ethics watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against freshman Rep. George Santos on Monday, urging the agency to investigate the New York Republican for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.
The ethics complaint — filed by the Campaign Legal Center — came shortly after Santos was sworn into the House early Saturday morning following the days-long Speaker election, officially installing him as a lawmaker in the 118th Congress.
The watchdog is specifically interested in allegations that Santos took part in a straw donor scheme to hide the sources behind a loan he made to his campaign; that he purposely falsified numbers on his disclosure reports; and that he wrongfully used campaign funds for personal matters, among other claims.
The group also referenced revelations that Santos embellished parts of his biography and résumé — which the congressman has admitted to — in its complaint as a reason why a probe is necessary.
“As part of his latest campaign of duplicity, Santos also appears to have violated federal campaign finance laws by knowingly and willfully concealing the true sources of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting how his campaign spent its money, and illegally paying for personal expenses with campaign funds,” the complaint reads.
“Particularly in light of Santos’s mountain of lies about his life and qualifications for office, the Commission should thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money,” it adds.
Reached for comment, an FEC spokesperson told The Hill that the commission does not comment on pending enforcement matters. The Hill reached out to Santos’ attorney for comment.
The ethics complaint accuses Santos and other unidentified individuals of engaging in a straw donor scheme. The watchdog is zeroing in on the $705,000 in loans Santos gave to his 2022 campaign, noting that he only disclosed $55,000 in “earned income” on his May 2020 financial disclosure.
The group suspects that individuals gave money to Santos disguised as salaries and dividends to his organization, Devolder LLC, for the purpose of donating to the campaign.
“As such, there is reason to believe unknown persons made, and Santos knowingly and willfully acted as a straw donor for, illegal contributions to his campaign, which the campaign knowingly accepted,” the complaint reads, noting that the donations either exceeded contribution limits or violated bans on contributions from corporate or foreign nationals.
The watchdog is also alleging that Santos falsified reported disbursements, pointing out disbursements listed between $199 and $200 — 37 of which were $199.99 — and writing that “The sheer number of these just-under-$200 disbursements is implausible, and some payments appear to be impossible given the nature of the item or service covered.”
“Accordingly, there is reason to believe Santos’s campaign deliberately falsified its disbursement reporting, among numerous other reporting violations,” the complaint adds.
The group also accuses the campaign of “knowingly and willfully” filing false disclosure reports during the 2022 campaign, “including deliberately reporting inaccurate disbursement figures that do not reflect how the campaign actually spent its money.”
Additionally, the watchdog alleges that Santos used campaign funds for personal matters, such as paying the congressman’s rent and/or that of his staffers.
Santos arrived in Washington last week amid intense scrutiny for embellishing parts of his resume. He refused to answer questions from reporters in the Capitol who inquired about the growing controversy. The congressman, however, has vowed that he will not resign.
He is the subject of several probes, including ones led by the Eastern District of New York and the Nassau County district attorney. Additionally, a spokeswoman for the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor’s office told The New York Times last week that it will make a formal request with the Justice Department to inform him that a 2008 criminal fraud case involving him will be reopened.
The Campaign Legal Center complaint is not the first to be filed against Santos. Last week, American Bridge 21st Century urged the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Santos on allegations that he falsified his financial disclosure reports and omitted details from the documents.