Watchdog group accuses George Santos of campaign finance violations in FEC complaint

Watchdog group accuses George Santos of campaign finance violations in FEC complaint

Newly elected Republican Representative from New York George Santos attends the US House of Representatives voting for new speaker at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 4, 2023.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

A national watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos for allegedly violating numerous campaign finance laws during his successful run for Congress.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog organization, filed the complaint with the FEC on Monday. The group accuses the Santos campaign of allegedly violating three counts of campaign finance laws, including one tied to a $705,000 loan the lawmaker made to his campaign.

“It is far more likely, instead, that after failing to win his 2020 bid for Congress, Santos and other unknown persons worked out a scheme to surreptitiously — and illegally — funnel money into his 2022 campaign,” the complaint reads. “The concealed true source behind $705,000 in contributions to Santos’s campaign could be a corporation or foreign national — both of which are categorically barred from contributing to federal candidates.”

The FEC didn’t immediately return a request for comment. A Santos spokeswoman referred CNBC to the congressman’s attorneys. A Santos attorney did not return a request for comment.

Santos is under scrutiny by congressional lawmakers and federal authorities for lying and embellishing key elements of his resume during his 2022 campaign for New York’s 3rd Congressional District. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York are examining Santos’ finances, including potential irregularities involving financial disclosures and loans Santos made to his campaign while he was running for Congress, according to NBC News.

Santos has admitted in an interview with City & State New York that he embellished his resume. While he’s apologized to anyone “disappointed by resume embellishments,” he vehemently denies committing any crimes.

The Campaign Legal Center claims that the loan he made to his campaign may have come from a straw donor. Santos’ latest financial disclosure says he made $750,000 from 2021 through 2022 from his company, the Devolder Organization. Santos told WABC radio host John Catsimatidis, who also donated to Santos, that the loan came from “money I paid myself through the Devolder Organization.”

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The watchdog accuses Santos of possibly concealing the true source of the money that his campaign labeled as a loan.

The group also accuses Santos’ campaign of falsifying its reported disbursements and using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses.

“George Santos has lied to voters about a lot of things, but while lying about your background might not be illegal, deceiving voters about your campaign’s funding and spending is a serious violation of federal law,” Adav Noti, legal director at the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement. “That is what we are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate. As the agency responsible for enforcing America’s campaign finance laws, the FEC owes it to the public to find out the truth about how George Santos raised and spent the money he used to run for public office, and to ensure accountability for Santos’s illegal conduct.” 

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