George Santos watchdog federal complaint alleges he hid source of campaign funding using ‘straw donor’ scheme

A watchdog group filed a complaint Monday urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate newly sworn-in Rep. George Santos, alleging he hid the true source of his campaign funding. 

Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., alleges in a federal complaint obtained by Fox News Digital that unknown individuals or corporations may have funneled money to Santos’s campaign through a supposed consulting business, Devolder, LLC. 

Despite having just $55,000 to his name in 2020, Santos claimed to have earned millions of dollars in 2021 and 2022 from the consulting business he founded and purported to loan his campaign $705,000 during the election. The allegations also include that Santos falsified on 37 filings on expenditures just under the $200 threshold, which requires reporting of the date, amount and purpose of the expenditure. 

‘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 says. ‘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.’ 

The complaint alleges Santos participated in a ‘straw donor’ scheme involving an unknown individual or group – either people, corporations, or possibly foreign nationals — who made illegal contributions to Santos’ campaign, drawing from funds disguised as then-candidate’s income earned through Devolder, LLC. 

‘Voters deserve the truth. They have a right to know who is spending to influence their vote and their government and they have a right to know how the candidates competing for their vote are spending those funds,’ said Adav Noti, senior vice president and legal director at Campaign Legal Center. ‘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. 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.’

Santos, elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional District, admitted to fabricating aspects of his resume, including basic, verifiable facts about the schools he attended and degrees he attained, his employment history, his ownership of multiple real estate properties, his religion, and even his ancestry and racial identity. The complaint notes that the congressman, sworn in on Saturday by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is also wanted in Brazil for using stolen checks to make fraudulent purchases in 2008 — a crime for which he was charged by Brazilian authorities and to which he reportedly confessed in 2010. Much of the post-election revelations on Santos were first reported by The New York Times. 

Fox News Digital reached out to Santos’ attorney, Joseph Murray, but did not immediately hear back. 

Initially, the victory by Santos, an openly gay Republican who flipped a Long Island House seat held by Democrats for a decade, was seen as one of his party’s bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming midterm election. However, as reports began to emerge that he had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree, Santos turned into a distraction and embarrassment to the party as it prepares to take control of the House.

While some fellow Republicans have called for ethics investigations or for Santos to resign, GOP House leaders, including McCarthy, have notably remained silent. For his part, Santos apologized for his fabrications and downplayed them as ‘sins’ over embellishing his resume, telling The New York Post that ‘we do stupid things in life.’

Santos’ financial disclosure forms show that he accrued a quick fortune despite recent financial problems and that he spent large amounts of campaign funds on travel and hotels.

Monday’s watchdog complaint is not the same as a criminal complaint brought by federal prosecutors. So far, Santos has not been charged by the Justice Department. 

Federal prosecutors in New York have started to examine Santos’ background and his financial dealings, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The New York attorney general’s office said it is looking into the allegations surrounding Santos, while local district attorneys’ offices in Queens and Long Island have also said they are reviewing whether Santos broke any laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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