Washington — The House Ethics Committee released a long-awaited report on its investigation into embattled Congressman George Santos on Thursday, finding there was “substantial evidence” that the congressman violated federal law and engaged in a “complex web” of illegal activity involving his finances.
The commission said in a statement announcing the release of its findings that the investigative subcommittee tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by Santos “unanimously concluded that there is substantial evidence” that he knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), used campaign funds for personal purposes, engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with a Florida-based company he controlled, and engaged in “knowing and willful” violations of federal ethics law related to with financial information returns filed in the House.
The full ethics panel voted unanimously to refer evidence of Santos’ alleged wrongdoing to the Justice Department, the release said.
“Representative Santos attempted to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his candidacy for his own financial gain,” the subcommittee, consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats, said in its report to the House Ethics Committee.
Joseph Murray, a lawyer for Santos, condemned the commission’s report in a statement to CBS News.
“This was a sickening hit that really shows how low our federal government has fallen and how we the people desperately need an Article V constitutional convention,” he said. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves.
Santos criticized the ethics commission for publishing what he said was a “biased report” and continued to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing. But the congressman announced he would not seek re-election in 2024, writing to X social media site that his “family deserves more than being in the spotlight all the time.”
“The committee has gone to extraordinary lengths to smear me and my legal team as not being ready (My legal bills suggest otherwise). This is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depth of how low our federal government has fallen,” he wrote to X. “Anyone involved in this gross miscarriage of justice should be ashamed of themselves.”
The ethics report of George Santos
The scathing report could give impetus to another effort to remove the New York Republican from Congress and possibly change the minds of those who were hesitant to support his expulsion.
The commission made no recommendations regarding Santos’ punishment. Mississippi Republican Rep. Michael Guest, the committee’s chairman, said before the report was released that lawmakers would decide how to proceed.
Guest said Wednesday that making such recommendations “would take several more months” and that the information in the report “would be sufficient for members to make a decision as to whether they think it would be right to expel Rep. Santos.”
The Ethics Commission accused Santos of “misleading and delaying” but said in its report that the scope of evidence collected by the investigative subcommittee leading the investigation “demonstrates the extent of Rep. Santos’ misconduct.”
In its 56-page report, which was presented and unanimously adopted by the full Ethics Commission, the four-member investigative panel said its investigation “uncovered a complex web of illegal activity involving Rep. Santos’ campaign, personal and business finances.”
The subcommittee accused Santos of a number of wrongdoings during his 2020 and 2022 congressional runs, including “blatantly” stealing from his campaign; tricking supporters into making what they believed to be donations to his campaign, even though they were payments for his own benefit; reporting fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors to make further contributions to his campaign, and then diverting the campaign money to himself; and using connections with high-value donors and political campaigns to get more money for himself.
“And he sustained all of this through a steady stream of lies to his constituents, donors and staff about his background and experience,” the subcommittee said.
The four-judge panel said Santos was a “knowing and active participant” in the alleged misconduct, although he tried to pin the blame on his former campaign treasurer. Investigators also accused the congressman of lying about his intention to cooperate with their review and said his “limited responses” to requests for information contained false statements that furthered lies he told during his 2022 congressional campaign Mr.
“It is a fundamental principle of civil service that public service is a public trust,” the subcommittee said in its report, adding that the evidence it found “reveals that Representative George Santos cannot be trusted. At almost every opportunity, he put his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles.”
The report detailed how Santos allegedly engaged in a fraudulent scheme to use a company linked to the congressman to funnel campaign donations into his personal bank accounts. According to the subcommittee’s findings, the company, Florida-based RedStone Strategies, received two transfers worth $25,000 from two contributors to Santos’ October 2022 congressional campaign, which were then deposited into his personal accounts. $50,000 was used to pay credit card bills and other debts; for a purchase of $4,127 at the Hermès luxury store; and for “smaller purchases” on OnlyFans, a subscription-based website where people sell adult content, the makeup store Sephora, and for food and parking.
Congressional investigators found that Santos also used campaign funds for spa services and beauty treatments. During his unsuccessful 2020 congressional bid, there was a $1,500 purchase on Santos’ campaign debit card from Mirza Aesthetics, which was listed as “Botox” in expense spreadsheets obtained by the subcommittee from Nancy Marks. the congressman’s former campaign treasurer, according to the report. A $1,400 Virtual Skin Spa charge to the campaign’s debit card in July 2022 was also labeled “Botox” on the spreadsheets, while the investigative panel found an unreported PayPal payment of $1,029 to an esthetician associated with a New York spa, the subcommittee said .
Santos told the FEC in an April letter that there were “errors and omissions” in his campaign finance reports filed with the commission and blamed Marks for the problems. But members of the subcommittee said Santos “actively conspired” with his former campaign treasurer to falsify campaign finance records.
Ethics Committee Investigation
The bipartisan commission announced in March that it had launched a broad investigation into Santos to determine whether he “engaged in illegal activity” during his 2022 campaign, violated federal conflict-of-interest laws and failed to properly fill out forms the House of Representatives Financial Disclosure Act.
The commission said it is also looking into an allegation of a sex crime by a person seeking employment in his congressional office.
Since then, the commission has given two updates on its investigation. In June, committee leaders announced more than 30 subpoenas and dozens of voluntary requests for information. About two weeks ago, the heads of committeesinvestigators contacted about 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents and issued 37 subpoenas. They said the investigation took “countless hours” and involved a “significant amount” of resources.
The report comes about two weeks after Santosby Congress as it faces almost . Santos has to all charges. Much of the conduct underlying the federal charges against the freshman congressman was scrutinized by the ethics subcommittee.
Santos faced hisin May, when Democrats tried to remove him from Congress after he was first indicted for fraud, money laundering and other crimes. Republicans blocked that effort and instead referred the matter to the Ethics Commission.
But a group of his fellow New York Republicans renewed efforts to oust him in October after he was hit with more indictments accusing him of stealing the identities of campaign donors and putting thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges on their credit cards. falsifying campaign finance reports, money laundering, etc.
That vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required to constitutionally remove a member, as most Republicans and 31 Democrats refused to support his punishment while the ethics committee’s investigation and criminal trial continue.
“I firmly stand by my innocence,” Santos said before the vote.
If the expulsion were successful, Santos would become only the sixth member of the House to be expelled from Congress. The most recent expulsion came in 2002, when Ohio Rep. James Traficant was removed from office after being convicted of 10 corruption-related crimes.
Rep. Nick LaLotta, one of the Republicans in New York’s delegation who tried to oust Santos, said Wednesday that it was “very likely” there would be another expulsion vote and blamed the Ethics Commission’s statement in October that it took ” the wind out of the sails of the expulsion effort.”
“We’ve been told that some members of our conference and across the aisle also want to hang their hat on something like an ethics committee report,” LaLotta said Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, who voted against Santos’ expulsion, said Wednesday, “It will be difficult for him to survive a vote” if there is “credible evidence” in the committee’s report.
Many of the Republicans in New York’s congressional delegationSantos to leave Congress – either by resignation or expulsion – after the Ethics Commission’s findings are released.
“George Santos must end this farce and resign immediately. If he refuses, he must be removed from Congress.” Representative Mike Lawler said on social media. “His behavior is not only indecent and disturbing, it is criminal. He is unfit to serve and must resign today.”
LaLota told X that the report confirms that Santos “is a total fraud who stole an election to get to Congress. The House must use our constitutional powers of expulsion. This will allow the Third District to participate in a valid election.”
Ellis Kim, Michael Kaplan and Jaala Brown contributed reporting