Truth-allergic Rep. George Santos (R-NY) spent donor funds not on his improbable run for Congress but on personal extravagances such as Botox treatments, high-end clothing, and OnlyFans subscriptions, according to a damning report and associated documents released Thursday by the House Ethics Committee.
“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” the Investigative Subcommittee wrote in its findings.
Here’s a rundown of some of the alleged wrongdoing revealed today:
Santos made a $1,500 purchase during the 2020 campaign, using the campaign debit card, which “could not be verified as having a campaign nexus,” the Investigative Subcommittee’s report states. “[T]his expense was not reported to the FEC and was noted as ‘Botox’ in expense spreadsheets” turned over to investigators, it continues. The session took place at Mirza Aesthetics, a Manhattan medspa run by a doctor whose license was suspended in 2021 over breast and penile enhancements gone wrong. Santos also used the campaign debit card for an unreported $1,400 Botox treatment at another area spa, and the investigative subcommittee says it identified a third unreported payment of $1,029.30 to “an esthetician associated with a spa in Rhinebeck, New York.”
Living the High Life
Santos formed a company in Florida, RedStone Strategies LLC, then provided glowing reviews of its services to other pols while pretending he was simply an extremely satisfied customer, the subcommittee’s report says. In one instance, Santos recommended RedStone to another candidate running for office, calling the firm “a widely used campaign organization for plenty of the politicians in Mar-a-Lago,” according to the report. “Representative Santos made it seem like he had never met the other individuals involved with the company, who were in fact all associates of his, and he did not disclose his own role in the company,” it goes on, noting that Redstone Strategies “was hired by that campaign and made over $110,000 for ‘digital consulting and fundraising’ and ‘compliance consulting.’” Santos himself got $50,000 of this, which was deposited into his personal accounts, investigators say.
“[T]he funds were used to, among other things: pay down personal credit card bills and other debt; make a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes; and for smaller purchases at Only Fans; Sephora; and for meals and for parking. The [Investigative Subcommittee] did not find evidence showing that the contributions received… were used to support Representative Santos’ candidacy.”
Devious Donut Diplomacy
One of the appendices to the report contains screenshots of text messages between Santos and his staff, offering a fascinating if somewhat disturbing peek into the congressman’s daily operations. In one, two unidentified Santos aides discuss a box of donuts their boss left outside his office for the “freaks” who cover him in the news media. “Gonna try to get you in here to meet him. He’s busy at the moment,” one says. “No worries,” the other replies. “I’m getting the gossip out here. Donuts were a hit… Need more. Chic fil a for lunch.” The second staffer continues, “We should keep the table and put flowers or pamphlets on it, with a mic under it. No expectation of privacy in the hallway. We will know what’s coming.” “Not the worst idea,” comes the response.
Amid the profligate spending using unwitting donors’ money, congressional investigators say some Santos staffers raised concerns. One told him they were “worried about the look of the campaign spending all this money on... all these dinners and travel outside of the district.” Another downplayed any worries, but described the congressman as “definitely a high roller,” the report states, making note of $2,281.52 in campaign expenditures at resorts in Atlantic City from July 23 to July 24, 2022.
“With respect to the Atlantic City expenditures, the [investigative subcommittee] did not receive records of any political or campaign events occurring in Atlantic City at that time,” it says. “... Another former staffer did not recall ‘any sort of fundraising or campaign things in Atlantic City,’ but did recall that Representative Santos told him that he enjoyed visiting casinos to play roulette, often with his husband.”
The subcommittee’s investigation also discovered suspicious charges Santos made to the campaign reported to the FEC as lodging and transportation expenses. A $3,332.81 payment in July 2022 to Airbnb, for example, was listed by Santos as a “hotel stay.” However, “[r]eview of the campaign’s calendar on that date indicated that Representative Santos was ‘off at [the] Hampton’s for the weekend,’” the report says. “The [subcommittee] also reviewed additional taxi and hotel charges on the campaign credit card that were incurred in Las Vegas in December 2021, during a time when Representative Santos had told his campaign staff that he was on his honeymoon and there were no corresponding campaign events on his calendar.”
In addition to the allegedly fudged campaign expenditures, investigators say Santos also brazenly transferred donor funds from his campaign accounts to himself—and never reported it, either. Last November, a bank account controlled by Santos received $20,000 from the Santos campaign “at a time when that account had a negative balance,” the subcommittee writes. “[I]n the week after it was transferred... it was used to make about $6,000 worth of purchases at Ferragamo stores, withdraw $800 in cash from an ATM at a casino, withdraw $1,000 in cash from an ATM near Representative Santos’ apartment, and to pay Representative Santos’ rent.”
Oh, Come On
Santos was required to begin filing financial disclosure statements in 2020, as a candidate, and this responsibility, of course, extends through his time in Congress. “Despite this, Representative Santos has failed to file two of his required FD Statements and made numerous errors and omissions in the two FD Statements that he did file (one of which he filed over three months late),” the subcommittee writes. “To date, he has not filed the necessary amendments or late disclosures for the relevant years.” The report says committee staffers have “repeatedly” reminded Santos about his obligations, even offering to help walk him through the details. Yet, the report goes on, “[i]n a recent interview, [Santos] cast himself as a victim, someone who is being held to a different standard and was never told by the Committee to correct his FD filings. This is just another fraud on the electorate.”
Oh, Come On: Part II
Any issues with his financial disclosures were not his fault, Santos insisted, according to the report. Rather, Santos told investigators—via his attorney, the report notes—that he used a “professional tax preparer” to help him, fobbing off the blame on her. However, when the subcommittee contacted the tax preparer, she “denied assisting with any FD Statements,” and said she “did no work [for Santos] other than tax filings” during the period in question. “In fact, there is no evidence that anyone assisted Representative Santos with his FD Statements,” the report states. “Records from the online disclosure system indicate that it was Representative Santos himself who filed his 2020 and 2022 statements. Even if he had received assistance from the tax preparer or any other individual, all filers are personally required to certify that FD Statements submitted to the House are ‘true, complete, and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.’”