House Democrats request ethics probe into George Santos for ‘defrauding Congress and the public’

Democratic representatives Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres are asking the House Committee on Ethics to investigate newly elected Republican US Rep George Santos, who entered office last week on a wave of falsehoods about his life and career.

The Democratic lawmakers, both from New York, have accused the New York Republican of violating the Ethics in Government Act for his failure to to file “timely, accurate and complete” financial disclosure reports.

A letter to the chairs of the House committee, sent just days after Mr Santos and House lawmakers were sworn into office, follows recent investigations that revealed fabrications about a bulk of his resume and a public history filled with bogus claims about his family, education, employment, personal finances and religion.

Mr Goldman, a former federal prosecutor whose House district includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, signed on to the letter on 10 January with Mr Torres, who has repeatedly warned about the introduction of a “pathological liar” in Congress and introduced legislation last month – the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker, or SANTOS Act – that would require candidates to disclose their employment, educational and military histories and punish lawmakers who lie about their qualifications.

The lawmakers’ notice to the House Ethics Committee follows several complaints from watchdog groups and heightened scrutiny into the newly minted congressman’s career and funding. Federal prosecutors and the office of New York Attorney General also are reviewing Mr Santos’s claims.

A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the nonpartisan watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center on Monday alleges that Mr Santos concealed the source of his campaign’s funding and misrepresented spending to cover personal expenses.

The congressman reported that his company, the Devolder Organization, paid him a $750,000 salary with dividends between $1m to $5m, drawing scrutiny over federal requirements to report disclosures of income of more than $5,000 from a single source.

“Mr Santos’ financial disclosure reports in 2020 and 2022 are sparse and perplexing,” according to Democrats’ complaint. “At a minimum, it is apparent that he did not file timely disclosure reports for his most recent campaign. Moreover, his own public statements have contradicted some information included in the 2022 financial disclosure and confirmed that the 2022 financial disclosure failed to disclose other required information.”

Mr Torres said “Santos must be held accountable for defrauding both Congress and the public.”

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Another group, End Citizens United, also has filed complaints with the FEC as well as the US Department of Justice and the Office of Congressional Ethics to “hold him accountable for his shady and unlawful actions.”

“Congressman Santos has shown a blatant disregard for the law and has flagrantly brushed aside the transparency voters deserve from their elected officials,” End Citizens United president Tiffany Muller said in a statement on Monday. “His actions are not only unethical, but illegal, and call into question his ability to serve.”

The complaint to the Justice Department alleges that Mr Santos violated the Ethics in Government Act by filing a late finance disclosure form and omitting various assets that he allegedly has held.

A complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleges that Mr Santos solicited campaign contributions in exchange for admission to a swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol. His campaign advertised round-trip bus fare from New York to Washington, among other meals and events in and around the city, for at least a $100 donation.

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The group’s FEC complaint asks the agency to investigate a $700,000 personal loan that the congressman made to his campaign that End Citizens United alleges came from a “shell company” or prohibited corporate donor.

The complaint also alleges that his campaign’s 40 payments of $199.99 were made in an effort to skirt federal laws that require campaigns to keep receipts of purchases that exceed $200.

Watchdog organisation Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has also called on Mr Santos to resign, and urged newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to remove Mr Santos from any committee with access to sensitive government information should he refuse to do so.

“Santos’s serial misrepresentations of the truth about a vast array of subjects have demonstrated an astonishing level of untrustworthiness,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement on Tuesday. “It would be a threat to our national security to allow him to serve on any committee where he would gain access to national intelligence.”

The Independent has requested comment from Mr Santos’s campaign. His congressional office told The Independent that it could not comment on campaign issues.