The appointment of newly elected congressman George Santos to two House committees has drawn widespread criticism from Democratic officials and critics scrutinising the New York Republican for his alleged campaign finance violations and a fabricated profile with a growing list of false claims about his education and career.
Democratic lawmakers and some Republican officials, including party leadership in his own state, have called on Mr Santos to resign following a wave of accusations that he made up a bulk of his resume, life story and professional accomplishments. He has refused to step down.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, balancing a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives that will need support from nearly every member to make any headway on the GOP’s agenda, had previously said that Mr Santos would receive some committee assignments.
On 17 January, the GOP steering committee, led by Mr McCarthy, voted to give Mr Santos seats on the House Committee on Small Business and Science, Space and Technology committee.
His critics have noted that Mr Santos will now join a House panel on small business while it remains unclear what business he did before entering Congress after lying about working at several companies and obtaining a business degree.
Others joked that the assignments are a great get for such a “successful small business owner and astronaut”.
Democratic congressman Ritchie Torres, a New York representative and one of Mr Santos’s most prominent opponents in the new Congress, pointed out that the small business committee oversees the administration of the Paycheck Protection Program, a massive Covid-19-era relief programme that has also been targeted for fraud.
“Outrageous,” he said. “Can a fraud like George Santos be trusted to root out rampant fraud in the PPP program?”
Several House Republicans had previously argued that Mr Santos should not be seated on any committee – especially committees that handle sensitive information – until investigations are performed.
“I don’t condone what he said, what he’s done. I don’t think anybody does,” small business chair Roger Williams told CNN on Tuesday. “That’s not my role. He was elected. He represents a million people.”
Congressman Torres and fellow New York Rep Daniel Goldman have asked the House Committee on Ethics to investigate Mr Santos for his failure to file “timely, accurate and complete” financial disclosure reports.
Republican congressman Nick LaLota also has pressed the ethics committee to investigate Mr Santos. Mr LaLota and a group of six other House Republicans also have called on Mr Santos to resign.
Mr LaLota called on the Federal Election Commission and the US Department of Justice to freeze Mr Santos’s campaign accounts and “act now to ensure there is something to actually return to the victims of Santos’ financial scam,” he said in a statement.
Lawmakers’ statements follow several other complaints from watchdog groups and heightened scrutiny into Mr Santos’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 FEC by the nonpartisan watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center alleges that Mr Santos concealed the source of his campaign’s funding and misrepresented spending to cover personal expenses.
Another group, End Citizens United, also filed complaints with the FEC as well as the Justice Department and the Office of Congressional Ethics to “hold him accountable for his shady and unlawful actions.”
“I was elected to serve the people of [New York’s 3rd District] not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that,” he announced on Twitter on 11 January. “I will NOT resign!”