A lengthy report from the committee published on Thursday stated that there was credible evidence to indicate that the Republican misused campaign funds for a wide range of personal expenses, committed fraud, and misled the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
It was a damning end to a months-long investigation which had, until now, been Mr Santos’s golden ticket to survive the repeated efforts by his fellow lawmakers — including Republicans from his own state — to kick him out of Congress. Now, his days in Congress are presumably numbered as it is overwhelmingly likely that the House will vote to expel him in the coming days.
Lawmakers tried as much only a few weeks ago, with Mr Santos being saved once again by colleagues who did not wish to set a precedent of prejudging a member under investigation by the Ethics Committee. The New York congressman was already facing numerous felony charges in New York under indictment from the Justice Department.
He will not run for re-election, according to a lengthy tirade posted to Twitter moments after the Ethics Committee report was released. Even that statement is a total reversal of a declaration he made to CNN’s Manu Raju less than a month ago in an interview.
In that same statement Thursday, he called for Americans to call a Constitutional Convention to radically reform Congress. This is unlikely to occur, and particularly so if it is championed by a congressman who has now admitted to fabricating nearly the entirety of his background and is known to have lied about everything from being descended from Holocaust survivors to seeing his mother die on 9/11.
Let’s dive into the Ethics Committee’s final report, which was referred to the Justice Department, and see what Mr Santos now stands accused of doing:
Fraud, fraud and more fraud
At the very top of the list is a staggering stretch of dishonest financial behaviour. The congressman is, in short, accused of lying about loaning his own money to his 2022 congressional campaign, then “paying himself back” for those fake loans with real money.
Those fake loans topped $500,000 — no small amount. But that’s not the only fraud Mr Santos is accused of engaging in; he is accused of deceiving donors into giving money to RedStone LLC, ostensibly to support his campaign; in reality, that money was also used, according to the Ethics Committee, as a kind of slush fund for Mr Santos’s personal use.
He and his campaign are also accused of obtaining donors’ credit card numbers and stealing their identities.
Misuse of campaign funds
This is perhaps the widest variety of crimes Mr Santos is alleged to have committed — though not by much.
The congressman “was frequently in debt, had an abysmal credit score, and relied on an ever-growing wallet of high-interest credit cards to fund his luxury spending habits,” according to the investigative subcommittee. He used campaign funds to pay off those credit card debts in part, according to the Ethics Committee, while also making direct deposits from campaign accounts into his personal bank account.
He supposedly used these funds — transferred to his private accounts through various means — to make purchases at luxury brands including Hermes, on OnlyFans and for expensive meals.
False FEC reports
No campaign-related fraud is complete without lying to the Federal Election Commission, and Mr Santos is accused of doing that too. This remains an issue being played out publicly in New York court, where two of his former campaign staffers have now pleaded guilty to finance-related crimes in connection with his campaign. One pretended to be a staffer for Kevin McCarthy. Another, his treasurer, is accused of filing false reports to the FEC detailing the congressman’s fictitious loans and other questionable spending. She has testified in court filings that Mr Santos knew about her activities; he has denied this.
But the House investigation makes it clear that Mr Santos’s own campaign staff described their finances as a “black box” controlled and viewed only by Mr Santos and the treasurer, Nancy Marks. Despite his public statements to the contrary, the subcommittee report described him as “highly involved in his campaign’s financial operations”, and also faulted him for ignoring warnings from his own campaign staff about Ms Marks and financial irregularities within the campaign’s spending reports.
“Even if Representative Santoswas not aware of all of the other errors in his campaign reports relating to other receipts and disbursements, he had his own concerns and was repeatedly advised by multiple members of his team about concerns regarding Ms. Marks, but he failed to take meaningful action,” the report found.