Posts tagged with "House Ethics Committee"

George Santos now indicates $625K of loans to his campaign might not be ‘personal’

January 27, 2023

New campaign disclosures from embattled Representative George Santos (R-New York) suggest that at least $625,000 in campaign loans he had previously reported as self-funded might not be sourced from his “personal funds,” reports ABCNews.

Campaign finance experts say Santos may be violating campaign finance laws by not properly disclosing the original sources of those loans.

In a series of amendments filed on Tuesday, January 24, Santos marked two loans that he had previously reported as loans from himself— $500,000 from March 2022 and $125,000 from October 2022—as not from “personal funds from the candidate.”

In a previous version of his campaign disclosure, the $500,000 was reported as a loan from George Anthony Devolder-Santos, with a checked box indicating it was from “personal funds of the candidate.” But in an amendment to that report filed on Tuesday, that box was left unchecked.

Similarly, in another amendment filed on Tuesday, the $125,000 loan was reported as a self-loan from Santos but it had an unmarked box now indicating that it’s not from his personal funds. That loan was previously reported under the contributions section, with a memo that it was a self-loan from Santos.

Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert and the deputy executive director of Documented, said a campaign loan reported under a candidate, but not marked as “personal funds of the candidate,” usually means that the loan is secured through a bank or another person.

Under campaign finance laws, disclosures of such loans are required to be accompanied by the original source of the loans as well as the due date and the interest rate, Fischer said. But Santos’ amended filings did not disclose any of that information.

Santos declined to comment on the changes when asked by reporters outside his office on Wednesday: “I have no comment for you on that … I have no clue on what you are talking about,” he said.

Fischer said Santos’ new amendments “make no sense” and added that “unchecking the box is not going to absolve Santos from any legal liabilities.”

Adav Noti, former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center, said the possibility of the changes being unintentional clerical errors, which the Santos campaign has a history of, should not be discounted at this point.

“I don’t think the amendments shed light either way on anything that happened,” Noti said. “There’s one checkbox on one form that was changed. There’s no indication that that was intentional, and there’s all sorts of indication that it might have just been sloppiness.”

Regardless of the intention of the changes, campaign finance lawyer and Deputy Executive Director of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation Paul Seamus Ryan emphasized the importance of proper disclosures of campaign funds.

“Disclosure of the source and terms of such a loan is important because federal law requires that loans obtained by a candidate for use in the candidate’s campaign must be on the usual and customary terms that would be offered to any similarly situated borrower,” Ryan said.

“I’m not sure what Santos’ motivation was for the loan-related amendments, but he hasn’t cleared up potential violations of federal law,” Ryan added.

Santos, who was elected in November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, has been under mounting scrutiny over his finances—with 2022 disclosures indicating millions in assets after previously disclosing less than $60,000 in income in 2020—as well as a string of falsehoods and embellishments he told about his background.

Democrats also have filed a complaint against him with the House Ethics Committee.

Santos has insisted he is not a criminal and has vowed to serve his term for his constituents—suggesting it’s up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office. He was recently given assignments on two lower-level congressional committees: the panels for small business and science, space and technology.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that “I will hold  him [Santos] to the same standard I hold anyone else elected.”

If Santos is found to have broken the law, then “we will remove him,” McCarthy said, though it was unclear what punishment McCarthy was promising.

Research contact: @abcnews

Democrats call for probe into G.O.P. congressman-elect’s biography

December 21, 2022

The chairman of New York’s Democratic Party called on Monday, December 19,  for a House ethics investigation into George Santos, a Long Island Republican elected last month, following a report questioning whether he misled voters about key details in his background, reports The Washington Post.

The story—originally released by The New York Timescast doubt on Santos’s claims that he worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and on the basis of his reported wealth, as he loaned his campaign more than $700,000 before notching a surprise win that helped provide the G.O.P. with a slim majority.

“This is about one of the biggest messes I’ve ever seen from anyone who is about to become a member of the Congress,” said Jay Jacobs, the New York Democratic Party chairman, adding later, “I think that had voters seen this information, understood the ramifications and how egregious it really was, I don’t see how he would have won the race.”

In a statement, Santos’s attorney criticized the Times without addressing the substance of the report.

“It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” Joseph Murray said in a statement posted to Santos’s Twitter.

Santos, a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump who said he attended a rally on the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in November. He claimed in an archived version of his campaign website that he “began working at Citigroup as an associate and quickly advanced” and that he “was then offered an exciting opportunity with Goldman Sachs but what he thought would be the pinnacle of his career was not as fulfilling as he had anticipated.”

Representatives for both Citigroup and Goldman Sachs confirmed to The Washington Post that they had no record that Santos worked for either company. References to Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are not on Santos’s current biography page of the website.

Zimmerman, in an interview with The Post, echoed Jacobs’s calls for a probe into whether Santos made false statements on the personal financial disclosure form that candidates are required to file with the clerk of the House.

“An investigation is merited because of the serious allegations of filing false information on his financial disclosure documents and … questions about his finances [and] where his funds came from,” said Zimmerman, calling on the House Ethics Committee and the U.S. attorney’s office to look into the claims.

Some Democrats expressed disbelief on Monday that questions about Santos’s background didn’t surface more clearly during the campaign. Representative Mondaire Jones (D-New York) a member of the House Ethics Committee, noted his surprise that the issues hadn’t emerged in prior reporting and opposition research—particularly, given that Santos had unsuccessfully run for Congress in 2020.

“As someone who’s had every case I’ve ever worked on vetted by opponents in both cycles, it’s difficult to overstate how many people would’ve had to drop the ball in not even verifying the mere fact of Congressman-elect Santos’ prior employment as he ran to flip a key House seat,” Jones tweeted. Jones’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Zimmerman said the allegations in the Times story are “not a shock to me.” He said his campaign learned about “many of these issues but were drowned out in the governor’s race where crimes was the focus and the media had other priorities.”

An 87-page opposition research report on Santos released during the race by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not mention some of the issues raised in the Times story. The group’s opposition research relies on public records to verify employment and education, said a Democratic operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal processes. The operative also said Democrats had less time and resources than usual to scrutinize Republican nominees’ records in New York because this year’s primary was delayed until August amid a redistricting fight. Even then, Santos was considered a long shot and Democrats had other priorities.

Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said that “there are a lot of red flags” that may merit an investigation. She cited questions about whether Santos made false statements in his financial disclosure report, a potentially serious offense that could be governed by a number of laws.

However, with the slim Republican majority in the House, some ethics experts doubted whether Santos would face any serious repercussions in Congress.

“The House is responsible for determining the qualifications of its own members and, if we had a system that was genuinely built around integrity, they would refuse to seat this guy and have a special election,” said Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute who helped create the Office of Compliance and the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Of course the odds of that happening are zero.”

Santos previously has been the subject of scrutiny over his attendance at the January 6 rally, at which Trump falsely claimed he won the election. Santos later said on a podcast hosted by Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law, that it “was the most amazing crowd, and the president was at his full awesomeness that day. It was a front-row spectacle for me.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: ‘These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time’

May  17, 2021

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) took a swipe at Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) on Thursday, May 13— likening her to the “kinds of people that I threw out of bars” after the GOP newcomer aggressively confronted her outside the House chamber the day before, The Hill reports.

“I used to work as a bartender. These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“For me, this isn’t even about how I feel. It’s that I refuse to allow young women, people of color, people who are standing up for what they believe, to see [these] kind[s] of intimidation attempts by a person who supports white supremacists in our nation’s Capitol,” she continued.

Greene is facing blowback from Democrats off the heels of a Washington Post report that she harassed Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday and shouted at her as the two left the floor.

Greene repeatedly yelled, “Hey, Alexandria,” according to two Washington Post reporters who witnessed the incident. Ocasio-Cortez reportedly did not stop to address Greene, who went on to press the young progressive on her support for Black Lives Matter, which Greene claimed to be a “terrorist” group.

“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene reportedly shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and Antifa?”

After Ocasio-Cortez’s departure, Greene also reportedly called the Democrat a “radical socialist” and a “chicken” who “doesn’t want to debate the Green New Deal.”

The report came after Greene challenged Ocasio-Cortez to a debate over her “Green New Deal” legislation. Not long after, Greene also went up to Ocasio-Cortez in the House chamber and posted a photo of the moment on social media.

Greene defended her actions Thursday and rejected the notion that her behavior was uncivil.

“So she throws out paying customers. Is that how she feels? She throws out paying customers, is what she’s saying?” Greene said in response to a reporter who relayed how Ocasio-Cortez compared her to an aggressive bar patron.

“You know, it would be nice if they would treat us civilly. But ever since January 6, they can’t even treat us with respect. And we were just as much as victims of the riot here, too. We didn’t cause it,” Greene continued. “All these lies that they say on and on and on. You know, they need to be civil. None of them [is]civil to me.

“I was telling her, you need to debate me, you need to defend your policy,” she added. “There is nothing wrong with that.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s office has expressed concerns about security for congressional members and staff after the incident, The Hill notes.

“We hope leadership and the Sergeant at Arms will take real steps to make Congress a safe, civil place for all Members and staff—especially as many offices are discussing reopening. One Member has already been forced to relocate her office due to Congresswoman Greene’s attacks,” a spokesperson for her office, Lauren Hitt, told the Post.

Earlier this year, Representative Cori Bush (D-Missourialso announced that she would be moving her office away from Greene’s after she said the Georgia lawmaker berated her.

“I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,” Bush tweeted at the time about the move.

Greene countered that Bush instigated the exchange by yelling at her to put on a mask in a House hallway and posted a video of the exchange.

“She is lying to you. She berated me. Maybe Representative Bush didn’t realize I was live on video, but I have the receipts,” Greene said at the time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on Thursday described Greene’s confrontation with Ocasio-Cortez as a “verbal assault,” and warned the situation could be a matter for the House Ethics Committee.

Pelosi called Greene’s behavior “so beyond the pale of anything that is in keeping with bringing honor to the House.”

Research contact: @thehill