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Questions  on Source of Santos Funds   01/26 06:13

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Of all the questions swirling around U.S. Rep. George 
Santos, one of the most serious has been how he amassed the personal fortune he 
claimed to have used to finance his campaign. The Republican fabulist filed new 
campaign finance reports this week that only elevated the confusion over 
whether that money was all his, or came from some other source.

   Santos' campaign provided the Federal Election Commission amended versions 
Tuesday of reports covering the last two years, including forms that gave 
contradictory accounts of whether money he lent his campaign -- including a 
half-million-dollar loan last spring-- came out of his own pocket.

   The new reports raise fresh questions about Santos, who has admitted 
fabricating key parts of his life story and worked in recent years as a 
salesman for a company accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

   Questioned by reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill, the first-year 
congressman from New York again refused to answer questions and denied personal 
involvement in amending the campaign finance reports.

   "Let's make it very clear. I don't amend anything. I don't touch any of my 
FEC stuff, so don't be disingenuous and report that I did," Santos said. "Every 
campaign hires fiduciaries, so I'm not aware of that answer, but we will have 
an answer for the press regarding the amendments from yesterday."

   Since announcing his candidacy in 2021, Santos has reported loaning his 
campaign organization $705,000, accounting for nearly 25% of its receipts over 
the last two years. That included a $125,000 loan two weeks before the Nov. 8 
election

   At the time he reported those loans, Santos was portraying himself as a 
self-made millionaire with a history of big deals on Wall Street, a sizeable 
family real estate portfolio and plenty of money to back his own candidacy.

   Candidates are allowed to lend money to their campaigns. They can also take 
out a personal bank loan, then lend the money to their campaigns, though if 
that's the case, they must disclose the source of the funds, what the terms 
are, the period of repayment and interest rate.

   Santos' campaign filings, however, have been inconsistent in reporting 
whether his reported loans, including $80,000 in June 2021 and $500,000 in 
March 2022, were made with his own money. There were inconsistencies even on 
the amended forms submitted Tuesday.

   Some forms detailing the loans had an "X" in a box indicating they were made 
with "Personal Funds of the Candidate," but others did not. Even for the same 
loans, the answer varied from report to report.

   When the $500,000 loan was first reported, for instance, the "Personal 
Funds" box was not checked on a form included with an April 2022 quarterly 
report, suggesting the money had originated from a source other than Santos. On 
subsequent reports, however, the box was checked.

   Tuesday's amended versions had it both ways. In one amendment, the "personal 
funds" box was unchecked, suggesting again that the money originated with 
someone else. In another, it was checked.

   The lack of any explanation from Santos has made it tough to tell whether 
the changes were an attempt to correct an error or mere sloppiness of the part 
of his campaign treasurer.

   "George Santos keeps amending his life story, so it's not that big a 
surprise that he amends his FEC filings," said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson 
for the non-profit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in 
Washington. "Quite frankly, it's hard to trust anything he says as being 
accurate."

   Tuesday's submissions are the latest in a string of amendments that Santos' 
campaign has made to its campaign finance disclosures. Many reports posted to 
the FEC's website have been amended multiple times. One report is on its 
seventh revision.

   At the same time, the FEC has repeatedly flagged problems with the 
campaign's reports, sending more than two dozen letters requesting additional 
information about contributions, donors and Santos' loans.

   The original version of Santos' most recent filing, the post-general 
election report submitted on Dec. 8, included a mention of his $125,000 October 
loan but did not include a required separate form about the transaction. The 
FEC flagged the missing information and the amended report included the form.

   The underlying question remains how Santos earned the money.

   Despite his false claims of having worked for big, international banks, he 
was having financial problems up until a few years ago that led to multiple 
eviction proceedings from New York City apartments.

   When Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, his financial disclosure form 
listed a modest $55,000 salary from a financial company and no significant 
assets. After he lost that race, he took a job selling investments in a company 
that the Securities and Exchange Commission later accused of being a Ponzi 
scheme.

   Last summer, Santos filed a financial disclosure report suggesting an 
explosion in his personal wealth. He reported he was making $750,000 per year 
from his own company, the Devolder Organization, had $1 million to $5 million 
in savings and owned an apartment in Brazil worth up to $1 million.

   He has yet to fully answer questions about how he got so rich so quickly. In 
an interview with Semafor, Santos said he worked as a consultant for "high net 
worth individuals," helping broker the sale of luxury items like yachts and 
planes.

   "The amended filings really don't provide any clarity on where Santos got 
this money," said Saurav Ghosh, the director of federal reform for Campaign 
Legal Center, a non-profit watchdog that has filed a complaint about Santos 
with the FEC. "How did somebody who had virtually no assets or income come into 
millions of dollars overnight, and then funnel $700,000 of that money in his 
campaign?"

   "Anyone looking at that would be suspicious. It raises lots of red flags 
when somebody is a declared candidate and is also suddenly coming into a bunch 
of money, a large portion of which he's been using to run for office."

   Santos has rejected calls for his resignation, even from fellow Republican 
members of Congress, and says he wants to get to work serving his constituents.

 
 
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