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House Ethics Committee finds George Santos violated federal criminal laws

The New York Republican “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit," according to a committee report.

The House Ethics Committee has found "substantial evidence" that Rep. George Santos violated federal criminal laws, according to a damning report the committee released on Thursday.

The New York Republican, the report said, "sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit," including using campaign funds for personal use, deceiving donors who thought they were contributing to his campaign, and reporting "fictitious loans" to his political committees to "induce" additional contributions.

"And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience," the report stated.

The Republican-led committee said it unanimously voted to refer the evidence to the Justice Department, noting that it includes alleged violations beyond what Santos has already been charged with. The panel did not make a recommendation to the House.

The committee lamented Santos' "lack of candor during the investigation," and said he blamed others even though he was "a knowing and active participant in the wrongdoing."

Santos, who has so far resisted calls for his resignation, tweeted shortly after the report’s release that he will not seek re-election in 2024. He called the report a “grave miscarriage of Justice” but said he would continue to serve his constituents “up until I am allowed.”

The full, 56-page report put together by the committee’s investigative subcommittee laid out the breadth of Santos’ alleged misconduct, calling it “unprecedented in many respects.” The scope of the alleged violations, it added, is “highly unusual and damning.” Worst of all, the committee wrote, Santos’ “fraud on the electorate is ongoing — he continues to propound falsehoods and misrepresentations rather than take responsibility for his actions.”

The findings paint a pattern of bold and blatant misuse of campaign funds, including for expenses as small as parking fees. Santos, the committee said, used some of the funds donated to his campaign to pay off his credit card bills and make purchases at Hermes, Sephora and OnlyFans, a content subscription website best known for its adult content.

Santos' campaign also racked up “significant travel expenses” and other expenditures that the committee said "could not be verified as having a campaign nexus." There was a $3,332.81 Airbnb charge to campaign funds in July 2022, on a weekend Santos was scheduled to be in the Hamptons. The campaign credit card was used on taxi and hotel charges in Las Vegas in December 2021, when no campaign events were scheduled and Santos had told his staff he was on his honeymoon. There were also several charges on the campaign debit card during the 2020 campaign that were labeled "Botox" on expense spreadsheets.

The report cited "myriad reporting errors" in Santos' bookkeeping that shielded suspicious transactions, and although he blamed his treasurer for the errors, the investigative subcommittee determined that "they were part of an overall scheme to avoid transparency about his campaign’s finances."

So far, the mountain of controversies surrounding his campaign finances and his personal background haven't managed to put a nail in Santos' political coffin — yet. He has weathered two previous expulsion votes in the House, but he might not be able to survive a third: Since the report was published, a growing chorus of House members have said they will vote to expel him.