About a week after Rep. George Santos’ lies became a major national story, The New York Post reported that senior House Republicans were aware of the Republican’s deceptions, and the topic had become a “running joke” among some GOP insiders ahead of last year’s midterm elections.
We still don’t know exactly how many Republicans knew about the congressman’s con job, but The New York Times reported some fresh details over the weekend.
In late 2021, as he prepared to make a second run for a suburban New York City House seat, George Santos gave permission for his campaign to commission a routine background study on him. Campaigns frequently rely on this kind of research, known as vulnerability studies, to identify anything problematic that an opponent might seize on. But when the report came back on Mr. Santos, the findings by a Washington research firm were far more startling, suggesting a pattern of deception that cut to the heart of the image he had cultivated as a wealthy financier.
The Republican researchers were so alarmed by Santos’ record that they urged him to end his candidacy in order to avoid future humiliation. When he proceeded with his campaign anyway, some GOP operatives resigned.
Or put another way, knowledge of Santos’ lies apparently wasn’t limited to the congressman himself. We now have two reports, one of which said his deceptions were a “running joke” among some in the party, followed by another that said “well-connected” Republican campaign professionals knew the then-candidate was a fraud. The Times added that “in the upper echelons of his own party,” there were widespread suspicions about the man we now know to be a fabulist.
Well-connected supporters suspected him of lying and demanded to see his résumé. Another former campaign vendor warned a state party official about what he believed were questionable business practices. And the head of the main House Republican super PAC told some lawmakers and donors that he believed Mr. Santos’s story did not add up.
And yet, Santos’ campaign — which is to say, his ultimately successful congressional candidacy — proceeded throughout 2022, and GOP insiders were content to look the other way.
Indeed, even now, on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of House Republicans are calling for Santos to resign in disgrace, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still content to look the other way because party leaders can’t afford to see their small majority shrink.
It’s against this backdrop that NBC News reported on two New York congressional Democrats, Reps. Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres, calling on GOP leaders to voluntarily assist with the investigations surrounding Santos.
The Democrats sent a letter yesterday to several Republicans, including McCarthy and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, to “proactively and forthrightly cooperate with all current and future investigations into Mr. Santos, including the investigation by the House Committee on Ethics that Speaker McCarthy confirmed this week.”
Among those receiving the latter was Dan Conston, a close McCarthy ally who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, the main House Republicans' super PAC. According to the Times' report, Conston "confided in lawmakers, donors and other associates that he was worried information would come out exposing Mr. Santos as a fraud."
Goldman and Torres added, “In addition, we urge you to inform the American people about your knowledge of Mr. Santos’s web of deceit prior to the election so that the public understands whether and to what extent you were complicit in Mr. Santos’s fraud on his voters.”
As best as I can tell, none of the GOP officials who received the letter has responded.