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Santos faces FEC complaint over alleged campaign finance violations

Rep. George Santos didn’t need another round of bad news, but a watchdog group has filed an FEC complaint against him, alleging numerous violations.

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As last week got underway, Rep. George Santos was not in an especially good position. The New York Republican, having been caught lying about much of his personal and professional biography, found himself facing local, state, federal and international investigations.

On his first day on Capitol Hill, the reception was far from warm. As House Republicans tried and failed to elect a speaker, Santos began the week sitting in the back row, alone, as his colleagues appeared reluctant to be seen with him.

But in the days that followed, as C-SPAN cameras kept an eye on the GOP freshman, Santos was seen interacting with other members. We can speculate as to why — with every vote proving important, it’s possible faction leaders saw him as a member who shouldn’t be ignored — but by Friday, the Long Islander wasn’t nearly as isolated as he was when the week began.

Indeed, it was easy to imagine Santos being pleased that someone in the House Republican conference — in this case, Kevin McCarthy — was struggling even more than he was, knocking the new congressman off the front page.

It was against this backdrop that Santos received more bad news this morning. CNBC reported:

A national watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos for allegedly violating numerous campaign finance laws during his successful run for Congress. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog organization, filed the complaint with the FEC on Monday. The group accuses the Santos campaign of allegedly violating three counts of campaign finance laws, including one tied to a $705,000 loan the lawmaker made to his campaign.

The complaint specifically accuses the congressman of willfully concealing the funding sources of his 2022 candidacy, reporting false figures on FEC disclosure reports, and using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including his rent.

“It is far more likely, instead, that after failing to win his 2020 bid for Congress, Santos and other unknown persons worked out a scheme to surreptitiously — and illegally — funnel money into his 2022 campaign,” the complaint reads. “The concealed true source behind $705,000 in contributions to Santos’s campaign could be a corporation or foreign national — both of which are categorically barred from contributing to federal candidates.”

It added, “Particularly in light of Santos’s mountain of lies about his life and qualifications for office, the [FEC] should thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money.”

There were already questions surrounding the Republican and how he managed to loan his campaign more than $700,000, despite a modest middle-class income. It’s hardly a stretch to think the FEC, especially now, will take a closer look.

Update: CNBC ran a related report this morning, noting that a member of Santos' political team raised money for the campaign by impersonating the chief of staff of now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy:

"Wealthy donors received calls and emails from a man who said he was Dan Meyer, McCarthy’s chief of staff, during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, according to people familiar with the matter. His name was actually Sam Miele, and he worked for Santos raising money for his campaign, according to one GOP donor who contributed to Santos’ campaign."