Republican Congressman-Elect George Santos appears to have built his backstory on a web of lies that may pose serious ethical risks for the incoming House representative. According to a Monday report from The New York Times, Santos may have have misled the public on key aspects of his life — including his education, employment history, and financial acumen.
A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump who claimed to have attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., the Brazilian-American son of immigrants is one of the first openly gay Republicans elected to Congress. Santos’ election in New York was a component of the key gains made by the GOP in the Empire State, and in turn the House. Democrats severely underperformed in the typically reliably blue state and lost several congressional seats, including Santos’, to Republican challengers.
The report from the Times paints a picture of a career marked by exaggerated claims, inconsistent timelines, and potential financial misconduct.
Santos claimed to work for multiple companies, including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, who were unable to verify his employment to the Times. His confirmed employment at Harbor City Capital coincided with a time in which the company was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a $6 million Ponzi scheme. Santos, then regional director, was not directly named in the complaint, and denied knowledge of the fraud.
Santos also said his independent venture, Devolder Organization, an investment firm that he describes as being his “family’s firm,” manages at least $80 million in client assets. But the firm has has no website or LinkedIn page, and Santos did not list any clients of the firm on campaign disclosure forms. The Times was also unable to confirm the existence of various properties Santos claimed made up the family’s real estate fortune. Santos even at one point claimed four of his employees were killed at the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, but as the Times notes, none of the 49 victims of the massacre have any connection to Santos’ firm.
Some of these allegations were first alluded to in an August memo released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, titled “The Case Against George Santos.” The memo detailed some of the irregularities in Santos’ finances, including his failure to disclose assets and income on his 2020 financial disclosure report despite lending his campaign enormous amounts of cash.
Santos’ muddled personal history dates as far back as his adolescence in Brazil. Brazilian court records uncovered by the Times reveal that in 2008, a 19-year-old Santos allegedly stole the checkbook of one of his mother’s nursing clients, and used it to make various purchases. Santos reportedly confessed to and was charged with the crime in 2010, but authorities were unable to locate him, and the case remains unresolved. At the time, the Brazilian case was unfolding, Santos’ biography claimed he was receiving his bachelor’s degree from Baruch College in New York. University officials were unable to locate any record of Santos having attended the college, or of receiving his degree, according to the Times. His National Republican Congressional Committee biography also claims he obtained a degree from New York University, but NYU was unable to locate records of his attendance or graduation when requested by the Times.
While Santos’ personal finances remain somewhat of a mystery, his campaign finances have been slightly more transparent, as required by federal law. In November The Daily Beast identified $32,800 poured into Santos’ campaign by the cousin of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who maintains close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Santos’ campaign was unsurprisingly closely aligned with the Kremlin’s viewpoint on the invasion of Ukraine. In an interview with The Washington Post Santos called Ukraine “a totalitarian regime,” and repeated Russian talking points alleging that eastern portions of Ukraine’s territory had “welcomed Russians into their provinces,” and “feel more Russian than Ukrainian.”
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Santos’ attorney called the Times’ report “defamatory” and an attempt “to smear his good name,” but neither Santos nor his attorney refuted any of the specific claims in the report.
The statement closed with a supposed quote from Winston Churchill: “You have enemies? Good. It means that you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” But much like Santos’ resume, the quote seems to have been fabricated.