Admitted campaign résumé fabricator George Santos (R-Queens, Nassau County) officially took his seat as a member of Congress on Tuesday despite a trove of information that’s come to light in recent weeks showing he falsified much of his background during his successful campaign for office last year.
After mostly dodging the press for the past couple of weeks, and only giving a handful of interviews to right-leaning outlets like Fox News and the New York Post, Santos ignored multiple reporters’ questions about his falsehoods or whether he’d resign while walking through the U.S. Capitol before the speakership vote Tuesday.
The only question Santos appeared to answer was whether he would vote for Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) to become speaker of the House, which he reportedly said “yes” to — according to a Tweet from a reporter. Santos then voted for McCarthy in all three rounds of voting for the speakership Tuesday afternoon.
During the vote proceedings, Santos could be viewed on C-SPAN, sitting by himself, instead of being engaged in conversation with his new colleagues.
GOP political consultant William O’Reilly, in an interview with amNewYork Metro, said Santos is “just not gonna work” because he can’t dodge the press and his constituents for the rest of his term.
“You can’t duck the press for two years, you can’t duck your constituents for two years and you can’t duck your history for two years,” O’Reilly said. “So, this guy’s got a lot of problems and I think he’d be better off exiting Congress and taking care of his life.”
Santos, along with the rest of colleagues, won’t be officially sworn in as members of the 118th Congress until the House elects a speaker, which it failed to do after three successive rounds of voting Tuesday afternoon. McCarthy wasn’t able to secure the 218 votes needed to win the speakership, only getting 202 votes in the first and third rounds and 203 in the second.
McCarthy — and the rest of House GOP leadership — has been largely silent on the scandals surrounding Santos, as he counted on the freshman Congress member’s support in the closely divided chamber where Republicans hold a razor thin 222-vote majority.
In the waning days of 2022, it was revealed through multiple press reports that Santos had outright lied or misrepresented many essential pieces of his personal biography, including where he attended school, the companies he worked for and his religion. It turns out he didn’t graduate from Baruch College in 2010 or attend New York University, hadn’t worked for either Goldman Sachs or Citigroup and wasn’t Jewish, all of which he claimed while in two successive runs for office last year and in 2020.
Santos also claimed his mother was in the south tower of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and died a few years later, when in fact she died in 2016.
Since Santos’ fabrications were first reported late last year, the source of his purported personal wealth, which helped propel his campaign, has also come under scrutiny. Santos reported in financial disclosures that he’s made millions of dollars from his company, the Devolder Organization, yet the firm has no clients – according to published reports.
Of particular interest is $700,000 Santos lent to his campaign, derived from his $750,000-a-year Devolder salary. That made up a sizable portion of the more than $3 million of campaign cash he raised overall.
Also questionable was a reported $40,000 Santos’ campaign spent on air travel, an amount usually associated with Congressional leaders rather than a new member of the chamber.
The revelations Santos’ apparent lies have also spurred investigations from both local and federal prosecutors, such as the Republican Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly’s office and the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Neither have named a specific infraction they’re looking into yet, but rather crimes Santos may have committed on the campaign trail.
Once voting in the speaker’s race is complete, O’Reilly said, he thinks GOP House leadership should immediately launch an ethics probe into Santos.
“Frankly, the GOP owes him nothing whatsoever,” O’Reilly said. “I mean, this guy embarrassed the party, he embarrassed himself. And once the vote is over for the leadership, he should go right into an ethics probe because he really doesn’t deserve to be in that office.”
O’Reilly said he thinks an investigation is unavoidable for Santos, and the embattled congress member likely won’t serve-out his first term.
“I think the ethics probe is probably inevitable,” he said. “And the question is, how much he’s protected. But as more and more comes out, especially as the finances get looked at, I suspect that this guy may not serve out his term.”