Calls to investigate George Santos’ finances revolve around not just how he funded his campaign but how he spent its cash.
Disbursements flagged by watchdog groups range from entries that don’t require receipts to lavish travel atypical of a newer candidate to potential personal rent.
“We dug through various disclosure reports and in doing so, came out with the overall feeling that this is what fraud smells like,” Kyle Herrig said, president of Accountable.US, one of the groups that filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission.
Santos’ campaign reported 866 disbursements in amounts under $200, the threshold requiring a receipt. They total more than $60,000 without proof of purchase.
“What we know is likely happening is that he is trying to hide expenditures,” Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United said. “And we have no idea where that money was going. Was that going back into his pocket?”
Even more telling are the 37 filings that are one cent under $200, including for goods and services that definitely don’t cost $199.99.
“A hotel stay at the W Hotel South Beach, simply cannot cost as little as they reported spending,” Saurav Ghosh, a director at the Campaign Legal Center said, which looks into the pricing including in October when the stay reportedly took place. “There’s simply no room at that hotel for less than $600 or $700.”
NY1’s review of Santos’ financial records show a winding map of how he moved money around. One month into office, the congressman faces mounting questions about how he was able to loan his campaign $700,000 dollars and why his FEC forms were just amended to say much of that was not personal funds after all.
“Let’s make it very clear. I don’t amend anything,” Santos told reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “I don’t touch any of my FEC stuff, right? So don’t be disingenuous and report that I did, because you know every campaign hires fiduciaries.”
The Accountable.US, End Citizens United and Campaign Legal Center complaints to the FEC all highlight the alleged misuse of campaign funds for nearly $11,000 in rent on a Huntington, Long Island, property that Santos and his husband appeared to use for their personal residence.
“It looks like there wasn’t just a conspiracy, for lack of a better word, to fund his campaign but also to fund himself,” Muller said.
And he spent more than $850 on two Hilton hotel stays near his Florida-based company, Devolder Organization, and more on airfare around that time, though Accountable.US found no evidence of campaign-related activity there and then.
Herrig believes Santos’ campaign was “a slush fund to pay for his personal extravagant lifestyle.”
Santos’ campaign filed paperwork Wednesday reflecting a switch in treasurers from veteran operative Nancy Marks to Thomas Datwyler, but Datwyler’s attorney tells NY1 his client did not authorize the filings and had declined to work with Santos.
Marks, who also worked on Lee Zeldin’s House campaign, is cited in complaints to the FEC. She’s also listed in Florida paperwork as affiliated with Devolder Organization.
Marks did not return NY1’s requests for comment. She has declined comment to other news outlets.