Santos' campaign team once hired an outside firm to investigate his vulnerability as a candidate. The report raised so many flags that his aides allegedly urged him to pull out of the race
Long before he was criminally charged by federal investigators, Republican Rep. George Santos was warned that his checkered past was too much of a risk for a political career — but despite being urged to drop out of his congressional race, he continued on.
CBS News reports that while campaigning for the office he currently holds, Santos' team hired an outside firm to investigate his vulnerability as a candidate. The report — which CBS has published in full — found that Santos' background was mired in so much controversy that his aides urged him to drop out of the race. The outlet reports that Santos refused to do so, and many of the aides quit as a result.
Campaign finance reports show that the Santos campaign paid upwards of $16,600 to Capital Research Group, LLC in December 2021. The firm was hired to conduct a vulnerability report, a standard step when it comes to a federal campaign.
The report raised questions about Santos' campaign finances that are similar to those raised by federal prosecutors, who in May announced an indictment against the freshman lawmaker.
From the report: "Santos says his professional experience is working in finance and helping wealth grow, but his personal financial disclosure filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives shows no personal investments or assets."
One year after the report was released to his campaign, prosecutors would note that Santos had "overstated his income and assets" on his financial disclosure forms.
The vulnerability also flagged some pieces of Santos' personal life, such as a previous marriage to ex-wife Uadla Vieira, who the report said "may not have been a green card holder nor legal to work in the United States around the time of her marriage to Santos."
Santos, who is the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, has since admitted he was married to a woman in the past — something else that he had previously not disclosed prior to his election.
Public divorce records show that his marriage ended around the time that he first entered a congressional race, though by the time he had declared candidacy, he had labeled himself a proud gay man who said he's "never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade."
The 13-count indictment, unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charged Santos with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, who worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate Santos, added that in addition to allegedly collecting unemployment benefits while he was employed and running for Congress, he was believed to have "pocketed campaign contributions and used that money to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing."
The report also pinpointed some of the other controversies that would later surround Santos, such as his earlier claims that he had Baruch College and New York University.
A bombshell New York Times report published in December 2022 (one month after he was elected) found that Santos did not attend either school and that many of the other claims he made on the campaign trail and on his resume were unsubstantiated.
One year prior to the New York Times report, those who wrote the vulnerability report for Santos' own campaign noted that "there was no record of Santos earning any degree from either university."
Santos himself has acknowledged that he has "embellished" significant portions of his resume, telling the New York Post that he lied about working at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, as he had previously asserted, and had also lied about finishing college.
The vulnerability also flagged other controversial instances, in Santos' past, such as his previous work for a company called Harbor City Capital, which was declared a Ponzi scheme by the S.E.C. and shut down in 2021, though the Republican had denied knowledge of such a scheme.
If Santos is convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the top counts, according to the Justice Department, though recent reports indicate he may be negotiating a plea deal.
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