The House Ethics Committee – a bipartisan committee made up of members from both parties – released its report on Thursday after a months-long investigation into the embattled freshman Republican.
In a press statement on the report, the committee alleged that Mr Santos “knowingly” caused his campaign committee to file false and incomplete reports to the Federal Election Commission; used campaign cash for personal expenses; engaged in fraudulent conduct with Redstone Strategies, a company he co-owned; and committed “knowing and willful violations” of the “Ethics in Government Act.”
“In light of the ongoing criminal investigation into Representative Santos, and the ISC’s findings of additional uncharged and unlawful conduct by Representative Santos, the [Investigative Subcommittee] recommended that the Committee immediately refer these allegations to the Department of Justice,” the committee said in a statement.
The House Ethics Committee launched its investigation into Mr Santos earlier this year into whether he engaged in illegal activity during his 2022 congressional campaign. In May, the committee expanded its investigation.
“He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings,” the report said. “And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”
Mr Santos began to come under serious scrutiny almost as soon as he flipped a district that includes parts of Queens and Long Island that had voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, as Republicans barely gained the majority in the US House of Representatives. News reports shortly thereafter revealed that he had fabricated multiple parts of his life story, including where he went to college, his employment history and even his ethnicity.
The report said that Mr Santos was the “ultimate beneficiary and knowing participant” of much of his campaign’s fraudulent reporting, since they allowed him to meet benchmarks to receive national party support.
Much of the report focused on Mr Santos’s relationship with his campaign treasurer Nancy Marks. Last month, Ms Marks pleaded guilty to felony wire fraud, among other charges, to help Mr Santos’s campaign. The report said that Mr Santos put most of the blame on Ms Marks.
“Even if Representative Santos was not aware of all of the other errors in his campaign reports relating to other receipts and disbursements, he had his own concerns and was repeatedly advised by multiple members of his team about concerns regarding Ms Marks, but he failed to take meaningful action,” the report said.
Similarly, the report found that Mr Santos did not loan his campaign money that he had reported he did in his campaign finance disclosures. The committee found that Mr Santos’s campaign did not have enough money to pay its outstanding debts, with one staffer going eight months without pay.
Along with fraudulently reporting loans he never made, the committee also alleged that Mr Santos spent campaign money for personal use. Among the expenses, the Office of Congressional Ethics found that Mr Santos traveled out of his district at least once a month.
The report also examined Mr Santos’s use of Redstone Strategies, a limited liability corporation affiliated with him, and how at least $200,000 worth of money was transferred from its account to Mr Santos’s personal account. After one $50,000 transfer, Mr Santos paid down credit card debt, made a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes and smaller purchases at OnlyFans and Sephora as well as for meals and parking.
“As detailed above, there is substantial evidence that Representative Santos participated in and financially benefited from a fraudulent scheme involving RedStone,” the report said. “Representative Santos furthered the scheme through lies and misrepresentations about the nature of his connection to RedStone, just as he had done with a predecessor company, Red Strategies.”
But Mr Santos released a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, pushing back on the accusations, specifically the claim that he did not comply with the investigation.
“It is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depths of how low our federal government has sunk,” he said. “Everyone who participated in this grave miscarriage of Justice should all be ashamed of themselves.”
The report comes shortly after the House of Representatives held a vote to expel him led by his fellow New York Republicans. But the resolution failed, with many Democrats voting against the expulsion.
Late last month, Mr Santos appeared in court to be arraigned on new criminal charges after a superseding indictment accused him of additional charges on top of the ones he had already received, including making tens of thousands of charges on credit cards that belonged to donors.
So far, Mr Santos has defiantly refused to resign. Despite the fact that many Republicans in his home state and elsewhere want him to resign, Republican leadership is reluctant to push him out because they have a slim majority where they can only afford to lose four members on any given vote.