A set of updated campaign finance reports deepens the mystery surrounding the source of the high dollar loans Rep. George Santos (RN.Y.) made to his campaign last year.
The Santos campaign previously reported that a pair of the candidate’s six-figure loans — one for $500,000 made last March and another for $125,000 in October — came from his personal funds.
But in an amended filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Tuesday, Santos’ campaign unchecked a box that said the $500,000 loan came from personal funds. Similarly, a separate updated report left the same box unchecked for the $125,000 loan. The changes were first reported by The Daily Beast.
Complicating the issue further is the fact that filings from later in 2022 still indicate the $500,000 loan came from personal funds, leaving the source of the money unclear. Campaign finance experts are struggling to unpack Santos’ latest campaign revelations, which they say are riddled with errors and potential discrepancies.
“No one can make sense of them,” said Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit watchdog group. “It seems impossible at this point for there to be any kind of oversight.”
“It’s just an incredible number of financial matters,” he added. “I’ve been doing this for over a decade and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Brett Kappel, an election lawyer specializing in campaign finance, said it was unclear whether the apparent discrepancies on Santos’ updated documents were the result of a simple clerical error or a intentional change.
Either way, Kappel said, “the changes don’t make sense and are inconsistent,” adding that the changes would almost certainly attract the attention of the FEC.
“It could be a mistake that was made when editing other parts of the same report or it could be deliberate if his treasurer refused to mark it as personal unless he provided documents,” he said. he declares. “Either way, he will generate another letter from the FEC asking him to describe the true source of the loan and its details.”
Federal election law allows candidates to loan personal funds for campaign purposes or to take out bank loans to help finance their political operations. But experts have said any bank loan the size of those made by Santos would require collateral, and Santos’ filings with the FEC note that the loans were not secured by collateral.
Santos attorney Joe Murray did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the amended campaign finance reports. Santos himself declined to give details of the changes on Wednesday, telling reporters outside the U.S. Capitol that he does not handle his campaign’s financial disclosures.
“I’m not changing anything,” Santos told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t touch any of my FEC stuff. So don’t be dishonest and report that I did, because you know that every campaign hires trustees. So I’m not aware of this answer.
Certainly, it is not uncommon for campaigns to file updated reports with the FEC to correct errors or provide additional required information. But Erin Chlopak, senior director of campaign finance at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center (CLC), said Santos’ filings are not typical.
“The FEC has already issued a large number of requests for additional information in which it has flagged its own concerns,” Khlopak said. “I think this particular committee has raised an unusual number of questions.”
The CLC filed a complaint with the FEC earlier this month, accusing the Santos campaign of illegally using funds for personal expenses and concealing the source of Santos’ loans to the campaign, among other concerns. Khlopak said the SIC was still sorting through the latest documents filed by Santos.
Khlopak cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the latest disputes over Santos’ campaign loans. But, she added, “it is certainly significant whether it was a clerical error or an intentional one, and it is something that should be looked into.”
“If it’s personal, then there’s the question of whether he actually had the money to lend? And if not, where did the money come from?” she said. origin of the loan, duration of the loan, etc. There are requirements for providing details of what they are.”
The updated revelations mark the latest twist in the winding saga of Santos, who has faced increasing scrutiny of everything from his financial dealings to lying about his CV and personal life.
In previous filings with the FEC, Santos’ campaign reported that he personally loaned more than $700,000 to his campaign, but questions remain about where the money came from. Santos said the money came from his work at his company, the DeVolder organization.
Santos also faces scrutiny over whether an outside entity solicited large donations for his campaign without being registered with the FEC.
There are also questions about a $199.99 spending spree made by Santos’ campaign. This specific amount puts expenses just one cent below the $200 threshold that would require the campaign to keep receipts or invoices.
On Wednesday, the Santos campaign and a handful of affiliated groups filed updates with the FEC naming longtime GOP operative Thomas Datwyler as the new treasurer, replacing former treasurer Nancy Marks.
The transition hit a snag, however, when Datwyler’s attorney, Derek Ross, said his client told the Santos campaign earlier this week that he would not be treasurer. Federal law requires every political committee to have a treasurer in order to spend or receive money.
“On Monday, we informed the Santos campaign that Mr. Datwyler would not be treasurer,” Ross said. “There appears to be a discrepancy between this conversation and today’s filings, which we did not allow.”