By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
George Devolder-Santos could give the great mythical liar Baron Munchausen a run for his money. Since Santos’ November 8th win making him the Republican Representative for New York’s Third Congressional District (covering parts of Long Island and Queens), it has been revealed that just about every single statement in Santos’ résumé is a lie.
Apparently, Santos began his career in fraud early. In 2008, he used a checkbook stolen from his mother’s employer and a false name to make $700 in purchases at a small clothing store in Brazil. He later admitted to the crime, but Brazilian authorities, unable to find him, suspended the case for many years. Alerted by the recent media hubbub about Santos, Brazil has just reinstated the charge.
Among his many recent fabrications, Santos claimed he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and that he had a degree in economics and finance from Baruch College. The truth is that Santos has not graduated from college. According to the New York Times, he has a high school equivalency diploma.
Santos also claimed he was Jewish with family members who fled the Holocaust. Santos is a Catholic. (Santos tried to get out of that obnoxious fib with the risible assertion that he did not say he was Jewish, but Jew-ish.)
In addition, Santos pretended to own 13 rental properties. However, the New York Times was unable to find records of those properties—neither documents nor deeds connected to Santos.
On the other hand, there are records showing Santos has been evicted twice. In November 2015, he was sued successfully for $2,250 in unpaid rent. And in May 2017, he was accused of owing $10,000 in rent for a five-month period, and that one of his rent checks had bounced. An eviction warrant was issued and Santos was fined $12,208. According to the New York Post, Santos now lives at his sister’s home.
When George Santos first ran for the House (and lost) in 2020, he reported earning $55,000 in salary, commissions, and bonuses, as a vice president of LinkBridge Investors, which purportedly connected investors with fund managers. He did not declare any other financial assets.
Yet, only two years later, in 2022, Santos claimed to be the owner and managing member of the Devolder Organization, an investment firm supposedly managing at least $80 million in client assets. He asserted he was making a $750,000 salary, had dividends between $1 million and $5 million, and had loaned $700,000 to his own campaign.
However, according to Rolling Stone, the firm has no website or LinkedIn page, and Santos did not list any clients of the firm on his campaign disclosure forms. This failure appears to have violated a requirement that candidates disclose compensation exceeding $5,000 from a single source. Which raises the question: where did that $700,000 so-called loan to his campaign come from?
According to the New York Post, Santos has dismissed his many lies with the words: “My sins here are embellishing my résumé.” Clearly the man doesn’t know the difference between exaggeration of the truth—a bit of puffery—and plain, outright lying with specific intent to deceive the public.
Santos’ many lies and financial inconsistencies could simply make his constituents angry and the public roll its eyes over the exposure of yet another Republican liar. Not to mention the national Republican party’s continued refusal to express any censure of Santos along with the many other miscreants in its ranks. The public could see any illegalities wrapped up in his lies as merely matters to be pursued by prosecutors.
But the harm Representative Santos potentially could do to the nation when he takes his seat in Congress this week goes far beyond conning his constituents in order to obtain his position—or any laws he may have broken with his lies.
After the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the would-be congressman told the Washington Post: “It’s not like Ukraine is a great democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime. They’re not a great bastion of freedom.” Santos also spouted Putin’s party line that Ukraine “welcomed the Russians into their provinces” and that Ukrainians in the east “feel more Russian than Ukrainian.”
Ordinarily, one might figure that the man is entitled to his opinion—unless it is more than just an opinion. As reported by The Daily Beast, at the time when Santos made these statements, he had already received $32,800 from Andrew Intrater, who manages the investments of his cousin Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg, who was sanctioned by the U.S., is one of Putin’s wealthiest and most influential oligarchs. Vekselberg was a person of interest in the Mueller investigation. And according to The Daily Beast, he “had ties to an investment group bidding on a highly sensitive project for the Pentagon.”
All told, including contributions to auxiliary committees, Intrater, a possible intermediary for Vekselberg, provided around $56,000 to Santos’ 2022 House run. (And this does not include $11,600 contributed to Santos for his losing 2020 campaign or $20,000 contributed to a PAC.)
In addition, Former FBI agent Peter Strzok told the Raw Story news website that Santos received “at least $2,690 from Len Blavatnick, another close associate of Vekselberg.”
Though some might call this evidence circumstantial and any conclusions speculative, it looks to me like Putin and his oligarch may have been trying to buy George Devolder-Santos’ vote on any future proposed aid to Ukraine.
In addition, Dan Meyer, a former Pentagon official, has expressed concerns about Santos obtaining access to classified information. Meyer told the New York Post, “What really worries me as a security professional is that $700,000.” In other words, could that $700,000 campaign self-loan based on assets of a company with no identified clients have come from the Russians as well?
Meyer added that this question is especially urgent because of technological advances: “This is not the 1970s, where it’ll take weeks for the stuff to kind of bumble along. Even if you were going to betray the country back then, you had to figure out a way to contact the Russians. But now, it can happen at a moment’s notice.”
An even more worrying question comes to mind: if it turns out that Santos has been compromised—how many other Congressional members may also have been compromised by Putin or his oligarchs?
While any American has a right to contribute to any candidate for office, foreign financial influence in our elections is a continuing threat to our democracy. The crucial question is: will the 2023 Republican-held House address this concern—especially as related to George Santos? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.