- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2022

A campaign staffer trying to raise money for Republican Representative-elect George Santos called up donors last year pretending to be Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s chief of staff, a GOP insider claims.

The source, connected closely to the New York Republican Party, told the Washington Times that Mr. McCarthy’s aides first learned of the Santos staffer’s behavior in August 2021 when a suspicious donor flagged as “unusual” the contact from Mr. McCarthy’s congressional office.

State GOP operatives found out the scheme by the Santos campaign staffer involved not only impersonating McCarthy Chief of Staff Dan Meyer but sending follow-up emails to the donors from a fake email address. 

“We used our contacts to get in touch with the chief of staff and he said, ‘This isn’t me,’” the source told The Times.  

Neither Mr. Santos nor Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican angling to become House speaker in January, have responded to multiple requests for a comment about the claim.

According to the GOP source, Mr. Santos fired the staffer over the matter and claimed he didn’t know about the effort to impersonate Mr. McCarthy’s chief of staff. 

SEE ALSO: N.Y. Rep.-elect George Santos under pressure to reveal truth about life story

The new allegations emerged as Mr. Santos, 34, faces separate scrutiny for apparently falsifying his biography for the 2022 race, including claiming he worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and that his family was not paid rent for a year on an alleged portfolio of 13 rental properties. 

His 8-point win over Democrat Robert Zimmerman in New York’s 3rd Congressional District was considered somewhat of an upset and none of the allegations about his questionable biography surfaced during the campaign. 

Mr. Santos, for example, continues to claim on his campaign website to have graduated from Baruch College in 2010  “with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance,” but the college could not find a record of his attendance there, a spokesman told the Washington Times. 

New York Democrats are now calling for an ethics inquiry into whether Mr. Santos also provided false information on his financial disclosure form, which candidates are required under federal law to file in the House. Mr. Santos claimed in his 2022 filing to have assets worth between $2.6 million and $11.25 million, according to the disclosure form filed with the House clerk in September. 

Much of the money is tied to his company, Devolder Organization, but the disclosure form does not list its clients, which may violate federal candidate disclosure rules. 

Mr. Santos could face a probe over campaign falsehoods by the evenly-divided House Ethics Committee, but any investigation is more likely to be generated by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which, unlike the House panel, can field complaints about House lawmakers from outside groups. The Office of Congressional Ethics refers cases to House Ethics, which typically will conduct a preliminary investigation. 

Mr. Santos’ win in the Long Island district was critical in securing the House GOP’s four-seat majority.

Any effort to oust Mr. Santos from office is likely to be an uphill battle. But Democrats are eager to pursue any means to punish Mr. Santos for violations of House ethics or federal law and perhaps even have a shot at winning back the seat in the unlikely event he’s forced out of office. 

“As someone who’s had every case I’ve ever worked on vetted by opponents in both cycles, it’s difficult to overstate how many people would’ve had to drop the ball in not even verifying the mere fact of Congressman-elect Santos’ prior employment as he ran to flip a key House seat,” Rep. Mondaire Jones, a New York Democrat and member of the House Ethics Committee, tweeted. 

Inconsistencies in Mr. Santos’ biography were first reported by the New York Times, which also unearthed records in Brazil showing Mr. Santos faced criminal charges over allegations that he used stolen checks to purchase items at an apparel shop in the city of Niteroi. Prosecutors told the newspaper the case was dormant because Mr. Santos never appeared in court.

Mr. Zimmerman this week called for the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Elections Commission and federal prosecutors to investigate Mr. Santos.

“Santos’ failure to answer any of the questions about these allegations demonstrates why he is unfit for public office and should resign,” Mr. Zimmerman said in a social media post.

An attorney for Mr. Santos said his client was being targeted by people “threatened” by his politics.

Mr. Santos said Thursday he would address the allegations next week.

“To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” Mr. Santos tweeted. “I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on: Public safety, Inflation, Education & more. Happy Holidays to all!”

Joseph G. Cairo Jr., chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee, said Thursday that Mr. Santos’ voters deserve a “sincere accounting” from him. 

“Congressman-Elect Santos has tweeted a public statement that he will respond next week to the Issues that have been raised by various media outlets,” Mr. Cairo said in a statement. 

“While I have indicated that the Congressman-Elect deserves a reasonable amount of time to respond to the media, voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos. I will be listening attentively, and I want to hear meaningful remarks from George Santos.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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