I am flabbergasted. Astonished. Stunned. Appalled. George Santos, the Republican House representative from New York, is now a member of the House Committee on Small Business.
I’m a big believer in giving people a fair trial before convicting or canceling them. Aziz Ansari had an awkward date. Tiger Woods’ addictions were behind a lot of his bad behavior. Michael Phelps smoked a little weed. But George Santos? Well, this is a different story.
It’s not just his alleged claims of wealth, the alleged check fraud schemes, the lies about his family’s Jewish heritage and that his grandparents were Holocaust refugees. It isn’t about his fabricated private schools and college degrees or that he never played sports or his made-up jobs with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, or his tales about his mother dying when she didn’t.
It’s not about the conflicting stories as to where he lived, or that he was a crime victim, or his unverified health claims,his evictions, his unpaid legal judgments, his financial discrepancies, the dubious loans that he took from his campaign, the complaints, the fundraising questions or that he was once a drag queen or that he said that he was married to a woman when actually he was married to a man, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
And it’s not just that the Republican Party continues to keep this guy in office in order to hold its slim majority in the House when everyone — everyone — knows full well that he’s a fraud, a sham, an embarrassment and a disgrace to our party.
It’s all of this. And with all of this, the House Steering Committee assigns him to the Committee on Small Business. You can almost hear House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tell his aides: “We need to keep this Santos guy out of the spotlight and out of trouble, so let’s just stick him with the small-business folks. Because, let’s all admit here, who cares about them anyway?”
So there it is. You take the one person who is not only incompetent and ineffectual but also a verified fraudster and a likely criminal, and you sweep him under the rug by sticking him to small businesses.
I’ve covered, watched and written about this committee for years and here’s what I’ve learned: It is by no means the most powerful group in Congress, but it’s by far one of the most bipartisan collection of political representatives Washington has seen in recent memory. The committee for the past two years was chaired by Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York whose left-of-center positions on many issues I oppose and is now chaired by Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas whose right-of-center positions on many issues I also oppose (but tend to agree with more). But you know what? They get along pretty well. Why? Because its members are not only avid supporters of small business, but most have extensive small-business backgrounds.
The committee’s work is important. It holds frequent hearings on issues that affect small businesses with testimonials from small-business owners, government officials and other experts.
It counts among its priorities the oversight of the Small Business Administration, improving private lending and easing the regulatory burdens for small businesses to do business with the federal government. It has been instrumental in many bills passed by the House that help small businesses, most recently legislating improved cybersecurity and to reauthorize trade and rural programs. It highlights veteran and minority entrepreneurs. And, with control now being in the GOP‘s hands, it will be stepping up its opposition to any of the Biden administration’s rules and regulations that may potentially harm the country’s 30 million small businesses that employ half of our workers and contribute half of the nation’s GDP.
And it’s not as if Mr. Santos really asked for this job. He failed to even mention small business when he recently said he “came to D.C. without really any preconceived notions of what committees to serve,” adding that “whatever committee I’m given, whether it’s, I don’t know, Science and Technology, or Education and Labor or whatever committee is thrown my way, I will deliver 110%.”
I get it. This committee is not Ways and Means, Appropriations or Judiciary. It’s not high-profile or notorious. But the committee has its impact on the country’s small firms. And its members have always worked well together because, well, who’s not a supporter of small businesses, right?
And now, the GOP is effectively hiding Mr. Santos there.
Imagine the reaction to this news from members like Mr. Williams, Ms. Velazquez and Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri Republican, and Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania Democrat, who combined have lived on this planet for more than 280 years and served in Congress for 43 of them. Regardless of whether you support all or some of their policies, no one can argue that these are longtime, dedicated, well-meaning political representatives, and now they’ve got this clown to deal with. Obviously, they’re too professional to say anything publicly, but you know what they’re thinking.
“He hasn’t committed a crime. He hasn’t been indicted on anything at this point, and in this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty, so we’re gonna treat him like any other member and keep an eye on it,” Georgia Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Steering Committee member, told Politico.
Oh, please. This is a diss. It’s a slap in the face. It’s a massive show of disrespect to the nation’s small businesses. So, thanks, GOP. Now we know where small businesses really stand on your priority list.
Correction: A previous version of this column misidentified the party of Pennsylvania Democrat Dwight Evans.
• Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm specializing in small and medium-sized companies.