“Santos, a Suburban House and $11,000 in Campaign Payments for ‘Rent'”


The company was called Cleaner 123, and over the course of four months, it received nearly $11,000 from the campaign of George Santos, the representative-elect from New York who appears to have invented whole swaths of his life story.

The expenditures were listed as “apartment rental for staff” on Mr. Santos’s campaign disclosure forms and gave the address of a modest suburban house on Long Island. But one neighbor said Mr. Santos himself had been living there for months, and two others said that they had seen Mr. Santos and his husband coming and going, a possible violation of the rule prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

The payments to Cleaner 123 were among a litany of unusual disbursements documented in Mr. Santos’s campaign filings that experts say could warrant further scrutiny. There are also dozens of expenses pegged at $199.99 — one cent below the threshold at which federal law requires receipts.

The travel expenses include more than $40,000 for air travel, a number so exorbitant that it resembles the campaign filings of party leaders in Congress, as opposed to a newly elected congressman who is still introducing himself to local voters.

It is not known if the spending was in fact illegal, or merely unusual. Federal and local prosecutors said this week that they would begin inquiries into Mr. Santos’s finances and background.

Mr. Santos, a Republican, was elected in the Third Congressional District, a consequential swing district in Queens and Long Island, after a failed bid for the same seat in 2020. He has come under intense scrutiny after a New York Times investigation revealed that he misrepresented details of his education, work history and property ownership, along with a previously undisclosed criminal charge in Brazil.

The story also raised questions about Mr. Santos’s financial circumstances, which disclosures show have improved drastically since 2020, when he reported earning just $55,000 a year….

Paul S. Ryan, an election law expert, said that the expenditures could be an effort to hide illegal use of campaign funds, given the leeway with reporting receipts below $200. If so, he said, Mr. Santos’s attempt to hide the pattern could put him in further legal trouble, adding: “I consider deployment of this tactic strong evidence that the violation of law was knowing and willful — and therefore meeting the requirement for criminal prosecution.”

Unusually for a candidate who was relatively new to politics, Mr. Santos also appears to have used his campaign accounts to fund trips across the country, along with local hotel stays, according to a review of his campaign expenditures by The Times.

Over the course of his campaign, Mr. Santos spent $30,000 on hotels, $40,000 on airfare and $14,000 on car services — and campaign records suggest he also retained a campaign vehicle.

The spending was funded by a campaign war chest of more than $3 million amassed by four fund-raising committees during the 2022 campaign cycle. The money came from small-dollar donors, longtime Republican contributors on Long Island and elsewhere and the campaign committees of other Republican candidates. The biggest givers lavished Mr. Santos with the maximum allowable amounts, in some cases directly, in others via a Republican super PAC or the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

A hefty chunk of the total came in the form of a $700,000 loan from Mr. Santos himself.

The source of Mr. Santos’s wealth has been surrounded by some mystery: He has said on financial disclosure statements that his company, the Devolder Organization, is worth more than a million dollars; the statements also show that he earned millions between salary and dividends over the past two years. But the disclosures do not name any of the clients who helped Mr. Santos earn such a fortune — an omission that could pose legal problems for Mr. Santos, campaign finance experts say.

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