Perhaps no federal officeholder in modern American history has been accused of ignoring, testing or breaking as many aspects of campaign finance law so flagrantly, in such a short span of time, as George Santos has.
But his case, while sensational, illustrates the profound weaknesses of the system, and its potential for abuse.
For years, campaign finance laws have eroded, while the watchdogs responsible for their oversight have been weakened by limited powers, underfunding and political stalemate. The system, which largely relies on campaigns and political committees to self-report thousands of donations, expenditures, loans and refunds, has been left wide open for anyone willing to mislead, experts said.
Mr. Santos might have slipped through unnoticed — and many candidates probably do.
“He is an extreme example of something that is happening all the time in campaign finance,” said Saurav Ghosh, a former Federal Election Commission enforcement lawyer who is now the director of federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. Mr. Santos, he suggested, was able to take advantage of “the overall under-regulation of money that is raised and spent on election influence.”