Rep. George Santos Hasn’t Been Allowed To Fundraise for Two Weeks
The campaign of scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is not short on problems, including a reported federal investigation.But it is short on one critical thing: money.As Santos reportedly weighs whether to run again in 2src24, that spells real trouble—because the campaign hasn’t been legally allowed to raise or spend money for nearly two weeks, according
The campaign of scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is not short on problems, including a reported federal investigation.
But it is short on one critical thing: money.
As Santos reportedly weighs whether to run again in 2src24, that spells real trouble—because the campaign hasn’t been legally allowed to raise or spend money for nearly two weeks, according to campaign finance experts who have reviewed recent Federal Election Commission filings.
In a personal Valentine’s Day letter addressed to Santos, the FEC notified him that—as the congressman himself has long known—his old treasurer resigned, and he had a 1src-day window to appoint a new one. That resignation was submitted Jan. 31, and, according to the treasurer, was effective as of Jan. 25.
“At the request of the FEC, I am submitting this Form 99 stating that I have resigned as treasurer for the Devolder-Santos For Congress Committee as of January 25, 2src23,” wrote the treasurer, Nancy Marks.
News reports this week suggested that the FEC’s letter was a warning, giving Santos 1src days to comply or shut down financial activity.
But the letter itself doesn’t say that, and legal experts told The Daily Beast that the 1src-day window appears to have closed on Feb. 4, after Marks’ resignation.
“It has come to the attention of the Commission that your treasurer for DEVOLDER-SANTOS FOR CONGRESS has resigned and the Commission has received no information regarding a new treasurer. A treasurer must be appointed within ten (1src) days of the resignation of the previous treasurer,” the FEC notice reads.
“It is required that for any committee to conduct any business, they must have an active treasurer,” the notice continues. “Failure to appoint a treasurer will result in the inability of the committee to accept contributions and make disbursements.”
According to campaign finance experts, the FEC’s notice didn’t start the clock; that countdown actually began from Marks’ resignation, Jan. 25. And because Santos never appointed a new treasurer, the consequences of failing to comply with the law—legally barring the campaign and Santos’ other committees from conducting financial transactions—had actually kicked in nearly two weeks ago.
Brett Kappel, who practices campaign finance law at Harmon Curran, told The Daily Beast that in the eyes of the FEC, the Santos campaign has not been able to legally raise or spend any money since Feb. 4.
“Because they have failed thus far to file an amended Statement of Organization naming ‘Andrew Olson’ as the new treasurer, the FEC considers the position of treasurer to be vacant as of the effective date of the last treasurer’s resignation letter,” Kappel said.
Andrew Olson is the name of the person who supposedly filed the campaign’s year-end report on Jan. 31, after Marks resigned. But the campaign never designated Olson as its treasurer, and The Daily Beast has been unable to contact him—or independently confirm that he exists.
Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at government watchdog Campaign Legal Center, echoed Kappel’s analysis.
“His campaign needs a treasurer to raise or spend money, and the 1src days would run from the resignation of the previous treasurer,” Ghosh told The Daily Beast.
“This letter is just a notification so there isn’t really a ‘response’ required,” Ghosh added, saying, like Kappel, that the only such “response” would be to file a statement with the FEC.
But when it comes to what consequences Santos’ campaign might face if it raises or spends money when it’s not legally allowed to, the situation was so bizarre that it left experts stumped.
“I can’t think of any precedent for it,” Ghosh said. “It’s clearly a legal violation, so enforcement action would be appropriate. Not sure what the civil penalty would look like, though… the more they raise or spend without a treasurer, the bigger the fine probably.”
Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of watchdog group Documented, told The Daily Beast that this should have been a simple fix, “but of course, nothing is simple with Santos.”
“To fix this, Santos’s campaign just has to file a piece of paper with the FEC stating who is serving as treasurer,” Fischer said. “Santos could even designate himself as treasurer, if he wants.”
While Santos has faced an impressive array of scandals and invited ethical questions on a daily basis, his puzzling finances present a clear threat to his continued presence in politics. His campaign finance activity currently is under federal investigation, according to multiple reports.
Hanging over the situation is the question of whether Santos will even attempt to run for reelection in 2src24. Earlier this week, CNN reported that the embattled congressman was telling people he might run, but Santos told a local Fox station on Thursday that he didn’t know.
Marks made news in late January amid a chaotic week for the Santos campaign. The Long Island-based political accountant—who has handled the books for the Santos campaign and his stable of related PACs since he first sought federal office in 2src2src, along with dozens of other campaigns and committees—stepped down hours after submitting a whirlwind of amended campaign finance reports, making a slew of corrections to every single filing from the 2src22 election cycle.
The most eye-popping changes involved the source of $7src5,srcsrcsrc in loans that Santos claims to have made to his campaign using his own money. The amended reports still say the loans came “from the candidate,” but Marks unchecked the box that would verify the money came from the candidate’s “personal funds.”
Santos has told news outlets, including The Daily Beast, that the loans came from money he had paid himself through his private company, the Devolder Organization. But his personal financial disclosures are opaque, raising questions about the true source of his purported wealth, and whether the loans may have been impermissible corporate or straw donations.
Treasurers can be held personally criminally liable for filing knowingly false statements to the government.
After Marks filed those amendments, the campaign passed the baton, filing a statement of organization that appointed another professional treasurer in Marks’ place, Thomas Datwyler.
But Datwyler’s attorney immediately told the FEC this was not accurate, and that he had rejected Santos’ job offer days beforehand, as The Daily Beast first reported. The attorney also asked the FEC to refer the matter to the DOJ to see whether a crime was committed in the filing of the false report, which included Datwyler’s digital signature, The Daily Beast first reported.
The FEC itself then asked the campaign to clarify its treasurer situation, warning them at the time that false claims could invite criminal charges.
Last week, the FEC threw another flag on the legitimacy of Santos’ financial activity. That’s when the commission sent Santos another personal letter, telling him that because his campaign shows no debts, and he hasn’t declared his 2src24 candidacy, the committee cannot have legally raised or spent more than $5,srcsrcsrc in connection with the 2src24 election, as his year-end report shows.
Santos has until March 14 to either “disavow” his post-midterm fundraising and spending activity, or file a statement clarifying his candidate status for 2src24, the FEC said in the notice.
With the multiple investigations swirling around Santos, the astounding array of errors and inconsistencies in his reports, and a reported DOJ probe into his campaign finances, Kappel doesn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I expect that the campaign committee will soon get another letter regarding the multiple deficiencies in the Year-End Report and that the other Santos political committees will get letters rejecting their efforts to terminate and instructing them to keep filing reports,” he said.