The House Ethics Committee on Thursday found “overwhelming evidence” that Representative George Santos violated federal law, laying the groundwork for another campaign to oust the first-term Republican from New York that prompted him to announce he would not seek re-election.
House investigators concluded that Mr. Santos used campaign funds to further his own goals, defrauded donors and filed false or incomplete campaign finance and financial disclosures, according to a 56-page indictment released Thursday.
Mr. Santos “wanted to exploit every aspect of his House for his own financial gain,” the report said, adding that he propelled his campaign “through a continuous series of lies to his constituents, sponsors and staff about his background.” and knowledge.”
The committee voted unanimously to forward its findings to the Department of Justice, saying Mr. Santos “authorizes public condemnation, degrades the dignity of the office, and brings great disrepute upon the House.”
And while the panel refrained from recommending any punitive measures, its chairman, Representative Michael Guest, Republican of Mississippi, announced separately that he would introduce a new proposal to remove Mr. Santos replaced as soon as Friday.
“Most of us have never seen anything like this – this broad, this bold, and this bold,” said Representative Glenn F. Ivey, Democrat of Maryland, who sits on the Ethics Committee.
Hours after the report was released, a number of Democrats and Republicans voted to protect Mr. Santos previously expressed his support for his removal.
House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement Thursday afternoon that he had reviewed the report and its “very troubling findings,” but did not take a position on Mr. Santos.
Mr. Santos, 35, a Republican who represents parts of Long Island and Queens, already faces a 23-count federal indictment that includes allegations he stole from donors and falsified campaign documents.
He successfully flipped the Democratic district last November, but his victory was quickly overshadowed by reports from The New York Times and others that revealed he had fabricated much of his life story.
Mr Santos, who did not respond to a request for comment, has denied allegations that he is stepping down, and has pleaded not guilty. But shortly after the Ethics Committee’s report was released, Mr. Santos announced that he will not seek re-election in 2024.
He continued to dispute the panel’s findings, however, writing in Xwebsite formerly known as Twitter: “If there was a single ETHICS “committee on Ethics,” they would not have released this biased report.
The report, which came after nearly nine months of investigation, was impressive and comprehensive, and accompanied by many pages of supporting documents.
The investigators reported that they found evidence of widespread corruption in all the congressional campaigns of Mr. Santos, from fake loans to cash.
Mr. Santos became popular in his campaign as a wealthy man, working at major banks such as Goldman Sachs, with advanced degrees and family fortune that helped him lend his campaigns thousands of dollars.
Congressional investigators found the opposite.
In his first, unsuccessful term in Congress in 2020, for example, Mr. Santos intended to loan his campaign $81,250 in several installments revealed in the FEC reports. In fact, he only ever transferred $3,500.
However, when the campaign ended, he paid off most of the original, bogus loan, and made a profit of $27,700.
The numbers go up in 2022, when Mr. Santos reportedly loaned his campaign more than $700,000. Those loans were made last, the report said — not when they were first reported in the spring, but in a series of transfers in the fall from Mr. Santos himself and the company.
Congressional investigators traced some of the money to services he made to foreign clients, but noted that the timing and other circumstances of the payments raise “difficult questions” about whether the campaign contributions were illegal.
This report also explained a number of errors and excesses of Mr. Santos, some — such as more than a dozen charges between $199 and $200, cents below the limit where receipts are required — that investigators say suggest fraud.
Elsewhere, the report elaborated that Mr. How Santos moved large sums of money between a New York PAC, a Florida LLC and his personal account, at one point noting that he had withdrawn an unaccounted for sum of $240,000.
And the investigators accused Mr. Santos said he stole “shamefully” from his campaign, citing travel and hotel stays in Las Vegas that coincided with the time he told staff he was on vacation, as well as thousands of dollars he spent on resorts. At least two of the payments were described as being for Botox.
One of the most interesting details of the report concerns a Florida company called RedStone Strategies, Mr. Santos used it to raise money without being restricted by campaign donation limits.
The investigators found that Mr. Santos transferred at least $200,000 to her from RedStone through multiple transactions in 2022, some of which was used to pay off personal credit cards and purchases at Hermes, Sephora and OnlyFans, a website known for its adult content.
This finding seemed to undermine the strategy of Mr. Santos crime prevention. The congressman has repeatedly denied being involved in his campaign finances, saying his treasurer “went wrong.”
But the investigators found that Mr. Santos was “very involved” in financial matters, noting that he received weekly financial reports and invoices and had access to bank accounts.
Mr. Santos’ treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to federal charges last month, becoming the first person associated with his campaign to do so. The second, a campaign aide named Samuel Miele, pleaded guilty earlier this week.
The committee could not prove the allegations that Mr. Santos is guilty of sexual harassment. These allegations were made last February by a former assistant who accused Mr. Santos for coming to him, then fired him after his request was withdrawn. The Santos campaign said it fired the aide after learning of the wiretapping charges he was facing in Ohio.
Earlier this month, a group of conservative Republicans representing moderate districts in the area where Mr. Santos lives in New York forced a vote to oust him from Congress. That effort failed miserably, with many members of the House saying they wanted to set a precedent for removal without being found by a court or the Ethics Committee.
Those critics, including Anthony D’Esposito and Nick LaLota, two Long Island Republicans, wasted little time in using the ethics investigation to push their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reconsider firing Mr. Santos.
The Ethics Committee described the Santos investigation, which came after a series of complaints from members of Congress and the public, as “a priority for the investigative team” that used “a large amount of the committee’s resources.”
The panel interviewed about 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents, and authorized 37 subpoenas.
The investigation includes allegations of criminal and ethical violations, including allegations that the congressman violated conflict-of-interest laws while conducting business for his company, the Devolder Organization, and failed to properly file financial disclosures.
Some of this behavior is also taken up by federal prosecutors, who have accused Mr. Santos on various charges involving his personal and campaign finances.
The re-election campaign of Mr. Santos was already facing an uphill battle. Even before he announced in April that he would run for re-election, state and local party officials said they would not support his efforts. His fundraising totals lag behind those of potential challengers.
Last month, Thomas R. Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat who failed to file a bid for governor in 2022 that may have helped open Mr. region to democratic governance.
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting from Washington and Michael Gold from New York.