(WASHINGTON) — New campaign disclosures from embattled Rep. George Santos suggest that at least $625,000 in campaign loans he had previously reported as self-funded might not be sourced from his “personal funds.”
Campaign finance experts say Santos, R-N.Y., may be violating campaign finance laws by not properly disclosing the original sources of those loans.
In a series of amendments filed on Tuesday, Santos marked two loans that he had previously reported as loans from himself — $500,000 from March 2022 and $125,000 from October 2022 — as not from “personal funds from the candidate.”
In a previous version of his campaign disclosure, the $500,000 was reported as a loan from George Anthony Devolder-Santos, with a checked box indicating it was from “personal funds of the candidate.”
But in an amendment to that report filed on Tuesday, that box was left unchecked.
Similarly, in another amendment filed on Tuesday, the $125,000 loan was reported as a self-loan from Santos but it had an unmarked box now indicating that it’s not from his personal funds. That loan was previously reported under the contributions section, with a memo that it was a self-loan from Santos.
Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert and the deputy executive director of Documented, said a campaign loan reported under a candidate but not marked as “personal funds of the candidate” usually means that the loan is secured through a bank or another person.
Under campaign finance laws, disclosures of such loans are required to be accompanied by the original source of the loans as well as the due date and the interest rate, Fischer said.
But Santos’ amended filings did not disclose any of that information.
Santos declined to comment on the changes when asked by reporters outside his office on Wednesday: “I have no comment for you on that … I have no clue on what you are talking about,” he said.
Fischer said Santos’ new amendments “make no sense” and added that “unchecking the box is not going to absolve Santos from any legal liabilities.”
Adav Noti, former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center, said the possibility of the changes being unintentional clerical errors, which the Santos campaign has a history of, should not be discounted at this point.
“I don’t think the amendments shed light either way on anything that happened,” Noti said. “There’s one checkbox on one form that was changed. There’s no indication that that was intentional, and there’s all sorts of indication that it might have just been sloppiness.”
Regardless of the intention of the changes, campaign finance lawyer and Deputy Executive Director of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation Paul Seamus Ryan emphasized the importance of proper disclosures of campaign funds.
“Disclosure of the source and terms of such a loan is important because federal law requires that loans obtained by a candidate for use in the candidate’s campaign must be on the usual and customary terms that would be offered to any similarly situated borrower,” Ryan said.
“I’m not sure what Santos’ motivation was for the loan-related amendments, but he hasn’t cleared up potential violations of federal law,” Ryan added.
Santos, who was elected in November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, has been under mounting scrutiny over his finances — with 2022 disclosures indicating millions in assets after previously disclosing less than $60,000 in income in 2020 — as well as a string of falsehoods and embellishments he told about his background.
Democrats have also filed a complaint against him with the House Ethics Committee.
Santos has insisted he is not a criminal and vowed to serve his term for his constituents, suggesting it’s up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office. He was recently given assignments on two lower-level congressional committees: the panels for small business and science, space and technology.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that “I will hold him [Santos] to the same standard I hold anyone else elected.”
If Santos is found to have broken the law, then “we will remove him,” McCarthy said, though it was unclear what punishment McCarthy was promising.
ABC News’ Lauren Peller and Rachel Scott contributed to this report.
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