The House Ethics Committee on Thursday unanimously concluded that Rep. George Santos of New York should be referred to the Justice Department because there is “substantial evidence” he misused campaign funds, filed false reports on his donations and engaged in other forms of fraud.
The panel’s Investigative Subcommittee, in a scathing report, said the Republican congressman’s conduct “warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office and has brought severe discredit upon the House.”
The report says Mr. Santos, who previously admitted to fabricating much of his life story, siphoned campaign funds into personal accounts for luxury purchases at Hermes and that even his professed cooperation with the ethics committee was “another lie.”
“Rep. Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” lawmakers said in the report, which was based on more than 170,000 pages of documents — including financial statements, contemporaneous communications and other materials — and testimony from dozens of witnesses.
The committee did not recommend a specific punishment for Mr. Santos, who faces a federal indictment alleging he committed fraud and misused political donations. Ethics reports with proposed sanctions can take a lot of time.
Mr. Santos, in a social media response, announced he would not seek reelection but panned the ethics report as a witch hunt.
DOCUMENT: House Ethics Committee report on George Santos
“If there was a single ounce of ETHICS in the ‘Ethics Committee,’ they would have not released this biased report,” he wrote on the X platform. “It is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depths of how low our federal government has sunk. Everyone who participated in this grave miscarriage of justice should all be ashamed of themselves.”
The report issued by Committee Chairman Michael Guest, Mississippi Republican, and Rep. Susan Wild, Pennsylvania Democrat, suggested Mr. Santos‘ alleged fraud extended beyond what is contained in federal charges.
“In light of the ongoing criminal investigation into Rep. Santos, and the ISC’s findings of additional uncharged and unlawful conduct by Rep. Santos, the ISC recommended that the committee immediately refer these allegations to the Department of Justice,” the panel said.
Specifically, the ethics committee concluded that Mr. Santos, who has denied wrongdoing, committed the following:
• Knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.
• Used campaign funds for personal purposes.
• Engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with an LLC known as RedStone Strategies.
• Engaged in knowing and willful violations of the Ethics in Government Act related to the Financial Disclosure statements that lawmakers file with the House.
The report goes into detail about how funds were allegedly siphoned from RedStone Strategies to Mr. Santos‘ personal account and “were used to, among other things: pay down personal credit card bills and other debt; make a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes; and for smaller purchases at Only Fans; Sephora; and for meals and for parking.”
The report also detailed expenditures at resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, despite the lack of political events there at the time.
It said many errors in his financial reports pivoted on improper reporting to the Federal Elections Commission, false personal loans from Mr. Santos and thousands of dollars in unreported disbursements and receipts.
Some lawmakers, including fellow Republicans in the New York delegation, want to use the report as a catalyst for their expulsion effort.
Their expulsion resolution would require a two-thirds majority from the House to pass. The measure failed on a 179-213 vote earlier this month, but ethics findings or a conviction could change some lawmakers’ calculus and lead to new expulsion efforts.
“Many of my colleagues want to hang their hat on a report like [the Ethics Committee one] before they vote yes on expulsion,” Rep. Nick LaLota, New York Republican, said. “I think that substance in the report will drive other members to get to yes.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat who voted “present” on the last expulsion vote, said Mr. Santos has “proven himself to be untrustworthy” and his time in Congress must end.
“Given his repeated refusal to do the right thing and resign his seat, he should be expelled from the House without delay,” Mr. Connolly said. “It is up to the House to decide when and how to police its members, and with today’s report Rep. Santos has used up every bit of due process he is owed.”
Expulsion from the House is rare. Only five members have been forcibly ousted. Two of them were convicted of crimes; the other three supported the Confederacy and its rebellion against the U.S.
Mr. Santos pleaded not guilty in May to federal charges that included counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
The indictment accuses Mr. Santos of using political donations for personal expenses, applying for COVID-19 unemployment relief despite making $120,000 per year at a Florida investment firm and misstating income amounts on House disclosure forms.
A superseding indictment in October alleges he stole the identities of donors and made fraudulent charges on their credit cards. In all, he faces nearly two dozen criminal charges.
Ethics panel lawmakers were unsparing in their criticism. Their report said the congressman “cannot be trusted,” adding they did not issue a subpoena for Mr. Santos because he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to silence and his testimony likely would have “low evidentiary value, given his admitted practice of embellishment.”
The committee said it was not swayed by Mr. Santos‘ attempt to blame others, including his treasurer, for financial irregularities, and retraced how his troubles began with personal fabrications.
The life story that Mr. Santos created unraveled shortly after his election win in 2022. Numerous reports revealed that the congressman lied about his education, work history and even his Jewish heritage. Fellow lawmakers openly scoffed at his resume padding and distortions, including a claim he was once a star volleyball player.
The scandal made him an object of fascination with late-night TV and online commentators, plus light-hearted ribbing from fellow lawmakers.
Still, many lawmakers called on Mr. Santos to resign this year. He rebuffed their calls.
• Alex Miller contributed to this story.