George Santos’ Mysterious Campaign Loans Somehow Get Even More Mysterious newsusface

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) announced Monday that he would, counter to previously reported promises, run for another term in Congress. But it’s his latest campaign finance report—filed just a few days earlier—that’s truly mystifying watchdogs, as Santos made yet another seemingly inexplicable change to a central question about his finances: How, and now when, did he loan his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars?

In the report, which was filed with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday, the campaign claimed that over the first three months of the year it refunded more donations than it received—likely a side effect of the general public’s aversion to the scandal-swamped congressional freshman, a feeling his donors share. (The Santos campaign was also legally barred from raising money for some of the reporting period.)

The campaign also reported spending a grand total of zero dollars ($0.00) in that same time period, which, while unusual for any active campaign, represents an extraordinary departure from Santos’ previous profligacy. The flat expenses also raise questions of whether the campaign failed to properly account for services it used over the period, such as legal counsel or FEC compliance.

Given the reported investigations into Santos’ finances at the local, state, and federal levels, it’s the loan information that is perhaps most notable—at least from a legal perspective.

The latest filing changed four things about the more than $700,000 in questionable loans that Santos made to his 2022 campaign: the dates he made them, the dates they came due, the amounts of the individual loans, and the total amount.

None of the campaign finance experts interviewed for this article could explain the changes or offer a scenario where the entries didn’t at minimum run afoul of federal reporting laws.

The question at the heart of the questions about Santos’ finances is how he was able to loan his campaign so much money so quickly. In 2020, Santos reported earning $55,000, and held no assets. But he still loaned his campaign more than $80,000.

The next year, Santos suddenly had more than $11 million in assets and was raking in $750,000 annually—a windfall he has attributed to branching off from his pseudo-brokerage employers and starting a pseudo-brokerage company of his own.

Santos claims the money came from his personal funds—an explanation many campaign finance and legal experts find hard to believe, especially given his history of seemingly compulsive fabrications. But if he couldn’t afford to fund his campaign, then how did he do it?

Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance law expert at watchdog Documented, called the filing “yet another example of Santos’ reports being an indecipherable mess,” and said the FEC would likely be asking a lot of questions.

“These kinds of calculations and debt discrepancies are going to be a big red flag for the FEC’s reports and analysis division,” Fischer told The Daily Beast. “I’d expect them to ask Santos why these reports don’t make any sense.”

As for the total loan amount, the report suggests that between the last two filings, $40,000 in Santos-backed loans vanished from the campaign’s debts. The campaign’s previous report, covering the tail end of 2022, showed he loaned his campaign a total $755,000 over the 2022 cycle. Saturday’s report knocked that down to $715,000, with no explanation.

But the campaign didn’t just change the total amounts. The filings also changed the amounts of the individual loans themselves, as well as the dates Santos made them.

For instance, all previous 2022 reports show Santos making his most substantial loan—$500,000—on March 31, 2022. That loan doesn’t appear on the new report at all.

Instead, the filing seems to have split that half-million dollars into three separate loans. Not only that, but the campaign now claims that Santos actually made those three loans about a half a year later—$300,000 on Sept. 10; $100,000 on Sept. 20; and $100,000 on Oct. 10. Another $80,000 loan from June 2021 also appeared in those earlier filings, including his prior report. However, that loan is missing this latest filing, which now shows a previously undisclosed loan—this time in Oct. 2022, for the amount of $90,000.

Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Daily Beast that it comes down to one question: Was Santos lying about his funding during the campaign, or is he lying about it now?

“If you take this at face value, that means Santos artificially inflated the amount of money in his campaign for months, then actually fulfilled that loan months and months later. So the dates and amounts of funding for his campaign were previously untrue, across several reports,” Libowitz said, calling the hundreds of thousands of dollars in changes “as big a red flag as we could see.”

He noted that since the filing claims the loans came from Santos’ personal funds—a claim that hasn’t always been the case—Santos can’t “feign ignorance” on these questions.

“So were you lying then or are you lying now? Either you gave your campaign half a million dollars in March or you didn’t,” he said.

Shanna Ports, senior legal counsel at Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that the loans and debts “should be consistent across all reports, but we’re not seeing that here.”

“It would make sense for a new treasurer to go back and clean up the books and correct any errors, then we’d expect the treasurer to go back and revise the prior reports and remove the loan,” Ports said. But that raises the question of why those loans were originally reported in the first place.

Some have speculated that Santos never loaned his campaign that money. The FEC filings show that it seems theoretically possible—at least for a while. But at the end of September, the campaign’s cash dipped below the total amount he had claimed to loan the campaign, indicating real money in the account. Of course, The New York Times reported that hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses don’t seem to be accounted for. Today, Santos has about $25,000 on hand, suggesting that either some, if not all, of these loans were real money from somewhere, or his campaign fabricated nearly $700,000 in expenses.

It’s not the first time the campaign’s bookkeeping has changed the loan totals. In fact, Santos’ reports are so wildly different that they appear to have created contradictions in the FEC’s own data.

As of Monday, the grand 2022 total in the FEC’s database was $705,000, spread across three loans. (A Campaign Legal Center complaint filed in January cites that same amount.) Today, however, the loan total on Santos’ 2022 summary page isn’t $705,000, but $755,000—$50,000 higher.

However, the difference between the loan totals in the new report ($715,000) and the prior report ($755,000) isn’t $50,000—it’s $40,000.

What’s more, the campaign changed the dates that the loans came due. Previously, the loans had no due dates for repayment. But now they do—and, in keeping with the theme, the dates are contradictory.

According to the new filing, the campaign was supposed to pay Santos back by the last day of 2022. That would mean that Santos gave his campaign about three months to pay him back more than $700,000. But it would also suggest that the campaign, which is still reporting those debts, is in breach of its contract with Santos, Fischer said—unless Santos forgave the loans, which is not documented as it should be, and in which case the report wrongly reports them as debt.

It somehow gets weirder.

Those back-to-back reports, with wildly different loan scenarios, were actually signed by the same person.

That would be the campaign’s new treasurer—one “Andrew Olson,” who replaced Santos’ old treasurer weeks after she resigned in late January. The Daily Beast and other news outlets have still not been able to confirm that Olson, whose name does not appear to be associated with any other federal campaign ever, actually exists. And the treasurer, or whoever completed those two reports, did not explain in the new filing what happened to that $40,000.

“Andrew Olson”—who made more than $100,000 in debts to entities other than Santos magically disappear in the filing before this one—has never been paid. At least according to this filing. Santos, however, paid his previous treasurer thousands of dollars a month, FEC records show.

“We have yet to see anything that points in the direction of his existence,” Libowitz said of Olson.

Fischer noted that since lying to the FEC is a criminal violation, “it would be exceptionally stupid for George Santos to compound his legal troubles by forging another person’s name on his FEC report.”

The Santos campaign also never paid his attorney, Joe Murray, who has fielded media questions for months.

The missing payments raise questions of whether the campaign has properly reported those services. FEC guidelines allow campaigns to accept volunteer legal and accounting services, but only if they’re intended “solely to help the committee comply” with federal campaign finance laws. Those volunteer services must also still be disclosed, according to the guidelines—and some of Murray’s work doesn’t appear to fit the exemption.

Ports, of Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that legal fees not related to compliance with federal campaign finance laws would fall outside that exemption and be “subject to scrutiny as in-kind contributions.”

As for Murray fielding comment requests, she said, “that wouldn’t technically qualify as compliance work.”

One last mystery remains.

According to the new report, Santos refunded $2,900 to a woman named Mayra Ruiz, who is one of his company’s clients. Those clients are the ultimate source of the wealth he claims to have, which, he says, he put into his campaign.

Santos refunded the $2,900 in early January, according to the report. Ruiz made that donation on Dec. 18, 2022—one day before The New York Times first revealed Santos’ lies to the world.

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