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Fri, Jun

Dems Say GOP Rep-Elect George Santos Should Face Expulsion as He Admits to Lying About His Background

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GUEST COMMENTARY - Republican Rep.-elect George Santos of New York faced calls to step aside late Monday after he admitted to a catalog of lies and misleading statements related to his work history, education, and family background—and did not offer any clarity about his eyebrow-raising finances.

In an interview with the right-wing New York Post, which ran a headline calling him a "liar," Santos said he is guilty of "embellishing" his résumé, conceding that he never actually worked for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, didn't graduate from college as he claimed, and doesn't own 13 properties.

Santos, who has characterized himself as the "full embodiment of the American dream," also appears to have told false stories about his family history. The Forward reported last week that "the very first line of the 'About George' page on his campaign website states: 'George's grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.'"

"But the website myheritage.com lists Santos' maternal grandparents as having both been born in Brazil before the Nazis rose to power—his grandfather, Paulo Horta Devolder, in 1918, and his grandmother, Rosalina Caruso Horta Devolder, in Rio, in 1927," the outlet noted. "An online obituary for Santos' mother, Fatima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolder, who died in 2016, says she was born in Niterói, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, on Dec. 22, 1962, to Paul and Rosalina Devolder."

Speaking to The New York Post, Santos insisted he "never claimed to be Jewish."

"I am Catholic," he added. "Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'"

In November, Santos defeated Democratic opponent Robert Zimmerman in the first-ever U.S. House race between two openly gay candidates, helping the GOP secure a narrow majority in the chamber. 

Since his victory, Santos has faced growing questions about his background—and, as The New York Post reported, his "embellishments" have long been something of an open secret among Republican leaders.

"As far as questions about George in general, that was always something that was brought up whenever we talked about this race," an unnamed senior GOP leadership aide told the tabloid. "It was a running joke at a certain point. This is the second time he's run and these issues we assumed would be worked out by the voters."

Some of the most pressing questions about Santos pertain to his shadowy finances.

TheNew York Times observed that in his financial disclosures, Santos "reported earning millions of dollars from his company, the Devolder Organization," but has "disclosed little about the operations of his company." The newspaper reported that it "could find no public-facing assets or other property tied to the firm."

"Santos also did not list any clients on his disclosures, despite the requirement that candidates list any compensation over $5,000 from a single source," the Times noted. "Intentionally omitting or misrepresenting information on a congressional financial disclosure is considered a federal crime."

According to The Washington Post

At one point, Santos said on his campaign website that Devolder was a privately held family firm that had $80 million in assets under management, a claim that has since been removed. Documents filed with the Florida secretary of state show that Santos organized the company in May 2021, one month before he declared his latest candidacy. A little more than a year later, on July 30, 2022, the financial data company Dun & Bradstreet estimated that Devolder had a revenue of only $43,688. 

That estimate, which previously has not been reported, was based on Dun & Bradstreet’s “modeling” and “data science,” the firm said in a statement to The Post. As a privately held company, Devolder does not need to publicly release financial reports. 

In any case, on Sept. 6, when Santos filed his financial disclosure report with the clerk of the U.S. House, he said the Devolder Organization had provided him with millions of dollars. Santos reported that the Devolder Organization had paid him an annual salary of $750,000 in 2021 and 2022, and that the company was worth between $1 million and $5 million. 

Asked in [a] radio interview about a report that he had put $700,000 into his campaign, he responded: "That is the money of—that I've paid myself through my company, Devolder Organization."

Santos told The New York Post that he is "not a criminal" and said he intends to serve his two-year term, but the rampant falsehoods have spurred calls for his resignation among elected Democrats as Republican leaders remain silent on the matter. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is running for speaker, refused to answer questions about Santos last week.

"George Santos should resign as congressman-elect," tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas). "If he refuses, Congress should expel him. He should also be investigated by authorities. Just about every aspect of his life appears to be a lie."

New York Democrats also weighed in on Monday. 

"George Santos admits his life story is a complete fabrication," said Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). "His pitiful confession should not distract us from concerns about possible criminality and corruption."

"Santos, a former call center employee falling behind on his rent, lent his campaign a staggering $705,000," Torres wrote on Twitter. "Where did all that money come from? The Ethics Committee MUST start investigating immediately."

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) quipped that "if I were George Santos' lawyer, I, too, would advise him not to resign until such time as he could negotiate that as part of a plea deal."

(Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)