NJ House Delegation Splits on Santos Expulsion

Just seven of New Jersey’s 12 members of the House of Representatives delegation voted to expel the twice indicted Rep. George Santos (R-NY 3rd). The expulsion drive, which was initiated by the embattled Long Island representative’s New York Republican colleagues, fell well short of the two-thirds required by a vote of 179 yea to  213 nay.

The Garden State delegation split on Santos was not along partisan lines.

Rep. Rob Menendez (D-NJ 8th), the son of Sen. Robert Menendez Sr. (D-NJ), who is also under indictment, voted not to expel, along with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ 4th ) and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ 2nd).

Rep. Tom Kean (R-NJ 7th) was one of 24 Republicans to vote to remove Santos from the House. He was joined by 155 Democrats including Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-3rd), Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-6th), Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9th), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10th), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12th).

Nineteen members voted just “present” including Rep. Don Norcross (D-NJ 1st). 22 members did not record a vote including Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ 5th).

Rep. Santos has been described as a “serial fabulist” whose second run to represent the well-educated and wealthy district benefited from both low turnout and minimal press scrutiny. His Walter Mitty like ascension to the House  provided one of the handful of seats that flipped control of the House to the  Republicans, most of whom had voted not to certify the 2020 election after the Jan. 6 violent insurrection.

Santos first ran in 2020 against incumbent Tom Souzzi (NY-D-3rd) who handily beat him 55 percent to 43.5 percent. In 2022, with 100,000 fewer votes turning out in the non-presidential year, Santos prevailed over his Democratic opponent Robert Zimmerman, 53.7 percent to 46.2 percent.

That 2022 contest made history, according to NBC, by virtue of the fact that it was the  first time two openly gay candidates  faced off for a Congressional seat.

“Heading into the 2022 elections, based on results from the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, the Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was D+2,” according to a Ballotpedia profile of the district. “This meant that in those two presidential elections, this district’s results were 2 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. This made New York’s 3rd the 198th most Democratic district nationally.

After New York State’s contentious redistricting after the 2020 election, the Daily Kos estimated the wealthy Long Island district would have given Joe Biden 53.6 percent of the vote to 45.4 percent for Trump.

In 2020 Santos did not concede his loss until Nov. 17 and on Jan. 6 he was in Washington D.C. and spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally where he claimed before the violent melee at the U.S. Capitol that his election had also been stolen.

In his second run for Congress Santos online biography  said he was a graduate of Baruch College and worked in high finance and Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Early in September he claims in his FEC personal financial disclosure report that he has $11 million, including millions in dividend income.

That filing prompted Maureen Daly, with the local newspaper The North Shore Leader to take a close look at Santos’s 2020 FEC filing which revealed a real rags to riches tale weeks before voters went to the polls.

“Two years ago, in 2020, Santos’ personal financial disclosures claimed that he had no assets over $5,000 – no bank accounts, no stock accounts, no real property,” Daly reported. “A net worth barely above ‘zero’. And his income was only just over $50,000 for the prior year, derived from a venture fund called “Harbor Hill Capital,” that was closed and seized in 2020 by US federal prosecutors as a ‘Ponzi Scheme.’ Santos was the New York Director of that ‘fund.’”

The North Shore Leader continued, “Now, in a filing dated September 6th, 2022, Santos claims his assets are now as much as $11 million, including personal bank accounts of between $1 million and $5 million; a Condo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, of between $500,000 and $1 million; and business interests of between $1 million and $5 million.”

And while the newspaper reported Santos  “repeatedly claimed to own  ‘a mansion in Oyster Bay Cove; on Tiffany Road; and “a mansion in the Hamptons” on Dune Road he told several Republicans that he was going to sell for $10 million he and :his husband live in a rented apartment, in an attached row house in Queens.”

A little over a month after Santos’s 20,000 vote win over his Democratic opponent in 2022, the New York Times reported  Citigroup and Goldman Sachs “had no record” of him ever working there and that Baruch College could find no record of Santos graduating from the school.

“At the same time, new revelations uncovered by The Times — including the omission of key information on Mr. Santos’s personal financial disclosures, and criminal charges for check fraud in Brazil — have the potential to create ethical and possibly legal challenges once he takes office,” the Times reported.

Among Santos’s false claims that elicited the most outrage  was his  representations that he was a Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors and that his mother had succumbed in 2016 from a 9/11 WTC related illness due to her presence in lower Manhattan on 9/11.

In May, Santos settled the outstanding Brazilian case, which stemmed from the theft of a pair of shoes and a checkbook,  by paying close to $5,000 and admitting his guilt.

Santos was originally indicted on May 13 on multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, as well as making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. He was hit with a superseding federal indictment on Oct. 10 with ten additional counts alleging he stole family members’ identities and made unauthorized purchases on campaign contributors credit cards.

“As alleged, Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign,” said Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, in a statement. “Santos falsely inflated the campaign’s reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen”

“Santos allegedly led multiple additional fraudulent criminal schemes, lying to the American public in the process,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge James Smith in a statement. “The FBI is committed to upholding the laws of our electoral process.  Anyone who attempts to violate the law as part of a political campaign will face punishment in the criminal justice system.” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Smith.

“The defendant – a Congressman – allegedly stole the identities of family members and used the credit card information of political contributors to fraudulently inflate his campaign coffers,” said Nassau District Attorney Annie Donnelly in a statement.

Santos, 35, has pled “not guilty” and has steadfastly maintained his innocence as the criminal charges have piled up which he says are all the manifestation of a “witch hunt.”

Back in September, when asked by MSNBC  about whether or not Sen. Menendez should resign after his indictment, Santos was adamant that his New Jersey colleague should stand his ground as he was doing.

“I think due process is important and I think he has the right to defend himself,” Santos said. “He’s innocent till proven guilty. The media has to stop acting like everybody is guilty before they are judged by juries…When did we walk away from the fabric of our Constitution that everybody has a presumption of innocence before anything else? I don’t think he should resign.”

Last month, five days before Santos’s second indictment, Nancy Marks, the treasurer of the Long Island member’s congressional campaign committee, pled guilty to charges she submitted “materially false reports to the FEC on behalf of the campaign, in which they inflated the campaign’s fundraising numbers for the purpose of misleading the FEC, a national party committee, and the public,” according to the government’s filings.

Prosecutors say the purpose of the scheme was to ensure “Santos and his campaign qualified for a program administered by the national party committee” and  “would provide financial and logistical support to Santos’s campaign.  To qualify for the program, Santos had to demonstrate, among other things, that his congressional campaign had raised at least $250,000 from third-party contributors in a single quarter.”

To do that, federal prosecutors allege Santos and Marks falsely reported to the FEC that at least 10 family members of Santos and Marks had made significant financial contributions to the campaign, when Santos and Marks both knew that these individuals had neither made the reported contributions nor given authorization for their personal information to be included in such false public reports.”

Since the national party relied on FEC fundraising data to vet whether or not candidates’ met the threshold for their support, Santos and Marks allegedly filed a false FEC  report that Santos had extended his campaign a  $500,000 loan, “when Santos had less than $8,000 in his personal business bank accounts,” according to the Department of Justice.

Expulsion from the House of Representatives is extremely rare.  According to PBS, only five members have been thrown out of the people’s house, three for their support of the Confederacy and two after a criminal conviction meaning that Santos’s ouster would be “groundbreaking” if it happened “before his case in federal court is resolved.”

In March, the House’s Ethics Committee opened an investigation into allegations Santos had engaged  in “unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”

Published reports indicate the House Ethics Committee is expected to update Congress on Nov. 17 on the status of their probe.

“If we are going to set a new precedent today that we are against lying fraudsters coming to the House of Representatives, well then I am all for that precedent,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-4th), a retired NYPD detective.

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