The DOJ’s Public Integrity Section has requested that the Federal Election Commission hold off on any enforcement actions against Santos as their attorneys conduct a criminal probe, the Washington Post reported. In their request, the Justice Department also reportedly asked the agency for any documents it may have relevant to the freshman congressman’s campaign finances.
“Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” David M. Mason, a former FEC commissioner, told the Post of the request. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”
The FEC began looking into Santos’s funds after the agency noticed several red flags in his filings since his resume was exposed as fraudulent. On Jan. 9, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog, filed a complaint accusing the fabulist of “knowingly and willfully concealing the true sources of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting how his campaign spent its money, and illegally paying for personal expenses with campaign funds.”
As you may recall, the source of Santos’s campaign funds has been one of the biggest mysteries surrounding his background. During his 2020 congressional campaign, he reported earning a modest salary of $55,000 from Harbor City Capital, an alleged ponzi scheme where he worked as their New York regional director. His next run, however, would boast a substantial pay bump to $750,000 and over $1 million in dividends from the Devolder Organization, his own company.
He reported to the FEC that he’d lent his 2022 campaign about $700,000 from his own earnings. But he’s since updated his campaign filings to say that it wasn’t his own money, possibly alluding he might’ve been acting as a straw donor for yet another undisclosed source.
“His claims of having earned millions of dollars in 2021 and 2022 from a supposed consulting business […] are vague, uncorroborated, and non-credible in light of his many previous lies,” the watchdog’s complaint read.
And this all comes after Mother Jones reported last week that many of Santos’s top donors don’t exist.
The FEC is also reportedly looking into who Santos’s treasurer even is. Up until this month, he employed veteran Republican operative Nancy Marks as his chief accountant, but she’s since been replaced on Santos’s amended filings by a campaign finance consultant named Thomas Datwyler.
Except, she wasn’t: Datwyler never agreed to take the job, his lawyer told the New York Times.
The FEC sent Devolder-Santos For Congress a letter on Jan. 26 asking for clarification as a result. “It has come to the attention of the Federal Election Commission that you may have failed to include the true, correct, or complete treasurer information” by listing Datwyler as its treasurer, the letter said.
The agency sent the same letter to five other political fundraising committees linked to Santos, giving them until March 2 to respond. If they fail to do so, the amended filings will be placed in the “unverified” section of the FEC’s website. And if Santos is found to have knowingly made any “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” on these filings, he could face criminal charges, according to the letter.
Santos’ main line of defense when asked about the misleading FEC filings has thus far consisted of playing dumb.