And at the top of Santos’ list of legal commitments is how a man who appeared to have been struggling financially during his failed 2020 campaign suddenly pumped $700,000 of his own money into his successful 2022 congressional bid.
Santos has changed his story on this front, albeit slightly and perhaps unintentionally. But it still doesn’t make much sense or agree with his previous explanations.
The change came Tuesday night when Santos’ campaign changed the records on the congressman’s campaign finance. The most notable change: He unchecked a box stating that $500,000 and $125,000 in loans were “candidate’s personal funds.”
Some have seized on the amended documentation to suggest that Santos now says the money didn’t actually come from his own funds, raising questions about exactly where it came from.
But the source of the credits is still listed as “DEVOLDER SANTOS, GEORGE, ANTHONY.” It’s also not clear how claiming the credits from elsewhere would help him.
Equally notable are $500,000 of funds still listed as “candidates’ personal funds” in newly amended filings for other time periods, suggesting that it’s entirely possible this is just a typographical error. Those filings also unchecked a box indicating that the loan was for the main part of the election campaign, the election year for which the loan was intended, and the interest rate (which was stated elsewhere as zero percent). .
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that was on purpose. The first problem is that intentionally unchecking the box and not stating that the loans came from personal funds would be inconsistent with Santos’ own suggestions in public remarks that the money actually belonged to him. And campaign finance experts say it won’t help him; Some say it could actually hurt him if he claims the funds are coming from elsewhere.
Santos has occasionally tried to explain himself and address this issue.
When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked him this month where that money was coming from, Santos initially balked, saying, “It didn’t come from China, Ukraine or Burisma.” Gaetz actually pressed him a little on the ” Origin of these resources,” and Santos suggested that the funds were the fruits of his labor.
“I’ve worked my whole life,” he said. “I’ve lived an honest life.”
In a separate interview with WABC Radio last month, Santos said, “This is the money I paid myself through my company, Devolder Organization.”
And in an interview with City and State New York, he added: “I basically started building wealth. And I decided to invest in my race for Congress. Nothing wrong with that.”
Some of these answers have been awkward, which seems to confirm that something strange is going on here. And Santos too distracted when asked about the problem on Wednesday, who says he doesn’t personally handle his campaign finance reports. But in every other case, Santos suggested that the $700,000 was actually money he made and spent on his campaign (despite the lack of evidence his personal business was that successful).
If Santos were to actually say that the money was not his, that would open up a new worm: a candidate cannot borrow money for his campaign unless it comes from his own funds or a personal loan or line of credit. If the latter were the case, Santos would have to disclose the terms of the loan, which he doesn’t.
“I’m not sure what motivated Santos to make the credit-related changes, but he hasn’t addressed possible violations of federal law,” said Paul S. Ryan, campaign finance expert with the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation. “Instead, he created new violations.”
Given his past finances, it would also strain credulity that any bank would lend Santos that amount. And Santos, who otherwise quoted the interest rate as zero percent, would suggest it wasn’t from a bank.
Additionally, to claim that this is not his money, a personal loan, or a line of credit would almost certainly mean the post is illegal, said Dan Weiner, a campaign finance expert and former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works at Brennan Center for Justice in New York works university. Santos can’t even use funds from his own private business unless it’s money he paid for his work first.
“So he would go from some kind of dubious behavior to admitting that he broke the law,” Weiner said.
Weiner said Santos can claim it’s not really his money, but he doesn’t understand how the campaign finance law works. But there’s little chance that would fly to court.
Santos’ handling of these questions does nothing to solve what is perhaps his most important problem of the moment. And whether intentional or not, he’s only pushed that more into the limelight.