Last week I wrote about the indicted former president and Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump. This week on the criminal docket is Congressman George Santos, charged as George Anthony Devolder Santos in the United States District Court Eastern District of New York. This judicial district includes Santos’s congressional district.
The first eight charges relate to Santos’s scheme to obtain funds for personal use through soliciting funds for his campaign. In other words, he defrauded donors.
The next two counts relate to his defrauding the people of the State of New York by applying for unemployment insurance in New York while he was earning a $120,000 annual salary working for a Florida-based investment firm. From mid-June 2020 until April 21, 2021, Santos falsely affirmed that he was entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. In total, he received $24,000 in unemployment benefits. Finally, Santos was charged with filing a false statement in his House Disclosure report, which is required to be filed by candidates for Congress. He did it twice in 2020 and 2022. In 2020, he understated his assets and income, and the second time he grossly overstated his income and assets. Santos faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the top counts.
Although there have been calls from many Democrats and some Republicans for him to step down, Santos has no interest in doing so. It is in both parties’ interest for him to remain in Congress. The Republicans need his seat in the House of Representatives since they have only a slight majority. If he steps down and a special election is held, there is a good chance that the seat could flip back to the Democratic Party, especially if Tom Suozzi, who held the seat before Santos, decides to run. The Democrats want Santos to stay in power to bash the Republicans who are keeping him in the Congress no matter his legal and ethical problems. The Republicans will argue that they sent it to the ethics committee, which is the normal procedure. For many, it looks like a stalling tactic.
Not only has Santos refused to step down but he is running for reelection. He is trying to take a page out of the Trump book by claiming that the charges are a trumped-up political attack “witch-hunt” to make sure that he cannot win again. It will not work because New York is not a red state and supporters of Santos are not as fanatic in their support of him as the hard core Trumpians are of Trump. Santos is listed as the reelection committee’s treasurer, which is ironic in light of the charges. No one in their right mind wants their name associated with Santos’s 2024 election campaign.
It is risky to try to predict what will happen with Santos, but if I wanted to venture a guess it would be for him to take a plea. As part of the plea, Santos will immediately resign from Congress and agree never to run again.
As someone who grew up in Santos’s district, the situation is a big embarrassment. There is plenty of blame to go around as to how such a person could be a candidate for Congress and then win. What it proves is that there is risk in voting against someone when you don’t know what you are getting. Santos won because the people in his district were sick and tired of excesses of the progressive Democrats and went with the Republican candidate. The Republican Party figured that the seat was lost so they let Santos be the sacrificial lamb, not anticipating his victory. They figured that no one would care about his background. They found out the hard way that character matters. It makes all of us look bad when we have unsavory characters in important positions in government, no matter their political persuasion.