Washington, DC – October 11 : Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., walks to a House Republican Conference Speaker candidate forum being held in the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Rep. George Santos said Thursday that he will not seek reelection next year after a damning new House Ethics report found “substantial evidence” that the embattled New York Republican committed campaign fraud and other violations.
“I will continue on my mission to serve my constituents up until I am allowed,” Santos wrote in a defiant social media post that slammed that report as “a disgusting politicized smear.”
“I will however NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024 as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time,” the freshman congressman wrote on X.
The announcement came less than an hour after the release of a report from the investigative body of the House Ethics Committee, which found Santos “blatantly stole from his campaign” and “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”
Those alleged personal expenditures included more than $4,000 in donor funds for a purchase at luxury clothing store Hermes, and for “smaller purchases at OnlyFans,” the online cam-streaming site known for its adult content.
The full ethics panel, led by Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, R-Miss., unanimously adopted the report and voted to refer its findings to the Department of Justice.
Guest plans to introduce another resolution to expel Santos from Congress, the chairman’s chief of staff told CNBC later Thursday. Santos survived an attempt to oust him earlier this month, after the measure failed to garner the support of two-thirds of the House.
A spokeswoman for Santos’ office, and his defense lawyer Joe Murray, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
The scathing, 56-page ethics report is only the latest blow to Santos, who was already facing a raft of criminal theft and fraud charges in New York federal court.
The 35-year-old lawmaker, whose district covers parts of Queens and Nassau counties, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which allege crimes including identity theft, submitting false campaign finance reports and stealing unemployment money, among others.
On Tuesday, Santos’ former campaign fundraiser Sam Miele pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in connection with Miele having impersonated the chief of staff of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy while soliciting donations for Santos.
As part of his plea, Miele admitted to charging credit cards of political contributors for personal expenses.
Last month, Santos’ former campaign treasurer Nancy Marks pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud charges related to her work for Santos.
He has vowed not to resign from office, shrugging off a sustained howl of bipartisan criticism and multiple attempts to force him out of Congress.
The subcommittee’s investigation covered many of the alleged actions that were first brought to light in the federal charges.
Santos “deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report said.
Representative George Santos, a Republican from New York, arrives for a vote at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.
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Santos also allegedly reported fake loans to his political committees to lure donors and party committees to make more contributions to his campaign, “and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported ‘repayments’ of those fictitious loans.”
And he used his political connections to get more funds for himself “through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings,” the report said.
Santos carried out all of these schemes “through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience,” the report alleged.
The subcommittee took him to task for failing to cooperate with investigators about how his campaign funds were managed and where his personal and political money came from.
“Santos has not only refused to provide requested documents and sit for a voluntary interview, he has failed to address most of the allegations under review,” according to the report.
Despite his effort to blame aides for the theft, the committee said he was both a knowing participant and the ultimate beneficiary of the alleged fraud.
“The falsely reported personal loans and contributions helped him meet benchmarks needed to win the support of the national party and project a strong campaign to the public,” the report said.
The subcommittee also reviewed an allegation that Santos may have committed sexual misconduct toward a man seeking a job in his House office, but “was unable to substantiate this allegation,” the report said.
The subcommittee “had concerns” about the man’s “credibility,” the report said, noting inconsistencies in his testimony and his statement that he contacted the FBI about his claim “in order to be paid” by that agency for information about Santos.
Santos has been bombarded with accusations of wrongdoing since shortly after winning his election, which flipped his district from Democratic control. He has admitted lying about his business and education background while on the campaign trail, but he has denied breaking any laws.
— CNBC’s Emily Wilkins contributed reporting.