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No one seems to want the bag of all the potential fallout awaiting the reported federal investigation into George Santos' campaign finance records, and that includes George Santos.
The chaos followed Tuesday's flash of altered Federal Election Commission records that included, among other things,font changesfrom what the campaign had previously listed as credits taken from Santos' personal funds. And supposedly as a federal investigator.examine Santos' campaign books, the revelations could have profound implications for Santos' "self-funded" political career.
When asked Wednesday why his loans no longer counted in his personal funds, Santos seemed distracting.
"Sir, let's be very clear: I don't change anything, I don't touch anything on my FEC, right?" SaintssayingCNN reporter Manu Raju. "So don't be fake and say I did this because you know every campaign hires curators."
Santos added that he "did not know" why his process was revised and promised "a response to the press about the changes."
Regarding the core of the amendments - the origin of the Holy loans - Rajui wroteon Twitter that Santos refused to explain the origin of the money.
Later that day, however, the campaign appeared to be changing the hired "trustees." And yet this change was once again opposed by the new treasurer, who apparently never approved the new position.
This confusion occurred after the FEC released new organizational pronouncements presented by Santos.cinco Federal politically committees, including hisCampaign, and claimed that his treasurer, Nancy Marks, had given the books to another accountant popular with Republican civil servants, Thomas Datwyler.
Datwyler's attorney, Derek Ross, told The Daily Beast those records were inaccurate and said Datwyler turned down Santos' campaign offer earlier this week.
“On Monday we informed the Santos campaign that Mr. Datwyler will not be acting as treasurer. There appears to be a discrepancy between this conversation and today's records that we have not authorized," Ross said.
For now, it's unclear who, if anyone, will legally serve as Santos's treasurer, an issue that Brett Kappel, a campaign finance legal expert at Harmon Curran, said would bar the campaign from financial activities.
"Federal campaign law requires that each body politic have a treasurer in office at all times, otherwise the body politic cannot spend or receive donations," Kappel told The Daily Beast.
he pointed52 USC §30102, which states: "During the period that the office of Treasurer is vacant, no contribution or expense will be accepted or made by or on behalf of any political committee."
It's unclear if the office is technically unstaffed. Santos did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment. But a person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that Datwyler had contacted Santos's attorney and the FEC "to let them know that we did not authorize this."
According to this source, Santos had already looked at whether Datwyler would take over as treasurer and "clean up this mess a bit." But after reviewing the files, the person said, Datwyler "saw this would be a huge undertaking and not worth the effort."
But campaign finance law experts told The Daily Beast that given Santos' irregularities in lending, fundraising and spending, bigger problems could arise for the treasurer, who could be held personally liable if he misrepresents knowingly federal records.
"The stakes and commitments of a treasurer are slightly different than those of a nominee," said Paul S. Ryan, associate executive director of the Trustees' Civic Engagement Committee. “The treasurer is personally responsible for ensuring that the documentation submitted to the government is correct. We know that Team Santos is in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice. While we don't know the full spectrum of the investigation, one of the most frequently charged campaign finance laws is adeterminationof the Penal Code, which prohibits any person from intentionally falsifying, covering up, or concealing any fact known to the Confederation.”
On tuesday,the daily beastreported that the Santos campaign filed a series of modified FEC reports. These changes affected all 10 registrations for the 2022 election cycle and included one major change: unchecking the box that previously said hundreds of thousands of dollars in candidate loans came from their "personal funds."
"If I'm the treasurer and I don't know where the money is coming from, I'm on the hook and I'm going to uncheck that box," Ryan said.
Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, shares this view.
"The comment Santos made when he accused his treasurer lends credence to the idea that his treasurer was trying to distance himself from the claims with these changes," Libowitz told The Daily Beast. “The Treasurer has a fiduciary duty in that he can be held personally liable for claims. When there is no proof where the money came from, or when there is doubt that it came from him, a plausible explanation is that his treasurer cleaned out the boxes because she could no longer hold the credit. If she plans to frame Santos and say he lied and she wanted nothing to do with it, that's a plausible explanation."
But the big question remains: where did the money come from?
Tuesday's amendments included all changes to the original disclosures of the loans Santos obtained for his 2022 congressional campaign: a total of $705,000 in three installments. Although all of the amendments still say that the initial loans came from the "candidate," they almost paradoxically omit that the money came from his "personal funds."
The first loan of $80,000 arrived on June 30, 2021 and appears in campaignsQuarterly report July 2021– which has already been changed a total of seven times. The next loan, an injection of $500,000, cameMarch 31, 2022. The final loan was for $125,000 and was in line with Santos' campaign.reports, broadcast on October 26, 2022, about two weeks before the election.
While the newly amended reports still say the loans came from the "applicant," they don't say the money came from his "personal funds." With the first two loans, that was a change. As for the third loan, that detail was not even addressed in the relevant schedule in the original filing, an error noted by the FEC in aCartato the Treasurer, Marks, last month. When he filled out the new form Tuesday, the Personal Funds box was not checked.
All of these loans came after Santos founded his private company, the Devolder Organization, which heSaid beforeThe Daily Beast was the original home of the money he used to finance his campaign.The New York Times dies reportedEarlier this month, Santos' political operation had also solicited large donations through an organization that had never registered with the FEC. This company, RedStone Strategies, appears to share a name with a private company The Daily Beastpreviously reportedhe was tied with Santos.
Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Law Center, noted that clerical errors could play a role, as some of the retrospectively modified campaign records for other reporting periods did not include the change of personal funds, although all reports revealed that the original loan did.
That unchecked box, Ghosh said, only raises new questions because it says where the funds didn't come from, but not where they did.tattooI am from.
“Under the law, a loan applicant is one of two things. Either it comes from the candidate's bona fide assets and income, or it's some kind of bank loan with the terms disclosed on an additional form," Ghosh explained. "Personal funds" in all of these loans. This practice lasted until yesterday. But in terms of legally required disclosure, that's not an acceptable category: if it's not personal funds, you need to disclose more information."
“Unchecking the box will enable further disclosures about the terms of the loan and the source of the loan. This is important for the public, the FEC and law enforcement to review and compare the terms of this loan to other terms, because politicians can't cut a good deal with a lender,” Ryan said. "If this really was an implied statement that those were not his dollars, then we need to know more."
Ryan told Santos: "Their legal problem is that the law defines 'contributions' to include loans. Call it a loan, it doesn't matter. They're still subject to restrictions. And if a loan doesn't meet the strict requirements to be eligible, it's considered a benefit and there is a violation if the actual source of those funds is improper.”
"At the end of the day, it all comes down to where the money is coming from," Ryan said, pointing to questions raised in a previous edition of The Daily Beast about possible fictitious donors or corporate contributions.announcement. "Given what we know about Santos, the idea that he came from a legitimate source is absurd."
The theme is also central to Ghosh, whose CLCfiled a civil suitEarlier this month, the Santos campaign was alleged to have committed various violations, including possible straw donations and personal use.
"These deposits added a lot of smoke, but the underlying fire is still there," Ghosh said. "Where did that money come from?"