Tuesday, December 20, 2022


Yesterday The New York Times published a terrific but regrettably tardy story revealing that George Santos, a Republican who won a congressional seat in New York State that had been previously held by a Democrat, has been lying about virtually every aspect of his life. Here's a nice summary of the Times story from a Substacker:
* Santos didn’t go to Baruch College. In fact, in the years he claims to have been there, he was charged with a crime in Brazil, in the city where his mother lived.

* He didn’t work for Citi or Goldman-Sachs, as he claimed.

* He didn’t run a charity that was registered as such with the IRS. There’s some evidence it existed in some form from one fund-raiser but no evidence that it actually ever carried out a philanthropic mission or made donations.

* He has a business but he doesn’t seem to own any property, let alone the amount of property he claims to own. His considerable net worth is completely mysterious in terms of where it might have come from, considering that he has no employment history of note and no college education.

* He’s been evicted twice from two different properties for non-payment of rent.

* His campaign spent money in strikingly profligate ways.
About that "considerable net worth" that's "completely mysterious in terms of where it might have come from," the Times tells us:
His financial disclosure forms suggest a life of some wealth. He lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election, has donated thousands of dollars to other candidates in the last two years and reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Yet the firm, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is something of a mystery. On a campaign website, Mr. Santos once described Devolder as his “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets. On his congressional financial disclosure, he described it as a capital introduction consulting company, a type of boutique firm that serves as a liaison between investment funds and deep-pocketed investors. But Mr. Santos’s disclosures did not reveal any clients, an omission three election law experts said could be problematic if such clients exist.

And while Mr. Santos has described a family fortune in real estate, he has not disclosed, nor could The Times find, records of his properties.
So where'd Santos's money come from? David Waldman directs our attention to this Daily Beast story from late November, which refers to Santos as George Devolder-Santos:
The cousin and cash handler for one of Russia’s most notorious oligarchs poured tens of thousands of dollars into electing a newly minted congressman-elect who called Ukraine’s government “a totalitarian regime.”

... [Devolder-Santos] stood out to the Washington Post earlier this year for his remarks in the aftermath of Russia’s bloody, unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

“It’s not like Ukraine is a great democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime. They’re not a great bastion of freedom,” the congressman-to-be told the paper.

He has insisted that Ukraine “welcomed the Russians into their provinces” ... and that Ukrainians in the east “feel more Russian than Ukrainian” ...

... by the time Devolder-Santos made these statements, his congressional ambitions had already received a $32,800 boost from a controversial figure linked to the uppermost echelons of the Russian regime—and that support would more than double in size during the months ahead.

The cash came from Andrew Intrater and his wife....

Intrater’s main venture is today called Sparrow Capital, but it previously used the name Columbus Nova—and its primary function has long been to manage the investments of Intrater’s cousin, Viktor Vekselberg, one of Putin’s wealthiest and most influential courtiers.

So tightly intertwined is Intrater’s business with that of his relative, who snatched up swaths of Russia’s aluminum and fuel industries during the post-Soviet period, that Columbus Nova described itself in 2007 Securities and Exchange Commission filings as “the U.S.-based affiliate” of Vekselberg’s Renova Group....

Starting in March 2021, Intrater and his wife began pouring tens of thousands of dollars into auxiliary committees backing Devolder-Santos: $20,000 directly to GADS PAC, a leadership political action committee bearing the candidate’s initials, plus $12,100 to Devolder Santos Nassau Victory, a joint fundraising committee formed with the Nassau County Republican Party.
Who knows what other money changed hands? This is what's in the public record. I assume there's more we don't know.

The New York State Democratic Party produced an opposition research memo on Santos, but it missed most of what's been reported in these two stories -- it concentrated on Santos's presence at the January 6 Donald Trump rally. (Santos says he didn't go to the Capitol.) The opposition research failure is no surprise -- as New York magazine's Ross Barkan explained just after the midterms, the state Democratic Party is a hapless mess run by the incompetent Jay Jacobs, who doesn't even see party leadership as full-time work and regularly feuds with fellow Democrats:
To best understand Jacobs, it’s easiest to explain what the party does not do. He himself is not a full-time employee of the New York Democratic Party. He earns his living owning and operating summer camps. The State Senate and Assembly chambers each have their own well-funded campaign arms, but they do not receive meaningful assistance or coordination from the state party.... Democratic congressional candidates on Long Island and elsewhere [have] often [been] on their own. The state party does little to recruit candidates or raise money for them.

Organizing infrastructure is virtually absent. In 2020, Biden delegates were frustrated to find that Jacobs’s state party, which was supposed to oversee petitioning efforts to get him on the ballot in New York, offered little assistance, leaving the job to individual politicians and operatives. Jacobs has spent much of his time as party chair — he’s held the job in two different instances now — blaming Democratic losses on outspoken progressives....

Beyond Jacobs, Democratic machines have atrophied on the county level, particularly in New York City. The Brooklyn Democratic Party, riven by infighting, could barely mobilize as Republicans swept a large stretch of southern Brooklyn. The Queens Democratic Party is hardly more active or better suited to repel Republicans.
Hundreds of Democratic officeholders throughout the state have demanded the ouster of Jacobs, though he's hanging on so far. His party dropped the ball here, as did the press, although the Times gets credit for turning in an A-plus term paper a month and a half late.

Santos should step aside but, unsurprisingly, says he won't. Republicans don't want to risk a new election in this very competitive district.

So we'll find out whether Democrats can make Santos a national household name. There are bigger stories right now and this is the holiday season, but we know that the Republican propaganda machine could make a Democratic version of Santos into a national pariah. Let's see what Democrats can do.

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