Santos blows off campaign finance allegations: ‘Candidates do not handle money’

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) blew off campaign finance allegations in a Sunday interview, claiming he was not involved with financial matters while he was a candidate.

“As far as all the allegations, remember how a campaign works,” Santos told CNN’s Manu Raju on “Inside Politics.” “I’m a candidate. Candidates do not handle money. Candidates do not handle finances. Candidates do not handle filings.”

“I don’t even know what the FEC filing system looks like,” Santos added, referring to the independent agency that enforces campaign finance laws and a system in which a candidate’s campaign files their finance reports on their behalf.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 criminal charges that involve inflating his campaign finance reports and charging people’s credit cards without their authorization. In May, he entered his not guilty plea to an initial 13-count indictment, which accused the New York Republican of misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosures. Another 10 criminal charges came in a superseding indictment in early October.

The new indictment came days after Nancy Marks, Santos’s former campaign treasurer, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to conspiring with Santos to commit fraud on his campaign finance reports.

Prosecutors claim the scheme was meant to ensure Santos raised at least $250,000 from third-party contributors during one quarter. That would qualify him for a “national party committee” program giving his campaign financial and logistical support. In order to reach that threshold, prosecutors say, Santos and Mark allegedly agreed to falsely report significant contributions from 10 family members on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing.

“The defendant George Anthony Devolder Santos and Marks knew that none of these reported contributions were true,” according to the indictment.

In the interview with Raju, Santos suggested Marks’s claims were not true. In court, Marks said of Santos: “I did these things in agreement with [Santos] … for his benefit to obtain money for the campaign by artificially inflating his funds to meet thresholds set by a national political committee.”

“People will say whatever they have to say, cut whatever deal they have to cut in order to save their hide. And this isn’t surprising,” Santos told Raju in response to her claim.

When Raju pressed Santos on whether that means Marks was lying in court, Santos responded: “I’m not accusing her of anything. All I’m saying is, she has her story. I’m going to come with my facts, and I’m going to tell my side of the story,” Santos said.

Raju also asked Santos about House financial and ethics filing forms that turned out to be incorrect.

“Were there mistakes made on those forms? I’m — now I know they were,” Santos said. “Were they malicious? No. And I’m a new candidate, and I’m sorry that, like, mistakes were made.”

“But it’s another — here’s another thing. Every time somebody suspects there’s a mistake on your ethics report, do you know what happens?  The Ethics Committee reaches out and said, hey, this looks funky. Guess what happened? That never happened,” he said.

“I didn’t understand the forms. That’s just plain and simple,” he added.

Santos is also under investigations by the House Ethics Committee.

The panel has reviewed accusations that the congressman “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office; and/or fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits.”

In June, the panel expanded its investigation to include allegations of Santos fraudulently obtaining unemployment insurance benefits.

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