The campaign of embattled Rep. George Santos filed updated reports Tuesday with federal regulators that appear to raise new questions about the source of the substantial personal loans it said it made to his campaign.
The New York Republican, the subject of multiple investigations into his finances and fabrications about his biography and resume, previously claimed that he loaned his campaign more than $700,000.
But in two of the new filings with the Federal Election Commission, the boxes indicating that the $500,000 and $125,000 loans came from personal funds were not checked.
The Daily Beast first reported on the FEC’s amended filings.
Campaign finance experts say it was not immediately clear what those changes meant.
“I have no idea what’s going on with the loans,” Jordan Libowitz of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told CNN on Wednesday. “This is hands down the most confusing FEC filing I’ve ever seen.”
In all, Santos filed 10 amendment reports with the FEC on Tuesday, dating back to early 2021, as his campaign faces intense scrutiny. The campaign has a history of filing multiple amendments to its original filings. And the agency has sent nearly two dozen letters to his campaign over the course of two election cycles, seeking clarification on his files.
“It could be that this is the most sloppy accounting of any candidate we’ve ever seen,” Libowitz said. But he said that if Santos did not hand over the money for the loans, it raises questions about whether it came from a prohibited source.
While candidates can contribute, or lend, an unlimited amount of their own funds to their campaigns, it is illegal to accept a six-figure contribution from another person. It is also against the law for a corporation to donate a sum of any size directly to a candidate for Congress.
In a tense exchange with reporters Wednesday morning, Santos did not explain why the campaign reports were amended and declined to discuss the source of the funds.
“Let’s be very clear: I don’t mod anything, I don’t touch any of my FEC stuff, right?” he told CNN. “So don’t be fake and report that I did it because you know every campaign hires trustees.”
CNN has reached out to Santos’ personal attorney, Joe Murray, and his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, for comment.
Some of the biggest questions about Santos’ campaign activity have centered on the financial windfall that allowed the Republican to loan $705,000 for his successful 2022 campaign. Santos flipped a Democratic-held seat on Long Island in November, helping Republicans to a narrow majority in the House.
In Santos’ previous unsuccessful run for Congress, in 2020, his personal financial disclosure form listed no assets and a salary of $55,000. Two years later, Santos reported a salary of $750,000 from a firm called Devolder Organization.
He has given various explanations about the nature of Devolder’s business activities.
In an interview with Semafor, Santos described Devolder as doing “deal building” and “specialized consulting” for “high net worth individuals” and said he had “landed a couple of million-dollar contracts” within the first six months of starting the firm. A recent FEC complaint against Santos from the Campaign Legal Center notes that Santos previously called it “his family firm” and described himself as overseeing $80 million in assets under management.
Adav Noti, legal director of the Campaign Legal Center, said Santos’ presentations remain confusing.
Over the course of the cycle, the campaign has been “inconsistent” in checking the personal funds box when it comes to loans, he said. So it’s unclear if Tuesday’s changes were intentional.
“Like everything else related to Santos, it is a mystery,” Noti said.
Plus, he said, the new documents don’t appear to answer some of the pressing questions about Santos’ campaign spending, such as the dozens of outlays of just under $200.
CNN previously reported that the campaign reported 37 expenses of $199.99, one cent below the threshold above which campaigns must withhold receipts. In its complaint, the Campaign Legal Center argued that the sheer amount of these $199.99 expenses is “implausible” and asked the FEC to investigate whether Santos has falsified his documents.
Noti said it is time for the agency to launch a formal investigation or conduct a thorough audit of Santos’s campaign.
Judith Ingram, an FEC spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing the agency’s policy not to comment on enforcement or potential enforcement issues.
This story has been updated with additional reports.