Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) announced his reelection campaign Monday, ending speculation over whether the embattled congressman would run again after reports that he fabricated his resume and misled voters. But Santos faces an uphill fundraising battle, as his congressional campaign reported losing money during the first three months of 2023.
The campaign reported refunding $8,353 during the first quarter of the year and raising just $5,333, according to campaign financial disclosures filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse report for an incumbent member of Congress,” said Brett Kappel, an elections lawyer who has advised both Democrats and Republicans, told the New York Times in response to the news.
The embattled congressman was also notably excluded from a new joint fundraising committee, Protect the House New York 2024, which was formed to steer money to vulnerable House Republicans in New York. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying he would “wait and see” who else jumped into the GOP primary race.
Santos’ campaign, which reported $25,000 on hand at the end of March, raised $3 million during the 2022 election cycle. Santos flipped New York’s 3rd Congressional District during the 2022 election, and his victory helped Republicans secure a slim majority in the U.S. House.
But after a Dec. 19 investigation by the New York Times alleged Santos fabricated most of his resume, he faces investigations by several government authorities for alleged personal or campaign finance malfeasance. Santos voluntarily stepped down from his committee assignments on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee before the end of the first month of the 118th Congress.
The Santos campaign spent $3,000 on legal services two days after the New York Times story broke, OpenSecrets previously reported. His campaign’s year-end report painted a more detailed picture of Santos’ campaign spending amid the scandal, including an $8,000 payment towards “outstanding debt” to an Italian restaurant in Queens, than his sparse April quarterly report.
The first quarter fundraising report gives few details about Santos’ activities during his first months in Congress. His campaign reported no spending on travel, lawyers or vendors, the New York Times reported, and only one individual contribution of more than $200, the threshold for the campaigns to list donor names on the FEC reports.
The single individual donor named in Santos’ first quarter report, Sacha Basin, has little digital footprint, POLITICO reported. There is no record of the donor ever contributing more than $200 to a federal candidate prior to Santos, according to OpenSecrets data.
Santos’ campaign appears to have missed a refund from an individual donor, Michael Hastava. Hastava previously told OpenSecrets he received a refund for an “erroneous contribution” of $10,000 – several thousand over the legal individual contribution limit of $2,900 per election during the 2022 cycle – to Santos’ campaign. Hastava said he received a refund through WinRed, but the refund was not reported on Santos’ year-end or April quarterly filings.
A spokesperson for Santos did not return OpenSecrets’ request for comment.
The Santos campaign also reported $715,000 in debts and obligations – to Santos himself. Santos loaned his campaign several hundreds of thousands of dollars during the 2022 election, even though he only reported earning $55,000 in 2020, raising questions about the true source of that money.
In a statement announcing his reelection campaign, Santos did not address the myriad of controversies that have hung over his first few months in Congress. He instead depicted himself as a “fighter” unbeholden to party politics and influence.
“Good isn’t good enough, and I’m not shy about doing what it takes to get the job done,” Santos said.