As Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) made headlines for fabricating portions of his life story and altering his resume following a New York Times expose, campaign contributions he received from wealthy New York financier Andrew Intrater — cousin to and business associate of a sanctioned Russian oligarch according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing — also came into the limelight.
Intrater has been one of Santos’ top political donors — contributing a total of $24,300 to his campaign and leadership PAC since 2020. But he has also given money to about 60 Republican candidates and committees since 2017. Including donations to Santos, Intrater’s political giving totaled $176,160, according to OpenSecrets donor data.
Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has close ties to the Kremlin and was first sanctioned in 2018 in relation to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, is Intrater’s cousin. The Treasury strengthened sanctions in March 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vekselberg gave $2,000 to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Senate campaign in 2002.
Intrater, a U.S. citizen, is the founder and CEO of investment firm Columbus Nova, now known as Sparrow Capital. This firm has been described as closely associated with the Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate owned by Vekselberg. The Renova Group was sanctioned alongside Vekselberg in 2018, when it was Columbus Nova’s largest client.
Santos received contributions in multiple installments from Intrater between 2020 and 2022. The financier made two donations to Santos’ joint fundraising committees in 2022; $12,200 to the Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee and $10,800 to the DeVolder Santos Victory Committee. These, along with additional donations from Intrater, were bucketed into Santos’ leadership PAC, Gads PAC, which received a total of $12,100 between 2021 and 2022, the Nassau County Republican Committee received $10,000 in 2022, and to Santos’ campaign directly, who received a total of $12,200 in four installments between 2020 and 2022.
Video footage obtained by the Washington Post and SEC court documents indicate Santos’ ties to Intrater go further than just campaign contributions, implying the duo had business ties. According to the Washington Post, Intrater invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a Florida-based investment firm where Santos once worked, called Harbor City Capital, which regulators accused of running a Ponzi scheme.
In June 2017, Intrater contributed $35,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee affiliated with former President Donald Trump. Renova’s U.S. branch was listed as his employer in the Federal Election Commission record for that contribution, while records of his other donations list his employer as Sparrow Capital, Columbus Nova or Falcon AI, one of Intrater’s subsidiary firms. The joint fundraising committee contribution came just five months after his whopping $250,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration fund, which gained Intrater access to inaugural events and the exclusive perks that came with, according to a fundraising brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
Intrater came under scrutiny once again in 2018 when a New York Times investigation revealed that Columbus Nova routed $1 million to Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen through a shell company to pay hush money to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels about an alleged affair with Trump.
Since 2017, Intrater’s contributions to federal Republican candidates and committees exceeded $146,000, plus a $29,600 contribution to the Republican National Committee in 2017. Those contributions started pouring in to Republican candidates in 2020, and over $45,000 of that total was paid to federal candidates and committees after the Treasury Department sanctioned Vekselberg on March 11, 2022, along with several other oligarchs and banks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rep. Lee Michael Zeldin (R-N.Y.) also received a hefty donation worth $60,829 from the New York financier in January 2022. Until recently Zeldin represented the 1st Congressional District of New York in eastern Long Island, neighboring the state’s 3rd Congressional District currently represented by Santos. Five other state-level candidates received a total of over $8,000 from him between 2021 and 2022.
The top federal recipients of Intrater contributions are Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). Kennedy received $3,920 during the 2022 election cycle and Rubio received $3,900. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) received $3,800 plus $3,315 to his leadership PAC, Eye of the Tiger PAC, in 2020 and 2021. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) received $3,300 in 2020 as did Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Reps. Jake Ellzey (R-Texas), Max Miller (R-Ohio) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) reported receiving $2,900 each during the 2022 election cycle from Intrater. Michelle Bond, a cryptocurrency advocate who lost her bid to be the Republican candidate for her New York district last year, and Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka, who both lost their bid Republican Senate bids in 2022, also reported receiving $2,900 each from Intrater during the last election cycle.
Recipients of these donations and Intrater did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Prior to 2017, Intrater donated in isolated instances, such as $1,200 to Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in 2008, $250 to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1995 and $2,600 to Chris Day, who ran to represent his New York district that year but lost in the general election in 2014.
The only Democrat that’s been on the receiving end of Intrater’s campaign contributions after the sanctions is former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who received $2,000 from the financier in 2020 during her bid for presidency. Gabbard left the Democratic Party in 2022.