The House Ethics Committee has established an investigative subcommittee to look into issues surrounding Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has admitted to numerous fabrications about his background and faced scrutiny over his campaign and personal finances, the panel announced Thursday.
The committee said the panel will look into whether Santos “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; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”
The committee unanimously voted to establish the investigative panel.
Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) will chair the subcommittee and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) will be its ranking member. Reps. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) will also be on the panel.
In a brief statement, Santos’s office said that the congressman is “fully cooperating” with the Ethics Committee’s investigation. “There will be no further comment made at this time.”
The Ethics Committee noted in a statement that establishment of an investigative subcommittee does not in itself indicate any violation occurred.
The announcement of an investigation into Santos comes days after the Ethics Committee officially organized.
The freshman New York representative’s scandals have skyrocketed him to fame and infamy, and prompted calls for his ouster by several of his fellow House Republicans. Most recently, New York GOP Reps. Anthony D’Esposito and Marc Molinaro called for him to be expelled from Congress.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has declined to call for Santos to step down from Congress, stressing that the House must have “due process” and that he will wait for the Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation.
“Ethics is going to look into the situation. If something arises to that point, there’s consequences for actions that you take,” McCarthy told reporters this week.
But the Speaker also said that he would “probably have a little difficulty” supporting Santos for reelection.
Santos was originally selected to sit on the Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology committees, but said that he decided to not sit on committees before officially joining them.
The Ethics Committee probe is just one of several investigations into Santos, who is also coming under scrutiny from the Nassau County District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General, the Queens District Attorney, and reportedly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.
Those outside investigations may prove more consequential for Santos than the investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which has been historically slow-moving and deferred to federal prosecutors looking into the same issue before taking action.
On the campaign finance front, Santos has faced questions about the source of high-dollar personal loans that he made to his campaign as well as his campaign’s reported expenses.
In previous filings with the FEC, Santos reported that he personally loaned his campaign more than $700,000, which he said came from work at his company, the Devolder Organization. But amendments to his reports have confused campaign finance experts.
His campaign also reported a suspiciously high number of expenses for $199.99, just one cent shy of the $200 threshold that would require him to keep receipts and invoices.
Santos’s personal finance disclosures to the House as a candidate showed a sharp increase in personal wealth from 2020 to 2022. In 2020, he said he made $55,000 from LinkBridge Investors during the previous year, and listed no other assets, income or liabilities. Then in 2022, Santos reported bringing in a $750,000 salary from his new company, Devolder, along with holding between $1 million and $5 million in a savings account, between $100,001 and $250,000 in a checking account, and an apartment in Rio de Janeiro valued between $500,001 and $1,000,000.
Santos previously worked at Harbor City Capital, which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said was a Ponzi scheme and was shuttered in 2021. Santos was not charged with a crime in connection to that SEC case and has denied knowledge of alleged wrongdoing. The Washington Post reported in January that Santos stayed at the firm after a prospective investor told him Harbor City was using a fraudulent bank document.
The House Ethics Committee’s reference to alleged sexual misconduct by Santos comes after accuser Derek Myers told the Ethics Committee that Santos, while considering Myers for employment in his Congressional office, made inappropriate comments and advances toward Myers.
Updated at 3:37 p.m.