Oct 15, 2023 - Politics & Policy

George Santos' campaign loses $16,500 in three months

Rep. George Santos. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. George Santos' (R-N.Y.) campaign saw a net loss of more than $16,500 in campaign contribution between July and September, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Why it matters: Such dire fundraising numbers are rare for congressional incumbents actively seeking reelection and speak to the indicted Long Islander's uphill battle in keeping his seat.

Driving the news: Santos brought in $674 in contributions in the third quarter of 2023 while refunding $17,200, giving him -$16,526 in contributions over the course of the three months, according to the filings.

  • At the same time, his campaign spent $42,000, winnowing his available campaign coffers from around $81,000 in July – already a meager war-chest for a swing-district incumbent – to under $23,000 at the end of September.
  • Santos' debts also ballooned by more than $120,000, with the filings saying his campaign treasurer "becoime [sic] aware of prior debt" to more than half a dozen aides and vendors this quarter.
  • That adds to $630,000 Santos reportedly owes himself over loans to his 2022 campaign.

The intrigue: Nearly half of Santos' expenditures for the period — $20,000 — were spent to pay D.C.-based legal firm Dickinson Wright, to which he also owes nearly $70,000 in newly reported debts.

  • Santos was indicted in May on 13 federal charges including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and lying to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty.
  • Last week the Justice Department hit Santos with 10 new charges including conspiracy, falsification of records, aggravated identity theft, as well as additional charges of wire fraud and making a false statement.
  • Among the new allegations is that Santos falsely reported loans to his campaign, inflated his contribution numbers and fraudulently charged the credit cards of his contributors.

The backdrop: This is not the first time Santos' campaign has backslid in fundraising this year.

  • He had a net loss of $3,300 between January and March.
  • He brought in $133,000 between April and June – but still trailed Democratic and Republican challengers in his district. Such a low tally was unusual for an incumbent in a competitive seat.

Zoom in: The bulk of Santos' refunds for this quarter went to six large donors, all reportedly California residents who mostly donated $3,300 on June 23 – fueling his relatively strong second quarter fundraising.

  • The rest appears to have gone to smaller donors who contributed via Republican fundraising platform WinRed.

The big picture: If Santos manages to overcome his significant legal hurdles, he still faces seemingly insurmountable political challenges beyond his bleak fundraising picture.

  • Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who routed Santos by double digits in 2020 but vacated the seat last cycle to run for governor, announced last week that he is running to retake the seat.
  • In addition to his pending criminal cases, Santos' congressional career also faces a risk of being cut short by an effort his fellow New York Republican freshmen are mounting to expel him from the House.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show the bulk of Santos' refunds went to six, not eight, large donors.

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