House Ethics panel launches investigation into Santos

House Ethics panel launches investigation into Santos

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it had begun a formal investigation into embattled Rep. George Santos.

The committee, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, said in a statement it voted unanimously Tuesday to begin an investigation on a host of allegations, including possible “unlawful activity” concerning Santos’ 2022 successful bid for office, failure to disclose all required information on House forms, possible violation of conflict of interest laws and an allegation of sexual misconduct. Opening an investigation is not an indication that a violation has occurred.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) will lead the subcommittee investigating Santos, while Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild will be the top Democrat.

“The House Committee on Ethics has opened an investigation, and Congressman George Santos is fully cooperating. There will be no further comment made at this time,” Santos said in a tweet.

Santos has faced a litany of ethical questions after revelations he lied about core components of his educational and professional background. Multiple New York Republicans have called for his resignation — or expulsion — from Congress in light of the scandals.

“George Santos has disgraced Holocaust victims, 9-11 victims, military veterans with PTSD and many more,” first-term Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) tweeted on Wednesday. “Santos is a terrible person and should be thrown out of the Republican conference & Congress ASAP.”

House colleagues have filed Ethics claims against him, most publicly fellow New York Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, both Democrats. Their claims include questions about Santos’ campaign finances and financial disclosure reports, as well as allegations that he “misled voters in his District about his ethnicity, his religion, his education, and his employment and professional history, among other things.”

The first-term Republican from New York has remained defiant and repeatedly vowed not to resign, though Santos did voluntarily give up his committee slots. A poll released Monday found 66 percent of voters statewide wanted him to resign.

House Ethics is just the latest to add to the Santos inquiry pileup, with the panel only fully organizing earlier this week. Federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York are also reportedly investigating him, and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission calling for a probe into the embattled Republican. New York Attorney General Tish James said her team would review Santos’ false claims. And Anne Donnelly, the Republican district attorney in Nassau County, said her office is “looking into the matter.”

The competing inquiries could draw out what is already a very slow process within House Ethics. It is common for the Department of Justice to ask the House or Senate Ethics panels to hit pause on their inquiries while a federal investigation plays out. But even if they don’t, Ethics investigations typically take many months.

House Ethics also said that they are extending their preliminary review of allegations against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), related to allegations of rule violations related to the 2021 Met Gala. The preliminary review means an investigative subcommittee has not been established and her case remains in the early stages of inquiry.

Ocasio-Cortez’s case was first referred to House Ethics back in June 2021 by the Office of Congressional Ethics, the nonpartisan, independent body that reviews allegations of misconduct involving House staff and lawmakers and refers cases to the House panel. The Ethics Committee also extended their review in early December last year.

OCE found that there were delays in some payments to vendors associated with the congresswoman’s visit to the Met Gala.

“The Congresswoman finds these delays unacceptable, and she has taken several steps to ensure nothing of this nature will happen again,” her spokesperson Lauren Hitt said on Thursday. “While regrettable, these delayed payments definitively do not rise to the level of a violation of House Rules.”

The payments were finalized and paid out of Ocasio-Cortez’ personal funds.

“We are confident the Ethics Committee will dismiss this matter,” Hitt said.

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report misspelled the name of Rep. Ritchie Torres.

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Author: By Anthony Adragna and Katherine Tully-McManus