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George Santos: Internal campaign research raised red flags before his election

George Santos in November 2022
George Santos in November 2022

Long before news reports exposed the serial lies of embattled US congressman George Santos, research by his own campaign raised several red flags about him.

It questioned the New York Republican's claims about his personal life, CV and campaign finance discrepancies.

Portions of the secret research were published on Wednesday for the first time by the BBC's US partner CBS News.

Mr Santos, who currently faces federal fraud charges, has not yet commented.

The 35-year-old scored an upset victory in a Democrat-leaning congressional district in 2022, touting himself as the first LGBT Republican to serve in Congress.

Months before that victory, in the fall of 2021, Mr Santos' campaign commissioned the so-called vulnerability report, as it began preparing for potential attacks from opponents.

Produced by a Washington DC-based firm, the report raised several major concerns about the candidate:

  • He claimed to have graduated with an MBA from New York University and a bachelor's degree from Baruch College, but "there was no record of Santos earning any degree from either university"

  • While Mr Santos publicly identified as gay, he had been married to a woman of unclear immigration status from 2012 to 2019 before going on to date and live with an illegal immigrant who was "fearful of being deported once Trump was elected"

  • He "has made a career out of working for companies that have been accused of fraud and scamming customers", including one accused of operating a Ponzi scheme

  • He had "multiple civil judgments filed against him for owing thousands of dollars to creditors"

  • Mr Santos and his family faced at least three housing eviction lawsuits between 2014 and 2017

  • His financial disclosures showed no evidence of personal investments or assets, despite Mr Santos' public claims about his success in finance and wealth management

  • His driver's license was suspended in Florida, where he also had at least five unpaid traffic violations

  • Despite running for office in New York, he had just registered a new company in Florida and had not registered to vote in New York until after his campaign began

According to CBS, the research was circulated among campaign strategists for top Republicans in the US House of Representatives.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which backs Republicans for election to the House, ultimately withheld its support for Mr Santos, the outlet reports.

But at least one member of House leadership campaigned with the candidate after the report had been disseminated.

During the campaign, Democratic operatives produced their own research on the Republican but missed many of the details included in the internal report and in later news reports.

Mr Santos was charged earlier this year with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making false statement to Congress and one count of stealing public funds.

He has entered a not guilty plea and disputed the allegations against him in media appearances, but US media has reported he may be considering a plea agreement with prosecutors.