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New questions arise around George Santos’ campaign loans

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CNN

Embattled Rep. George Santos’ campaign filed updated reports with federal regulators on Tuesday that appear to raise new questions about the source of the substantial personal loans he said he made to his campaign.

The New York Republican, who has faced multiple investigations into his finances and fabrications on his biography and resume, has previously claimed he loaned more than $700,000 to his campaign.

But in two of the new documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, the boxes indicating that loans of $500,000 and $125,000 came from personal funds were not marked.

The Daily Beast first reported on the amended FEC filings.

Campaign finance experts say the significance of these changes was not immediately clear.

“I have no idea what’s going on with the loans,” Jordan Libowitz of the Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics told CNN on Wednesday. “This is without a doubt the most confusing FEC file I have seen.”

In all, Santos filed 10 amended reports with the FEC on Tuesday — dating back to early 2021 — as his campaign comes under scrutiny. The campaign has a history of filing several modifications to its original filings. And the agency has sent nearly two dozen letters to his campaign over two election cycles, asking for clarification on his documents.

“This might be the sloppiest accounting of any nominee we’ve ever seen,” Libowitz said. But he said that if Santos did not provide the money for the loans, it raises questions about whether it came from a prohibited source.

While candidates can contribute – or lend – an unlimited amount of their own funds to their campaigns, it is illegal to accept a six-figure contribution from another person. It is also illegal for a corporation to donate any amount of money directly to a congressional candidate.

In a tense exchange with reporters Wednesday morning, Santos would not explain why campaign reports had been changed and declined to discuss the source of the funds.

“Let’s be very clear: I’m not modifying anything, I’m not touching any of my FEC stuff, am I? he told CNN. “So don’t be dishonest and report I did it because you know every campaign hires trustees.”

CNN has reached out to Santos’ personal attorney, Joe Murray, and his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, for comment.

Some of the biggest questions surrounding Santos’ campaign activity have centered on the financial windfall that allowed the Republican to loan $705,000 to his successful 2022 campaign. Santos flipped a Democratic-held seat on Long Island in November, helping Republicans capture a narrow majority in the House.

During Santos’ previous failed bid for Congress, in 2020, his personal financial disclosure form listed no assets and a salary of $55,000. Two years later, Santos reported a salary of $750,000 from a company called Devolder Organization.

He gave various explanations about the nature of Devolder’s business activities.

In an interview with Semafor, Santos described Devolder as doing “contract construction” and “specialty consulting” for “wealthy individuals” and said he had “landed a few million-dollar contracts” in the past. during the first six months following the start of the business. A recent FEC complaint against Santos from the Campaign Legal Center notes that Santos previously called it “his family’s business” and described itself as overseeing $80 million in assets under management.

Adav Noti, legal director of the Campaign Legal Center, said the documents filed by Santos remained confusing.

During the cycle, the campaign was “inconsistent” in marking the personal funds box when it came to loans, he said. So it’s not clear if Tuesday’s changes were intentional.

“Like everything about Santos, it’s a mystery,” Noti said.

Also, he said, the new documents don’t appear to answer some of the pressing questions about Santos’ campaign spending, such as the dozens of payouts of just under $200.

CNN previously reported that the campaign reported 37 expenses of $199.99, a penny below the threshold above which campaigns are required to keep receipts. In its complaint, the Campaign Legal Center argued that the number of those $199.99 expenses is “implausible” and asked the FEC to investigate whether Santos falsified his statements.

Noti said it was time for the agency to either launch a formal investigation or undertake a thorough audit of Santos’ campaign.

Judith Ingram, a spokeswoman for the FEC, declined to comment, citing the agency’s policy of not commenting on matters of enforcement or potential enforcement.

This story has been updated with additional reports.

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