A new FEC disclosure filed by indicted Rep. George Santos’s campaign shows the New York congressman’s campaign fundraising deep in the red. According to the filing, Santos had to give back $17,715 in contributions, leaving him with overall fundraising totals in the red and less than $23,000 cash on hand. Meanwhile, the campaign’s debt ballooned from $630,000 in the second quarter to more than $753,000 in debt at the end of the third quarter, with the reappearance of more than $100,000 in unpaid bills that had disappeared from his filings.

It’s not clear from the filing why the contributions were returned, but the dates of the reimbursements show that all but one of the 8 were processed between July 15 and July 23, just days after the Santos campaign filed its second quarter report on July 14. In the days immediately following the report, the overwhelming number of new donors with Chinese names led to new scrutiny of Santos’s vocal support for indicted Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and the apparent concerted efforts by Wengui’s supporters to support Santos. Several of those same names are present in the reimbursements.

On the flip side, the recently disclosed debts in the report are far from novel, originating from a series of significant outstanding bills, yet inexplicably absent from any of Santos’s 2023 campaign reports. Interestingly, most of the debts that vanished from Santos’s filings, which covered the latter part of the 2022 campaign, were also part of the post-general report filed on December 8, 2022, under the supervision of then-treasurer Nancy Marks. However, Marks subsequently filed an amended report on January 24, 2022, which effectively erased all mention of the debts. This move was followed by Marks’s abrupt resignation the very next day. Last week, Marks pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent FEC reports on Santos’s behalf

The outstanding debt is owed to vendors that include a law firm, campaign staffers, and fundraisers to whom the campaign owes more than $123,000. Each outstanding debt includes the note, “TREASURER BECOIME [sic] AWARE OF PRIOR DEBT IN CURRENT PERIOD.” Some of these bills stretch all the way back to election night 2022, when Santos held a nearly $19,000 election night event at Il Bacco—an Italian restaurant in Queens frequented by Santos that became an early indicator that Santos was willing to fudge his campaign financials. The campaign still owes the restaurant $10,000, according to the filing. 

As Santos continues to rack up both Republican and Democratic challengers and indictments, he has spent very little campaigning. His largest expenditure in the second quarter was a $20,000 legal bill to Dickinson Wright PLC, a Republican-leaning law firm that Santos had seemingly stopped paying, despite his many legal challenges, and to which he owes nearly $69,000. Add that to the $85,000 Santos paid himself in the 2nd quarter, and more than 60 percent of his campaign’s net operating expenditures so far in 2023 have gone either to lawyers or Santos himself.

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