How the George Santos Fiasco Highlights the Importance of Due Diligence

How the George Santos Fiasco Highlights the Importance of Due Diligence

George Santos, former Republican representative of New York’s 3rd congressional district member, was expelled from Congress on December 1, 2023 following a scathing report by the House Ethics Committee accusing him of pocketing money from political donors, among many other wrongdoings. He is also facing more than 20 federal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, and lying to Congress. To an investigations company, it is crystal clear that the Santos Saga could have been avoided with a modicum of scrutiny.

Allegations against Santos were first brought by the New York Times about a year ago when the news outlet reported that much of Santos’ self-purported biography was not real. 

Santos claimed to have graduated from Baruch College, but the college spokesperson said they have no record of his attendance. The same with companies Santos claimed to have worked for, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. And the same story for a non-profit Santos claimed to have founded. And so on, and so on. 

In fact, it appears that virtually everything Santos has said about his personal and professional life has been a lie. Joshua Lafazan, a Nassau County legislator said in December 2022, “If you’ve seen Inventing Anna on Netflix, this is Inventing George Santos.” 

Timeline of the Santos Saga

Santos ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2020 but was elected in 2022 as a member of the Republican Party. He served as the representative for New York’s third congressional district from January 2023 until December 2023. Allegations about the veracity of his background surfaced about six weeks after his election. 

Once Pandora’s box was opened, local and federal investigators stepped in. In January 2023, the non-profit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against Santos with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) and sent the complaint to the Department of Justice (DoJ). In the same month, the political action committee End Citizens United filed three complaints about Santos’ campaign finances with the FEC. 

In March 2023,  the House Ethics Committee voted to investigate Santos over financial and ethical misconduct allegations. Despite the investigations, Santos announced his reelection campaign in April. 

In early May, the DoJ leveled 13 federal charges against him, including wire fraud, money laundering, and lying to Congress. It followed up in October with 10 more charges, including conspiracy to commit offenses against the US and falsifying records.

In May, after he was first indicted by the Justice Department, Democrats unsuccessfully tried to oust him from Congress.  A second effort in October by the Republicans was also unsuccessful. But apparently, the third time’s the charm, because on December 1, he was expelled with a 311 to 114 vote. He is the sixth member of Congress to ever be expelled. Rather than showing remorse, he said, “I’m 35. This doesn’t mean it is goodbye forever.”

Due Diligence Did Not Exist in George Santos Story

Mark Twain once said “Truth is stranger than fiction,” and that seems to be the case with George Santos. The idea that a person could lie about everything and get elected to Congress is unfathomable. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Santos offered an explanation for this in an interview with Piers Morgan in February 2023. He said, “I’ll humor you this – I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress and I got away with it then.”  

However, Santos did not really get away with it then. In 2020, he ran against Democrat Robert Zimmerman, who had access to an opposition report from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Zimmerman, however, declined to pursue the report, which would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, in favor of different campaign activities. 

The Santos saga underlies the importance of deep due diligence, especially when it comes to a person in a position of power. Some of Santos’ lies may seem harmless — like being a Broadway producer or former Disney actor — and if these were the only lies, perhaps the public could be forgiving (even though they would still point to unscrupulous behavior). 

However, lying about finances and allegedly committing fraud is deeply problematic. Moreover, it is criminal. If anything is to be learned from the Santos fiasco, it is that due diligence is essential – not just in politics, but in any industry in which there is a great deal at stake.