(Photo courtesy of The New Yorker). “George Santos outside a Manhattan courthouse.”
When the United States House of Representatives has 435 members, it can be hard for individual members to stand out from the crowd and be notable. Some Representatives, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are seen as the voice of their generation. Others may become Speaker of the House (Mike Johnson) or lose that job (Kevin McCarthy). However, none of these three Representatives, nor have any of the other 431 members of the House, come close to the notoriety that George Santos has acquired. Since his election last November, Santos has consistently made headlines for all of the lies he had said on the campaign trail, his suspicious campaign expenditures and other fraudulent dealings.
Santos’ whirlwind year in Congress was put to an end this past Friday, Dec. 1, when the House of Representatives voted 311-114-2 to expel him from Congress. He has become the sixth-ever Representative to be expelled and differs from the previous five in a few ways. The first five were all Democrats, either expelled because of their involvement with the Confederacy or receiving criminal convictions, whereas Santos is the first Republican and is not currently convicted of any crimes. Many political scholars, such as UMass Lowell Associate Professor of Political Science John Cluverius, assume that it’s going to remain a tight club. Cluverius said, “I think it’s gonna be a historical oddity. The criminal complaint is very serious and has to do with the conduct of his job as a candidate. This is not merely someone abusing power, but is someone in fact using their campaign funds for personal enrichment.”
Two attempts to expel Santos from the House of Representatives had previously failed, but the release of the House Ethics Committee’s report changed that. The House Ethics Committee had been investigating his conduct since January and released a report of their findings on Nov. 16 that turned the tide against Santos. As Professor Cluverius alluded to in the above quote, this report included falsifying financial documents, using donors’ credit cards without their consent and spending campaign funds on luxury purchases such as OnlyFans, Botox injections and Atlantic City trips.
The lawbreaking was what got him expelled from Congress, yet it was the countless lies about his personal life that put Santos in the spotlight back in January. For as long as Santos has been in politics, he has never been able to keep any part of his story straight. For example, he has claimed that his mother died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, survived some sort of assassination attempt and that his name is George Santos. All these statements range from extremely questionable at best to outright falsities; his mother was not in the U.S. in 2001, he has virtually no proof to support his assassination attempt claim and he has used a whole host of alternate names in professional dealings. As of right now, there is no definitive proof that “George Santos” is even his real name.
Hypothetically, all of these lies should prevent any politician from even being able to garner support for a serious campaign. However, what’s even more baffling than George Santos’ lies is how far he got before they became widespread knowledge. Santos ran for his Congressional seat in 2020, lost and then ran again and won in 2022. Professor Cluverius attributes Santos’ win to New York Democrats’ underperformance across the board in 2022, saying that “there are a number of surprise wins by New York Republicans in 2022 and as a result, there wasn’t enough diligence by local media and by voters.” He also called the New York Democratic Party too unorganized to take advantage of Santos’ record on the campaign trail.
A special Congressional will be held sometime in February 2024 to fill the new vacancy, and it will be extremely competitive given that the district voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and the actions of its now-former Representative. Santos seems to know that his time was up; in the time leading up to his expulsion vote, he threatened to reveal compromising information about his colleagues and even referenced a domestic abuse investigation into Republican Congressman Max Miller on the House floor this past Thursday, Nov. 30. Although no one knows what “George Santos” will do next aside from appear in court for his legal battles, it will undoubtedly be something worth paying attention to.