New York Democratic Representative Ritchie Torres introduced the SANTOS Act to punish any members of Congress who lie under oath about their employment, military service or education—and trolled New York Republican Representative-elect George Santos in the process.
Torres crafted the bill in response to the evolving scandal surrounding Santos, who is facing calls to resign after admitting to “embellishing” his résumé following an extensive investigation by The New York Times that exposed multiple lies he told about his life story.
Additional lies have been exposed since then.
The soon-to-be legislator—whose election on Long Island last month helped Republicans secure a slim majority in the House of Representatives—had earlier fessed up to at least some of his lies in an interview with The New York Post.
Santos told the Rupert Murdoch owned conservative tabloid he is “embarrassed” by his false and misleading statements but that he nonetheless believes he will be an “effective” House Republican once the new Congress is seated in January.
It's rather fitting then that Santos inspired the name of the bill—the acronym SANTOS stands for Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker, a stark rebuke of Santos as he's come under scrutiny.
Torres' announcement came in the wake of a Times exposé in which journalists Grace Ashford and Michael Gold reported that Santos "misrepresented a number of his career highlights" despite building his candidacy "on the notion that he was the 'full embodiment of the American dream' and was running to safeguard it for others."
A Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil—where Santos, the son of Brazilian immigrants, spent some time—as well as "various attempts to verify claims" Santos made on the campaign trail, concluded that Santos had lied about everything from his education to his work history at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and even his source of income.
For instance, Santos claims he graduated from Baruch College but neither the Times nor a separate investigation by NPR could confirm this and the school told the latter outlet that it could find no match for a George Santos in its database. And while Santos has described himself as a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor,” neither Citigroup nor Goldman Sachs had records of him working at their firms.
Santos—who claims to have been gay all his life and did not reveal during his campaign that he had divorced a woman in 2019—even said in one interview that four of his employees died in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, claims that did not hold up under scrutiny.
And where Santos gets his income is still a mystery even though he reported a $750,000 salary and dividends of over $1 million from his company, the Devolder Organization, which doesn't appear to exist.
The Times has since reported that a company called Cleaner 123 over the course of four months received nearly $11,000 from Santos' campaign and that the expenditures were listed as “apartment rental for staff” on Santos' campaign disclosure forms and gave the address as a home on Long Island.
A neighbor told the newspaper that Santos and his husband lived there, which the Times pointed out is a "possible violation of the rule prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal expenses." Joe Murray, a lawyer for Santos, said some money had been spent “unwisely” by a firm that had been fired by the campaign more than a year earlier, but insisted all expenditures were legal.
Murray said that any suggestion the Santos campaign "engaged in any irresponsible spending of campaign funds is just ludicrous" but when Times reporters contacted Cleaner 123 by phone, a representative hung up before answering why it had received rent payments from Santos.
Additionally, Santos' campaign disclosures show he spent $40,000 on air travel, a number "so exorbitant" that it "resembles the campaign filings of party leaders in Congress" and listed dozens of expenses at $199.99, one cent below the threshold a campaign must show receipts per federal law.
Given these developments, Twitter users couldn't help but applaud Torres' move and commend him for throwing some pretty masterful shade.
Earlier this week, Long Island prosecutors confirmed they've opened an investigation into Santos for deceiving voters amid mounting questions about his fitness for federal office.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, a Republican, called Santos' lies "nothing short of stunning," adding that "residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress."
Democrats and some commentators have expressed surprise and disappointment that opposition research did not detect or act on Santos' résumé discrepancies before the election.
However, in September, months before The New York Times published the results of its investigation, a tiny Long Island newspaper called The North Shore Leader published an article about the "inexplicable rise" in Santos' alleged net worth to $11 million and noted other inconsistencies in his biography.
While the Leader's scoop is the type of hard-hitting local reporting that, once verified and amplified by regional outlets, has been known to inform the public of emerging political scandals, no one took notice of the story before Election Day.
In response to that glaring oversight, the newspaper published an editorial titled "The Leader Told You So: US Rep-Elect George Santos is a Fraud - and Wanted Criminal" which denounced Santos as "a deepfake liar who has falsified his background, assets, and contacts" and compared him to the pathological liars and con artists played by actors Will Smith and Matt Damon in Six Degrees of Separation and The Talented Mr. Ripley respectively.