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George Santos tries to explain his wealth

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George Santos campaign/Handout via REUTER

Rep.-elect George Santos has admitted to “embellishing” his resume with fake stints on Wall Street and a phantom college degree. He’s still trying to defend against accusations that he pretended to be Jewish.

But the burning question for many people, including his soon-to-be Republican and Democratic colleagues in Congress, is simple: Where did he get the money to fund his campaign?

“Where did all that money come from?” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y. tweeted on Tuesday. “The Ethics Committee MUST start investigating immediately.”

When he first ran for Congress in 2020, Santos, who appears to have suffered from financial trouble for much of his adult life, filed disclosures listing no assets and a salary of $55,000, which he earned as a vice president at LinkBridge Investors, a business development firm. But the filings from his most recent run suggest he came into sudden riches, making between $3.5 million and $11.5 million from a company he founded called the Devolder Organization in 2021. He loaned his campaign more than $700,000.

In a phone conversation with Semafor, Santos offered a short tick-tock of how he made his money that left certain key details unanswered. 

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At LinkBridge, he said, he worked in the so-called “capital introduction” industry, which typically brings together investors and hedge funds. He eventually left that job for Harbor City Capital, a Florida firm the Securities and Exchange Commission accused in April 2021 of running a $17 million Ponzi scheme. Santos was not charged in the fraud, and he says he departed in March, shortly before the company ran into legal trouble, in order to strike out on his own. He incorporated Devolder in May, a few weeks after the S.E.C. filed suit against Harbor City.

Santos said that Devolder was also in the capital introduction business, including “deal building” and “specialty consulting” for “high net worth individuals.”

As an example of his work, he said a client might want to sell a plane or a boat. “I'm not going to go list it and broker it,” he said. “What I will do is I will go look out there within my Rolodex and be like: ‘Hey, are you looking for a plane?’ ‘Are you looking for a boat?’ I just put that feeler out there.” He said he had a network of wealthy investors, family offices, “institutions” and endowments that included about 15,000 people. Within the first six months of starting Devolder, he said he “landed a couple of million-dollar contracts.”

“If you’re looking at a $20 million yacht, my referral fee there can be anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000,” he said.

Santos did not respond to follow-up questions asking what the million-dollar contracts entailed, or if he could share the names of previous clients from his business.

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Devolder was dissolved in September 2022 after failing to file an annual report. Given that timing, Rep.-elect Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., has raised the question of whether it was created merely to funnel illegal campaign donations. Santos added further to the mystery by reviving Devolder in Florida last week after the New York Times ran its initial bombshell story about fabrications in his resume, at an address reportedly owned by a former Harbor City executive.

Santos told Semafor that Devolder only shut down because his accountant accidentally submitted its yearly paperwork late.

Republicans have been reluctant to weigh in on Santos’s controversy. But on Tuesday, Rep.-elect Nick LaLota, R-N.Y. followed Democrats in calling for an ethics investigation and law-enforcement involvement “if necessary.” Rep.-elect Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. from the neighboring district urged Santos to “pursue a path of honesty.”

Goldman, a former prosecutor, told Semafor he thought a formal inquiry might not be necessary if Santos simply volunteered documents about his business dealings and finances.

“If he wants to avoid an investigation and he wants to truly come clean, as he claimed he was trying to do yesterday and that other Republican members elected called for him to do, then he should be an open book and reveal all of this related to the Devolder Organization,” Goldman said.

That, however, seems unlikely to happen soon.

“I don’t dance to the tune of Congressman-elect Dan Goldman,” Santos told Semafor. “I don’t dance to the tune of these guys. If it was requested of me to produce any documentation from this organization, I have no problem doing so to people with the proper authority, not to authoritarian members of congress that think they have authority over their peers.”

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