George Santos and the Role of Truth in Politics
On January 3, 2022, a new group of politicians from New York reached Capitol Hill to get sworn in after a consequential midterm election that decided the control of the House of Representatives. Throughout the process, all attention seemed to be on one man, a Republican freshman congressman who flipped New York’s third congressional district: George Anthony Devolder Santos. Months prior, the validity of his victory and his morals were scrutinized after revealing that most of his statements made during the campaign were falsified. Ranging from his education to his background, Santos invented a new identity on the campaign trail that allowed him to conn
ect with the voters and essentially flip a crucial Democratic district that President Biden had previously won in the 2020 election. This victory sparked a discussion across the United States regarding the ethics behind running a clean campaign and widespread calls for Santos to be barred from office and investigated. A public servant is a trusted elected official who represents the needs of their constituents, which the people of New York’s third congressional district designated George Santos to do. However, his dishonesty dismantled the trust between the public and their politician.
During his first election in 2020, George Santos lost to the Democratic incumbent, Thomas Souzzi, with a margin of 12.5 percent of the votes. Although his first attempt at running for public office was unsuccessful, it laid the groundwork for the future as Santos continued to engage with future donors and PACs, political action committees that donate money to certain politicians in exchange for their vote on certain bills or sponsoring legislation, that would eventually fund his second attempt at running for office. Santos successfully became the congressman-elect of his district in November of 2022 after defeating the Democrat, Robert Zimmerman, by 7.6 percent in a district that President Biden won by 9 percent in the 2020 presidential election. Santos, a Jewish man who has previously worked in major banks such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, ran on a platform of reducing taxes and attacking Zimmerman’s support for New York’s cashless bail policy, which resonated with the citizens of his district and, thus, prompting his victory. Shockingly, in December of 2022, the New York Times and other local news sources in the Long Island area published articles revealing that Santos lied about himself entirely during the campaign trail. Deeming the accusations false and malicious, representatives of Santos failed to produce documents verifying his statements when asked to do so. As this made national headlines, calls for his resignation began to come from various Republicans and Democrats in office, yet he held firm and refused as his party holds a single-digit majority in the House of Representatives.
On the campaign trail, Santos told the prospective voters that he was a Jewish man who graduated from the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, received a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College, and an MBA from New York University. During his days at Baruch, he insisted that he was a star player on the volleyball team and had to get knee replacements. He also claimed to have turned down an offer from Harvard’s Business School and scored a 710 on the Graduate Management Admissions Test. Afterward, he received offers and worked at Wall Street banks: Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. When asked about his family, Santos says that his maternal grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust and had to flee to survive. He claimed that his mother was a female executive at a financial institution who worked in the South Tower during the 9/11 terrorist attack. So far, all the institutions mentioned produced documents stating that they do not have records of his attendance, which suggests he falsified his biography to obtain the Republican nomination of his district.
Records show that George Santos is the son of Brazilian immigrants who worked as a cleaner and a painter to make a living. During the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, immigration documents reveal that his mother, Fatima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolder, had not entered the United States yet. Uncovered by genealogical researcher Alex Calzareth, with the assistance of the Freedom of Information Act, documents showed that she was in Brazil until 2003. In 2021, Santos commemorated the passing of his mother on 9/11 through Twitter; however, on his campaign website, it states that she passed away in 2016 due to cancer. The inconsistencies within the tales told by Santos to his constituents before they cast their votes for him call to attention the importance of ethics in running for office. With calls to resign, even from within his own party, Santos refused and is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for sexual misconduct and breaking various laws in regard to his financial disclosure forms.
Adding to the investigations led by the House, Santos was indicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York by a federal grand jury under thirteen counts in connection to his campaign finances and donations. During his time in Brazil in 2010 performing as the drag queen Kitara Ravache, he committed check fraud and has a case pending against him. In the thirteen counts against Santos, United States Attorney Peace claims that he has taken the halls of Congress to fill his pockets with more money, adding to the unreported campaign finances. With a criminal background and deceiving people on a national stage, Santos’s actions exemplify the importance of background checks. With Americans already skeptical about the insider trading issues within Congress, this adds to the skepticism as a man who defrauded New York’s third congressional district walks as a member of the House of Representatives and wants to seek another term. His actions mock the importance of having the voices of the people heard in governmental spaces. Calls for his resignation seem to fall on deaf ears as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy needs Santos’s vote in a chamber where his power is only kept by a razor-thin majority. By playing into Congressional politics, the Republican Party does a disservice to itself. If they collectively had exiled Santos from their party, it would highlight the fact that they prioritize the truth and repel deception while engaging with their constituents in a more meaningful manner. By repelling Santos, the Republican Party would gain moral ground with the moderate voters in swing states that often decide crucial elections. With official indictments and charges, the persistence of Santos to remain in his position does a disservice to the people of his district when representing their values and concerns.
Congressman George Anthony Devolder Santos, a politician, son of Brazilian immigrants, and former drag queen, packed his resumè with falsities that tricked his constituents into believing his conjured identity that hid his true self in a consequential House race. Masking the truth under layers of lies allowed Santos to be elected to a position of power while enriching his pockets, setting a precedent for the future as many prospective politicians are noticing the lack of transparency and accountability for those who seem to think it is all right to slip between the cracks. However, figures like Santos represent a lesson for the future. It creates pressure on each party in every county in the United States to screen and conduct a transparent and thorough background check on their candidate before nominating them for the general election. It also forces every candidate to remain truthful in their biographies, regardless of how they are perceived. Communicating the truth with a politician’s constituents is the first step to mending the public distrust of elected officials and the government.