It’s a unique philosophical conundrum for the United States Congress. Never in its storied 233 year history has the identity of one of its members been in doubt. Today it’s unclear whether the name of New York’s recently seated member of Congress is George Santos, Anthony Devolder — or if he is someone else.
The problem isn’t just ours, it’s also his. Santos is so shaky about his own identity that he apparently couldn’t meet the requirement for a visit to the White House. It’s a tradition this time of year, after newly minted Congressional members have been installed, for the President to meet them. That’s why virtually every new US Congressperson and Senator has at least one photo of themselves with the President of the United States.
George Santos is the kind of guy who’d never pass up a chance like that. Except for one thing. He needs two things: a verifiable birth date and a social security number.
You see, the Secret Service uses both to do mini-security clearances on all persons meeting the President for the first time. Oddly, George Santos did not submit his birth date and social security number in application for the traditional visit. I wonder why? Could George “Anthony Devolder” Santos be a total fiction?
Meanwhile, Santos made another huge mistake. He resubmitted his campaign finance report. This time he changed two things. First he unchecked the box claiming that the $700,000 contribution for his campaign came from his personal funds. Unfortunately the report doesn’t tell us where the money actually came from.
You see, it’s legal for a candidate to use his or her own money to finance a run for Congress, but a $700,000 contribution from someone else is too much to accept from a single person. In fact it’s a federal crime.
The second mistake Santos made was to change the name of his campaign finance treasurer. That’s not illegal, but forging the electronic signature of his new treasurer is. ABC reports that veteran campaign finance treasurer Thomas Datwyler, who has worked in that capacity on several campaigns, denies that he was ever campaign finance treasurer for George Santos. But that’s the name on Santos’ brand new filing.
Santos is now in serious legal trouble. He has blatantly broken two federal campaign finance laws. For his crimes he will be investigated and, if sufficient evidence is found to convict, he could go to jail. The statutory maximum sentence for such a violation is five years in prison.
If George Santos goes to prison, it could prove terminal for the majority members of the 118th Congress. Their tiny majority could be reduced by one member. A runoff election would be held, and the third New York district he has so disingenuously represented will almost certainly go to a Democrat. Speaker Kevin McCarthy could wind up with a decidedly short tenure.
You see, McCarthy knew before Santos was elected that Santos’ campaign had credibility problems. Had McCarthy not been the dumbest man to pick up the Speaker’s gavel in history he could have undertaken preemptive measures. But because McCarthy is stupid, he didn’t. And now he’s paying a very heavy price.
George Santos probably longs for the “good old days” when he was known merely as a pathological liar. Now he’s in deep criminal peril, and this could turn out to be the thousandth cut that fatally wounds the Republican Party. Let us hope. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.