Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

New questions about Santos’ honesty and finances anger Jewish donors

And in a newly surfaced interview, Santos weighs in on disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison

New allegations Monday over George Santos’ campaign finances riled donors, including Jewish contributors already furious that the New York congressman had falsely called himself a Jew. 

Santos spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill again dodging reporters amid the fresh allegations. “I’ll be addressing the media soon — on my time,” Santos told Rachel Scott, an ABC congressional correspondent. 

At least one furious Jewish donor didn’t wait for Santos to explain himself. 

Eric Levine, a New York-based litigator and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s board of directors, who gave a $500 contribution to Santos last May on the assumption he was Jewish, was livid. Levine, in an email to his colleagues, wrote that what “Santos did is disgusting,” CNBC reported Monday. “He deserves to be humiliated and held in contempt.”

Among many false assertions about his finances and background during and prior to his campaign to represent his Long Island district, Santos claimed to have Jewish grandparents who fled anti-Jewish persecution during World War II and called himself a “proud American Jew” in a position paper he shared with Jewish and pro-Israel groups. Levine told CNBC early this week that he “soured” on Santos after the candidate had aligned himself with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who was removed from her committee assignments last year for her embrace of QAnon conspiracy theories and promulgation of antisemitic tropes. 

In a complaint filed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Monday, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, accused Santos of violating federal campaign finance laws by reporting false disbursement figures on his financial disclosure reports and using his campaign funds to pay personal expenses. 

The nonprofit alleged that Santos engaged in a straw donor scheme that concealed the source of more than $700,000 he lent to his own congressional bid in 2022. The Santos campaign raised nearly $3 million during the last election cycle. 

Federal prosecutors are already investigating Santos’ finances. 

Two New York Democrats, Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres, filed an official complaint against Santos with the House Committee on Ethics Tuesday morning. “The House of Representatives has an obligation to police itself, and this is just the start of our mission to hold George Santos accountable to his constituents and the American people,” Goldman, a freshman from Manhattan, said in a statement.

Jewish donors 

CNBC also disclosed the name of a Santos campaign staffer who impersonated Dan Meyer, the chief of staff of now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in fundraising calls with donors. He is Sam Miele, who previously worked with Josh Eisen, a controversial Republican who ran for a House seat in 2020. Miele was got paid $92,000 for fundraising consulting during Santos’ 2020 and 2022 campaigns. 

Eisen, who is Jewish, donated a total of $14,500 to the Santos campaign for his 2020 and 2022 congressional bids and gave another $5,000 contribution to Santos’ political action committee, Gads PAC. (The PAC’s name comes from Santos’ initials.) Eisen told the Forward Monday evening that Miele was a campaign staffer, not Santos’ campaign director, as some reports have indicated. Eisen also said he had no prior relationship with Santos other than knowing him from political circles. 

“I didn’t know he was Jewish until after he won,” Eisen said. Asked if he regrets his support, Eisen demurred, quoting the biblical commandment in Hebrew, “Midvar sheker tirchak” — stay far away from falsehood. “Of course lying is wrong,” he said. “All lying, including the little ones. But obviously there’s a difference between big and little lies. Criminal ones and otherwise.” Eisen later called Santos’ behavior “disappointing” and took issue with the vetting process for candidates.

Federal Election Commission reports also show that Santos received a $2,900 donation from Jewish billionaire Paul Singer, founder of Elliott Management and a staunch advocate for gay rights.

 

Adding to the drama swirling around Santos Monday, a misplaced comma in a New York Post story seemed to indicate that Santos had hired a controversial Buffalo Republican onto his Capitol Hill staff. Carl Paladino has expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler’s leadership style. But he has not taken a job with Santos.

LegiStorm, a platform for government affairs professionals, briefly posted Paladino’s name in its staff directory before it was deleted. “Rep. George Santos’s (R-N.Y.) name has become so synonymous with misinformation that a LegiStorm error published for mere minutes has caused pandemonium in the congressman’s office,” the site said Monday evening

Coffee talk with Jeffrey Epstein

In a newly surfaced audio from an interview in 2020, Santos said he believed Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who was found dead in his cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges, was murdered. It is one of the conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death and contradicts the New York City medical examiner’s findings that deemed it a suicide

“I believe he was murdered, that’s my conclusion,” Santos said in a podcast interview on the Rory Sauter Show on Aug. 12, 2020. 

Santos said on the podcast that he’d met Epstein “in a couple of private equity conferences” and said he doesn’t believe that Epstein hung himself. “I’ve seen him,” he said. “I am 6’2 and the guy was taller than me. There’s just no way you can hang yourself off of a bunk bed at that height. I can’t hang myself off of a bunk bed because human instinct kicks right in and the first thing you do is you stand up.” Epstein was reportedly 6 feet tall

“The whole story is so skewed,” Santos said. “He didn’t hang himself. He was murdered. I don’t believe in killing people. I believe in putting them through the criminal justice system and making them pay for their crimes. I get a lot of pleasure in seeing people pay for their crimes in jail, not putting them on a chair or giving them a shot because that’s the easy way out.” 

In the interview, Santos also said he interacted with Epstein — describing them as a “hi and bye, two-minute conversation standing by a pastry table, grabbing some coffee” — and found him to be “a very pleasant individual,” a “gentleman and kind.” 

“I’m not saying he’s a pleasant person, and especially after everything that’s come out in the media,” he added. “I would have never in a million years thought that he’d be that kind of guy. But it ended up he was.”

This post was updated to include an official complaint about Santos’s financial disclosures filed with the House ethics committee. 

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.