In late 2021, as he prepared to make a second run for a suburban New York City House seat, George Santos gave permission for his campaign to commission a routine background study on him.
Campaigns frequently rely on this kind of research, known as vulnerability studies, to identify anything problematic that an opponent might seize on. But when the report came back on Mr. Santos, the findings by a Washington research firm were far more startling, suggesting a pattern of deception that cut to the heart of the image he had cultivated as a wealthy financier.
Some of Mr. Santos’s own vendors were so alarmed after seeing the study in late November 2021 that they urged him to drop out of the race, and warned that he could risk public humiliation by continuing. When Mr. Santos disputed key findings and vowed to continue running, members of the campaign team quit, according to three of the four people The New York Times spoke to with knowledge of the study.
The episode, which has not been previously reported, is the most explicit evidence to date that a small circle of well-connected Republican campaign professionals had indications far earlier than the public that Mr. Santos was spinning an elaborate web of deceits, and that the candidate himself had been warned about just how vulnerable those lies were to unraveling.
Fraudulent academic degrees. Involvement in a firm accused of a Ponzi scheme. Multiple evictions and a suspended driver’s license. All of it was in the report, which also said that Mr. Santos, who is openly gay, had been married to a woman. The report did not offer conclusive details, but some people briefed on the findings wondered whether the marriage was done for immigration purposes. [Continue reading…]