Since Congressman George Santos took office in January, his constituents have demanded his resignation. Santos has drawn deep, bipartisan scrutiny from falsehoods around his work experience, biography, and his financial statements, leaving many feeling misrepresented in the House. For four months his constituents organized protests outside his Queens office with others contacting elected leader’s offices to voice concerns.
In early February, furious protestors brought their voices directly to the Capitol Hill offices of not only Santos, but also his boss, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy delivering copies of petitions demanding Santos’s removal signed by more than 100,000 people.
Now, constituents believe the government is finally listening to their collective voices. On May 14, the embattled congressman was charged with making false statements, fraud, money laundering and other crimes in a 13-count federal indictment.
Celeste Gullo, a Glen Cove resident, and mother, said that it’s essential to keep elected officials to higher standards, not their families, not their children, but the officials themselves. She’s disappointed in House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s lack of political action towards removing the disgraced congressman from office and believes that the sole reason Santos remains there is to help Republicans maintain their majority in Congress.
“We teach our children not to lie, steal, and cheat so how can anyone support a liar, a thief or a cheater?” Gullo asked. “Stealing from charity, from a veteran, lying to steal money, is very low and he should be held accountable and removed immediately. We can do better.”
According to the breakdown of charges, the first five counts pertain to allegations that Santos misled donors into contributing money by telling them the contributions would be used for campaign ads. Santos is accused of spending those funds on designer clothes and credit card payments.
Counts six through eight alleges that in 2022, Santos illegally transferred a $25,000 campaign donation from one donor and a $24,000 donation from another to a bank account he controlled.
The ninth count — theft of public money — alleges that in 2020 and 2021, Santos embezzled U.S. funds by falsely obtaining money set aside for unemployed people during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, even though he was being paid a substantial salary at the time.
Counts 10 and 11 refer to an alleged scheme to obtain money earmarked to help Americans who lost work due to Covid. The count refers to two $564 checks that allegedly were wired to Santos.
Count 12 alleges Santos of lying on a 2020 House financial disclosure form, which requires legislators to give a complete account of their income and assets. The last count parallels count 12 but relates to alleged lying on his 2022 financial disclosure form.
Glen Cove resident Adam J. Sontag said the federal charges are a step in the right direction toward removing Santos from office. Sontag speculates that if Santos can dodge the more serious potential consequences of the indictment, he might consider the prospect of a career in media after he leaves his congressional seat.
“It seems like just a matter of time until this case runs its course, and he is ultimately forced to resign, which is purportedly McCarthy's threshold,” Sontag said. “The performative grandstanding he is doing to protest his innocence is largely directed at an audience that I don't believe lives in this district.”
Two weeks after the freshman member of Congress took office, local leaders like Glen Cove Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck were among the countless elected officials calling for Santos’ resignation. Panzenbeck said that although the indictment doesn’t mean he’s automatically guilty, she believes the legal process is a good first step in to remove him from office.
“I’m surprised that it took so long for this to happen,” Panzenbeck said. “I think he's positively delusional, and hopefully this will make him think twice before he runs for reelection. He will never have the support of anyone that I know if he runs for reelection, but we know he's obviously not thinking clearly.”
Jody Kass, a leader of the protest group Concerned Citizens of NY-03, personally delivered petitions to McCarthy’s office calling for Santos expulsion from office in February. Although Kass is pleased to see the legal momentum from the federal government, she believes officials should take more steps.
Kass has been in talks with members of Congress to gain traction on House resolution 114, which specifically targets Santos. Kass said Congressman Anthony D’Esposito claims he wants Santos to be expelled, but she’s disappointed that he has not signed the resolution, which directly calls for Santos expulsion. The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Ethics.
“The only way we're gonna get rid of him is if the Republicans decide that they want to get rid of him,” Kass said. “And you can't get even the Congress member who is closest to our districts to actually put his name on the cosponsoring of this resolution.”
David Black, an Oyster Bay resident and active member of the Concerned Citizens Facebook group, said the district needs better representation.
“Congress should expel a representative who was elected under false pretenses, regardless of the legal jeopardy.” Black said. “The constituents of District 3 are the losers here until Santos is out and replaced.”
Sharon Ballan, a rabbi from Glen Cove, said she’s also glad that Santos, who she referred to as a “serial fabulist,” is finally being indicted. Ballan said she spoke with Santos directly on May 4 for 20 minutes during his mobile office hours in Farmingdale, where he “lied again and again.” She believes Congress needs to expel Santos immediately.
“I am incensed that he calls himself "Jew-ish" and has misrepresented himself,” Ballan said.” He had the chutzpah to co-sponsor a bill to make the AR-15 the national gun, and to wear an AR-15 pin on his lapel. I feel like I do not have a representative in Congress.”