- The Handbasket
- Our Long Island National Nightmare
Our Long Island National Nightmare
Thoughts on the George Santos of it all.
The second to last week of 2022 kicked off with a bang, as the New York Times dropped a mind-blowing report about Republican Congressman-elect George Santos and his many, many alleged lies. The 34-year-old Trump-worshiper truly left no stone unturned: He allegedly lied about where he went to college, his employment history, starting an animal rescue nonprofit, right down to his home address. He has an open criminal case in Brazil, and extremely shoddy financial records—or lack thereof. And yet, he was able to win by eight points in a reliably Democratic district. How?
Let’s just do a quick rundown of what the Times story alleges:
-Santos claimed during his campaign that he worked at financial giants Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, but neither company has a record of his ever working there
-Santos has said he graduated from Baruch College in 2010, but school officials found “no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year”
-He said he founded an animal rescue nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, but the IRS has no record of a registered charity with that name
-He reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his own company that has no clients and may or may not exist
-Despite claiming a family fortune in real estate, there are no records to support it exists
This is all on top of previously known information about Santos, including the fact that he claimed to be present at former President Trump’s speech on January 6, 2021, was caught on camera admitting to helping bail out some of the insurrectionists arrested that day, and was part of a ponzi scheme. And another story published post-Election Day revealed Santos was being bankrolled by a Russian oligarch.
You’re probably wondering how Santos got away with it, and frankly I’m wondering the same. His opponent in the general election, Democrat Robert Zimmerman, said after the story broke, “We always knew Santos was running a scam against the voters in our congressional district. And we raised many of these issues and questions, but we were drowned out in a governor's race, where crime was the focus.”
Zimmerman claimed not to not have known everything reported Monday by the Times but, “pointed to bread crumbs that were publicly available during the race that the press failed to follow in time to give voters a clearer picture of Santos.” Ok, but this is literally a bakery full of bread that seems unmissable if pitched correctly.
It seems pretty absurd to think a congressional candidate had this level of dirt on his opponent and couldn’t make it stick. Or maybe Zimmerman simply didn’t try very hard—which is a hell of an admission from a campaign that raised millions, and by a candidate who is literally a public relations professional by trade with his own firm. Zimmerman and his allies’ attempt to paint him as the victim of a hostile local media environment obsessed with bail reform and the farce of soaring crime seems too cute by half.
I am, in a word, obsessed with this whole thing. That’s partly because I have a vested interest in Santos’ soon-to-be district: I grew up there; my parents still live there; some of my best friends and their families are putting down roots there. I’ve long argued the people of NY-03 deserve better representation in Washington, with outgoing multi-term Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi running an anemic ship since his first election in 2016. It’s a district with a lot of concentrated wealth and education that’s been neglected by an unremarkable congressman with big ambitions, but small ideas. So the fact that Suozzi’s wannabe successor Robert Zimmerman fumbled the bag isn’t entirely surprising.
None of this is to say that if everything we learned about George Santos this week came out before Election Day 2022 that the result would’ve ultimately changed. Long Island has been undergoing a red, Trumpy shift for years now, and the overperformance of Republican Lee Zeldin in the gubernatorial race certainly helped buoy Santos. And even if Democrats held onto this seat, they still would’ve fallen short of holding onto the House majoirty. But I’d like to have a little more faith in the voters of Nassau County and Queens and say they might have voted differently if they knew the actual person for whom they were voting.
Melanie D’Arrigo, a fierce progressive (and friend of mine) who ran in the Democratic primary for this seat, summed it up perfectly when she tweeted Monday, “So the Republican who directed a Ponzi scheme, financially supported insurrectionists, attended a gala with white supremacists, and had his election campaign funded by a Putin-aligned oligarch may have also invented his entire back story? Short answer: ✅”