Opinion: The Santos stain stretches far and wide

A lot of people were “Santosed,” not just members of the GOP, including this campaign donor who gave to the Congress Member.

Rep. George Santos leaves a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2023.

Rep. George Santos leaves a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2023. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

George Santos has done far more than masquerade as someone he is not.

In claiming he is a “moderate Republican” Santos has harmed those who seek to endorse and support those Republicans who recognize our nation can’t withstand the current political schism that divides us. He has swindled those who proudly stand on their Republican values of patriotism, ethics, and integrity. However, by suggesting that he too is a political centrist when in fact he is a con, he stains the very fabric of our flag and defames those who believed his pledge of allegiance to shared political goals. 

This essayist brought considerable financial donations to bear on behalf of the Santos campaign. I did so in the mistaken belief that he represented the next generation of Republican moderates in our nation. At a time when woke dogma is accepted as campus curriculum and revisionist historians denigrate our nation’s past, Santos appeared to be the young man who could stand up, speak out, and rally his generation. 

I was profoundly mistaken. He has been revealed as a fraud. And as for being a so-called moderate, Santos was at former President Donald Trump’s rally ahead of the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol, claimed Trump's election was stolen and even claimed his own election was stolen.

However, I take no comfort in the fact that many others were also duped. His opponents, major media outlets, and those who thought he was a political colleague, all fell victim to this carnival barker of considerable skill.  Since the revelations, his name has become a verb, where one is “Santosed” to describe being taken by a con. His actions were, and remain, so extraordinary that he will long be the subject of textbooks, essays, and films. There is talk of a Netflix film because the story is incomprehensible. 

What is now apparent to the world is that he was running a political ponzi scheme. (Prosecutors unwinding his campaign finances may find that the phrase “ponzi scheme” may be more than a euphemism.) One suspects the last chapter of this painful chapter in American political history could well be written when various criminal investigations now underway are concluded. 

There are many who will join me in ruing the day introductions were made and Santos enveloped us in his campaign of deception. Those who pride themselves on being politically sophisticated and able to recognize “the real deal” have been humbled, including this campaign donor. The Santos circus is now a cautionary tale for everyone, regardless of enrollment, ideology, or support.  

The personal humiliation of finding the person you thought was a next gen political standard bearer is, in fact, a fraud pales in comparison to the broader issue. The stunning reveal comes with significant collateral damage with far reaching impact. It must surely have a chilling effect across the political spectrum. Like the shock that went throughout the investment community when Bernie Madoff was discovered to be running a massive pyramid scheme, donors on all sides of the political aisle will now respond to requests for campaign donations with the question, “What do I really know about this person, issue, or PAC?”  

It is inconceivable that future candidates will be able to offer a resume that won’t be required to undergo a vetting process that will make gaining national security clearance seem like a trip to the DMV. While the Republican bench has been embarrassed by this experience it is likely the liberal progressive wing, and their Democrat allies, are not immune from a Santos like swindle.  It would come as no surprise to find that they too have “sleeper” frauds among them that embrace their ideology because it is financially expedient to do so or aids in their immediate advancement through the political ranks. 

If there is a silver lining in the Santos con it is the fact that every donor, every PAC, and every nominating committee will be far more cautious in conducting due diligence of the person who wishes to stand for public office. By doing so Santos has, ironically, done us a service in dramatically reminding us that democracy continues to be dependent on the ethics and integrity of individuals sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Robert Mangi, a longtime Republican donor, is president of Robert C. Mangi Agency Inc., an insurance company based in Garden City, Long Island, New York.

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