Albany Agenda

After his expulsion from Congress, George Santos goes on the warpath

His posts have targeted Reps. Mike Lawler, Nicole Malliotakis and Nick LaLota.

Former Rep. George Santos isn’t sparing his Republican critics now that he’s out of office.

Former Rep. George Santos isn’t sparing his Republican critics now that he’s out of office. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

After being kicked out of the House, former Rep. George Santos went on the warpath on Friday, intent on meting out payback on some of his fellow New York Republicans who took him down. He levied allegations of unethical conduct against Reps. Mike Lawler, Nick LaLota and Nicole Malliotakis and said he would file ethics complaints with Congress on Monday. But his allegations were dubious at best, and in some cases, old news.

Against Lawler, Santos brought up an issue that City & State reported on over a year ago during his run for Congress: Lawler’s ownership stake in the consulting firm Checkmate Strategies. He co-founded and worked as a consultant before getting elected to the Assembly, but he continued to work as a consultant while in the state Legislature. Under state law, members of the state Legislature are allowed to maintain outside employment and income as long as it does not pose a conflict of interest, although after he left, lawmakers placed a cap on how much outside income a lawmaker could receive. Lawler disclosed the income that he received through Checkmate Strategies as required by law. 

Lawler also paid his own firm for consulting work on both his Assembly and congressional races, which was at the heart of Santos’ allegation. “The concerning questions are; is Mr Lawler engaging in laundering money (from) his campaign to his firm then into his own pocket?” Santos asked on X. The short answer, according to both state and federal law, is no. “Being attacked by a serial liar and con man like George Santos is a badge of honor,” Lawler spokesperson Nate Soule said in a statement. “His bogus allegations against Congressman Lawler mirror ones made by Democrats over a year ago that were rebutted in a City & State story.”

Candidates are allowed to spend campaign money on businesses that they have stakes in so long as they pay market rate prices and contract for legitimate campaign expenses. At the time, Lawler’s expenditures appeared to meet that standard, even if good-government advocates would like to see changes to campaign finance law to eliminate the possibility of candidates enriching themselves. Lawler’s campaign has continued to pay Checkmate Strategies for its services, the most recent expense coming in September for print ads. Soule added that Lawler has reached out to the Federal Elections Commission to ensure ethical compliance with the law, and added that he no longer plays a role in Checkmate Strategies since joining Congress.

For LaLota, Santos brought up an issue that has already been hashed out in the public eye. In fact, Santos acknowledged that the allegation had been covered in “local media” in the past. He brought up that LaLota attended law school while also working full time at the Board of Elections as the Republican elections commissioner in Suffolk County. “Did Rep Lalota no-show to his tax(payer) funded job while going to school and if so he can potential(ly) have stolen public funds (from) the tax(payers) of NY,” Santos posted.

Santos was referring to Newsday reporting from 2017, when then-Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory asked the Suffolk County comptroller to review LaLota’s time sheets because he took daytime classes as a part-time Hofstra University law student while working full time at the Board of Elections. At the time, LaLota said he fulfilled his requirements at the Board of Elections and accused Suffolk Democrats of orchestrating an attack against him.

Santos did not mention the arguably more significant and certainly more recent Board of Elections scandal that Democrats included in an opposition research memo on LaLota last year. The 2017 accusation did not impact LaLota’s job, and he in fact stayed on as the Republican elections commissioner until 2020, when he attempted to keep his position while simultaneously running for state Senate, a race that he would also oversee at the Board of Elections. LaLota took a leave of absence from the board, but a state appellate court later removed him from the ballot, ruling that even with the leave, his position posed a conflict of interest. LaLota maintained the entire time that a leave of absence satisfied the ethical concerns posed by his position on the board.

A spokesperson for LaLota dismissed the allegations Santos made as well. “George is just mad the congressman has three actual degrees while he lied about having one,” Will Kiley said.

The allegations about Malliotakis were perhaps the most novel – but also the most vague. Santos referenced “questionable stock trading” since Malliotakis joined the Ways and Means Committee at the beginning of the year and said she didn’t have an “active trading habit or a high volume stake” before then. In another post on X, he mentioned trades involving Signature Bank, saying it “reeks” of insider trading.

According to her financial disclosures, Malliotakis has purchased stocks three times this year, with an approximate total value of $3,000 to $45,000. In 2022, her second year in office, she only made a couple of transactions involving individual stocks. None of them involved Signature Bank, although Malliotakis did buy her stock in New York City Community Bank right before it purchased most of Signature Bank’s assets. Malliotakis bought her stock on March 17, and on March 19, the news of the asset purchase was first announced. “We don’t respond to expelled George Santos because he is a scorned and known serial liar,” Malliotakis spokesperson Natalie Baldassarre said in a statement.

Santos also took aim at upstate Rep. Brandon Williams, who caught flack after a video of him yelling at a former staff member circulated on social media. Santos posted several times about the incident, and encouraged the former staffer to file his own ethics complaint with Congress. In addition, Santos weighed in on the special election to replace him, throwing his support behind former New York City Police Department Detective Mike Sapraicone for the Republican nomination and accusing Democrats of sexism for supporting former Rep. Tom Suozzi over former state Sen. Anna Kaplan.

Santos has already begun to capitalize on his infamy. His X profile now includes a link to his page on Cameo, a website where celebrities of all levels of fame sell personalized videos and messages. Santos is pitching personal videos at $200 a pop, a steep increase compared to the $75 price tag that first appeared on his page earlier Monday morning. He has also agreed – at least over social media – to an interview with comedian Ziwe, who is known for her offputting satirical interviews that often focus on race and politics.