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I read the US Republican Congressman George Santos was accused of lying multiple times during the election campaign. He is accused of faking his CV and making false statements. He himself admitted that some allegations were true.

I would like to know why the lies were discovered after the elections. Aren't party officials supposed to check the CVs of the candidates before they run for election? Aren't journalists supposed to check the validity of the declarations before publishing them?

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    There is also a cascade effect: once the first lies were reported, all of his actions and documents and statements were examined more closely and checked. And with more media coverage, more and more people (even those who are not in the business of researching politicians) would be able to provide info ("hey, this guy tells he went to my hockey team but I never saw him! Let's call the press!")
    – SJuan76
    Feb 21, 2023 at 22:56
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    You're assuming that the press didn't discover these well before the election. I'm guessing they sat on them because "candidate is liar" is a much smaller story than "elected official is liar"
    – Valorum
    Feb 22, 2023 at 22:51
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    @Valorum that sounds... unplausible, to put it mildly. "The press" is not a monolithic organization that has periodic meetings to decide what to publish and what to hide. If some newspaper sits on an info, then another can also uncover it and be the first to print it. And for the difference of value, if Santos had lost the elections, then the value of the information would have dropped...
    – SJuan76
    Feb 24, 2023 at 11:20
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    @Valorum so your suggestion is that the press (who you seem to think favours the Dems) hid dirty about a Republican candidate because they prefered him to win and make fun of him after he already had become a representative, instead of helping him lose? You logic is... curious. But certainly useful, as it seems that it can support anything you want to support, regardless of evidence (or lack of it).
    – SJuan76
    Feb 24, 2023 at 11:40

5 Answers 5

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It did get uncovered before the election but other higher profile elections caused it to get missed.

Small, local paper uncovered and reported George Santos scandal before November election

A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing newly sworn-in Rep. George Santos of illegally using campaign funds and masking the source of those funds. The North Shore Leader, a small paper on Long Island, broke the scandal before the November election. By the time other outlets picked it up, Santos had been elected. Grant Lally joined Geoff Bennett to discuss.

Well, look, he was a prominent personality while he was running for office. And we're pretty attuned to the political activities of folks on the North Shore.

So, a lot of people with a newspaper and a lot of people I knew outside the newspaper were following him and tracking him and looking at what his claims were. And what we all concluded was that he was a fraud. He was making things up and lying and boasting and putting people down, claiming he was such a rich man, when he clearly wasn't.

And so we all smelled a fake, and we started looking through his campaign finance reports. And we saw a lot there that looked fraudulent, really over-the-top fraudulent.

However there was a lot of other high profile elections happening in New York at the time and the media and others got distracted by that news.

Well, I will tell you, it was very disappointing that that didn't happen. We did send the paper out to a lot of the local organs, a lot of the media.

But, look, it was a busy year in New York. We had a very hotly contested gubernatorial election, which was within a few points. That dominated the news cycle. You also had a lot of other open congressional races in the neighboring districts. So a lot of the media got distracted in looking at really the bigger race, not the local races.

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To add another aspect (in addition to Joe's answer) that did not receive enough coverage: much of the mess was apparently missed by an opposition research firm hired by the Democratic opponent, a Mr. Zimmerman.

Zimmerman raised slightly more than Santos did. The Democrat did spend a total of $22,000 over three payments on Deep Dive Political Research, an opposition research firm, per FEC filings. (This organization did not respond to a Vanity Fair interview request.)

Though apparently they did fish out the pet rescue charity was not registered with the IRS. Another article says the research was much more focussed on "push-button issues": what did Santos say about abortion? How friendly was he on Trump?

More on what was in that research doc @ NYT.

I suspect $22k might make for a fair political research package in a "low-stakes" local campaign - "what gaffes and missteps can a candidate be quoted on to inflame our base"? $22k to a competent local generic private investigator, willing to do in-person research, would have hit jackpot here, for sure. But that PI would have not had much actionable political info in most cases because most candidates are not George Santos. So it would have had to be $22K + PI fees, with PI fees a dead loss most of the time.

Maybe those oppo budgets will be going up in the future? $22k * 435 candidates is $9M: peanuts.

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    Another article says the research was much more focussed on "push-button issues": what did Santos say about abortion? How friendly was he on Trump? Which might hint to an underlying reason: many of Santos' lies were so easy to discover with some basic fact-checking, (for example in relation to academic activity) that maybe everybody looking for dirt thought he would not be fool enough to lye on that.
    – SJuan76
    Feb 21, 2023 at 22:53
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    Yes, which is why I think a PI firm would have caught him dead to rights. A basic employer background check would also have done trick. Saying "Oh, but Brazil" - something also given as an excuse - is not a defense, the Brazilian shenanigans only came up after the rest was already on fire. Hard to say if the oppo firm was lazy or just hired to search other stuff. That all said, to be a bit Machiavellan, with 10 seats separating Dems from Reps in House and very little aisle-crossing going on, having Reps squirming on Santos might be a better - unplanned - outcome for Dems. Feb 21, 2023 at 23:20
  • I suppose it is possible they thought that being found out lying about a bunch of petty stuff and being boastful wasn't going to cost him any votes amongst those likely to vote for him so there was no point bringing it up.
    – Eric Nolan
    Feb 22, 2023 at 9:26
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Aren't party officials supposed to check the CVs of the candidates before they run for election?

U.S. political parties have almost no authority to vet or limit who runs for office in their political party, other than to confirm that they have been registered to vote in that political party for the requisite period of time.

Santos consented to some nominal vetting in the form of a questionnaire from a party official in 2020, the first time he ran, but he lied on that too and no one double checked to see if what he had said was true. Why would they bother when they had no other candidates for what was at the time a safe Democratic party seat?

There is a formal process for access to the primary ballot which involves petitions and/or intra-party caucuses. But there is, by design, no way for party officials to veto the candidacy of someone who is registered to vote in their party or insist on much of anything from a candidate in their party.

As it happens, a number of senior GOP figures were aware of George Santos' lies, but checking the CV of a candidate before they run for election is not standard operating procedure.

Also, even if they knew about it, there were few formal steps that they could take in the process other than to support another candidate in the primary election (and in neither 2020 nor 2022, the years in which he ran, did anyone else throw their hat in the ring), and there is even less that party officials could have done once Santos had won his own party's primary without damaging their chance of electing some Republican from the district that in 2022 became much more competitive when the original Democratic redistricting map was thrown out.

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    a number of senior GOP officials were aware of George Santos' lies that's a strong enough statement to warrant some sourcing. Also, while US parties can't vet a candidate, could the Republican party not go public on concerns it has wrt a candidate's character during the Rep primaries? Or are they obligated to keep mum? This was just a massive fiasco. Feb 22, 2023 at 3:49
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Ask and you shall receive. The ones who knew could have, but this was a tight race in which Santos with his lies was positioned to win over moderately liberal voters in. Other candidates would have probably lost the race. And, probably many who knew he was lying about some things didn't realize quite how epic the situation really was.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 22, 2023 at 7:02
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    The "Intercept" has an article saying that the republican Congressional Leadership Fund suspiciously avoided putting money into his race because they knew he was fishy. theintercept.com/2022/12/24/george-santos-election-republicans. Feb 22, 2023 at 18:21
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    Yeah, the mess caused by NY's chaotic redistricting should definitely be part of the story here too. I'm not sure how much time was given between that last redistricting (that made it more competitive) and the actual election, but I seem to recall it not being a lot, and in fact they were still redistricting after the election
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 22, 2023 at 20:32
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    I know in my state we have a particular "perrinial candidate" for the Democrats who is in fact a very problematic person. Like a history of restraining orders a mile long. However, there really wasn't much sense spending any of our very very limited financial resources as a party getting the word out about him during the general the one time he made it out of the US Senate primary, because 2/3 Oklahomans are going to vote against the "(D)" next to his name anyway. Nobody's donating to him though. So I understand exactly where those local Repubs were coming from.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 22, 2023 at 20:37
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The US media landscape is a post-apocalyptic mess. The loss of newspaper subscriptions and classified ad revenue means that the budgets of US media that aren't click bait or internationally known is tiny, and even big internationally known media are struggling.

Journalists jobs are to make revenue for their media company. And looking into politicians backgrounds will usually not generate a pile of revenue. So they don't have the time.

A small local paper did it, and found some smell. But it was one race, and it wasn't a guaranteed story (Republican candidate lies about charity? That is a tiny scandal compared to what goes on every day), so not many other people picked it up.

Journalists fact checking? Where is the profit in that? You just say "claimed" next to what someone says and wash your hands of it. Actually verifying something is true takes time and money and doesn't generate revenue. Maybe a few high profile (newpapers who value their reputation) or inefficient workers (why are you fact checking and not generating clickbiat? please remember to post any spelling corrections in the comments!) do that kind of thing.

Party officials job is to gain power for their party and themselves. As they don't have the ability to change a candidate, looking for and finding out dirty laundry of their own congress candidate has little real upside. They don't care if the candidate is a horrible person, they care if they win the seat. And with tribalism run rampant, a candidate for a party elsewhere being a horrible person doesn't even matter that much to voters.

By the time Santos got nominated, any attempt to replace them would bring attention to the race and reduce the chance of winning the seat. Before Santos got nominated, he was one of many 1000s of people, many of them crackpots, running for nomination. "Party machines" sometimes go after crackpots, but Santos was running for nomination in a seat which had a low chance of success -- burning party machine capital on opposing crackpots there was low return on investment. No serious candidate with power wanted that nomination!

Really, the opposing party nominee did drop the ball. They are about the only people with a real incentive to make Santos lose. The fraud information the local paper uncovered should have been a sign they should spend a bit more money digging.

With enough lead time and the extent of the lies, they might have gotten some free press and swung the election.

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I'm going to answer this question by asking and answering a different one:

Who has an incentive to investigate the lies of a Republican candidate in 2023?

The Republican party? Nope, they've discovered that their base will vote for the Republican candidate, no matter how immoral that candidate may be.

The Democrats? Nope, because they know the above is true - hence spending time and money to "expose" a Republican candidate is a waste, since it won't change Republican votes; and Democratic voters aren't going to vote Republican anyway. It might flip a few independents, but that's unlikely to make an appreciable difference; better to spend that time and money on encouraging Democrat voters to vote.

That pretty much leaves nobody except the media. And since the general public effectively no longer cares about how terrible a candidate is or isn't, there's not much profit for a member of the press to do this research and publish it - unless you're angling for a Pulitzer. And that's without taking into consideration the ever-increasing influence of political money in newspapers, which is liable to "disincentivise" publication of articles that go against the owners' political leanings.

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    This isn't true as the 2022 midterms show when they did not win as many seats in the house as expected. From what I have heard this is due to the election denial views that some of the candidates had causing their democrat opponents to win.
    – Joe W
    Feb 23, 2023 at 20:55

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