Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan held a press conference outside the Douglaston office of Congressman George Santos Wednesday, Jan. 25, to introduce legislation to the public before giving it to the staffers at the office. According to Lafazan, the purpose of the “Get Egregious Officials Removed from Government Elections” (G.E.O.R.G.E.) proposal is to set up barriers in order to prevent another candidate like Santos from lying about their entire background in order to get nominated for office.
According to Lafazan, the G.E.O.R.G.E. Package includes three proposals that address these concerns. First, it calls for mandatory background checks for all candidates, much like job seekers for other types of jobs are subject to. Second, it bars anyone who has an open foreign arrest warrant from being able to hold office. Finally, it would make it a misdemeanor for a candidate to lie about their education, employment history, address and sources of income.
Lafazan, as well as many of the residents in attendance, also reiterated their desires for Santos to resign or for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to take action by bringing up and endorsing a vote to expel Santos from Congress. McCarthy recently stated that an ethics investigation will be conducted on Santos. If the Ethics Committee finds that Santos broke the law, McCarthy said he would remove Santos from Congress.
“It is not normal to have a member of Congress who is so caught up with keeping himself out of jail that he is unable to actually serve the district that he was elected to represent,” Lafazan said. “We have called on him to resign multiple times. The litany of lies that he has told, he is the biggest fraud in modern political history of this country.”
Lafazan said he believes that Santos has broken the law. He cited Santos’ own admission to the Federal Election Commission that his own $500,000 loan to his campaign wasn’t a personal loan. This would violate campaign finance laws.
It remains to be seen how McCarthy will see this as enough to expel Santos from Congress.
“In the meantime, while he continues to serve, rather than despair, rather than give up, what we are doing is taking action to ensure that somebody like George Santos never gets elected again,” Lafazan said. “This bill package is inspired by George Santos. This bill package should never have to be proposed because we shouldn’t need it.”
Lafazan is hopeful that Nassau County becomes the model in passing the G.E.O.R.G.E. Package. He expressed optimism that the package could gain enough support to eventually be proposed and passed in Albany as a state law.
“Where are we going with this where we have to beg and plead for proper representation?” Oyster Bay East Norwich Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ravin Chetram asked. “I want to see businesses grow. How can you get the representation you need with someone like this in office?”
Common themes among the constituents who spoke at the press conference before Lafazan brought the package to the office were outrage over the volume of lies Santos has told, as well as concerns over just how equipped the staff members working at the office are. According to some residents, when they called the office for minor inquiries, they were often not given a direct answer or ended up being transferred to the offices of local representatives.
One constituent, Sheila Harmon, recalled an incident in which she called the office asking to facilitate getting tickets for tours of the White House as well as different areas in Washington, D.C. Harmon felt the staff member she talked with was not very experienced, as the staff member was unable to provide much information on the matter. Additionally, Harmon said the staff member refused to provide a name.
“I had called a number of times over the past three or four weeks and there was no answer at all,” Harmon said. “But then when I called [Tuesday] afternoon, there was an answering machine that picked up but it did not say that it was George Santos’ office. It just, ‘Leave your name and we will get back to you.’ I have done this through Tom Suozzi previously and it went very smoothly.”
Harmon said she ended up calling the office of New York Senator Chuck Schumer on Jan. 24 after failing to get any information from Santos’ office. Schumer’s office got back to her and said said they are already getting tickets for the White House tours. While Harmon noted that this was a small issue, it made her concerned about the problems other constituents may encounter trying to get bigger issues addressed.
“It is a total disgrace with this man getting into office,” Bayville resident and Vietnam War veteran PFC Kevin B. Cassin said. “We don’t even know if his name is George Santos. Another thing that’s a total disgrace is that he took $3,000 from a homeless veteran and kept the money for himself. As a Vietnam veteran and dog handler, I find that extremely disgraceful. I’m out of words with this guy. Every day there’s five more things that he’s lied about. This guy’s got to go.”
Later Wednesday, New York Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Joe Morelle wrote a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asking that Santos not be provided with access to classified information due to his sketchy history as well as possible security concerns. In their argument, they cited the fact that he’s currently under investigation by the Nassau County district attorney, the New York State Attorney General’s office, the federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York and by law enforcement authorities in Brazil. In addition to these legal concerns, there have been allegations linking donations from Santos’ campaign to Andrew Intrater and his cousin, sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
“You publicly expressed that the Congressman has ‘a long way to go to earn trust,'” Meeks and Morelle wrote in the letter to McCarthy. “His untrustworthiness could warrant the intelligence community to slow down or limit certain classified information it shares with Congress. This could have profound implications for the Legislative Branch’s ability to perform its legislative, oversight and investigative duties over the Executive Agencies’ classified programs. It is clear that Congressman George Santos has violated the public’s trust on various occasions and his unfettered access to our nation’s secrets presents a significant risk to the national security of this country. We urge you to act swiftly to prevent George Santos from abusing his position and endangering our nation.”