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Did Republicans Know About George Santos Before the Election?

With Election Day approaching, polling showed a tightening race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District: A blue seat on Long Island was in danger of being flipped. Aware of the threat, a political action committee aligned with House Democrats spent just under $3 million in independent expenditures to back their candidate and oppose his Republican opponent, George Santos.

On Santos’s side, though, the last-minute cash infusions were paltry. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that backs House Republicans, did not spend any money on the race. The absence was conspicuous: The fund poured more than $1.5 million into the races in the neighboring 4th and 2nd Districts — both of which Republicans won.

Outside help for Santos came in the form of $3,377 from the National Right to Life Victory Fund, according to OpenSecrets, and a $54,000 transfer from Take Back the House 2022 PAC, a group aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to federal filings — peanuts in a race that saw millions spent.

“There’s simply no way that Republicans in D.C. weren’t aware of these same red flags.”

Santos ended up not needing the boost: He won the race against Democratic candidate Robert Zimmerman by 8 points. The win was notable only for being one of four New York congressional seats that flipped red — this one in a district that Democrats had held since 2013.

Since the election, however, Santos has risen to infamy, as his official biography has largely fallen apart under scrutiny.

The revelations have led Santos’s opponents to revisit the reasons behind national Republicans’ lack of attention to the close congressional race. “We knew from our research that George Santos’s past was full of deceptive claims and shady financial dealings — and we worked hard to make this known and hold him accountable,” Evan Chernack, Zimmerman’s former campaign manager, told The Intercept. “There’s simply no way that Republicans in D.C. weren’t aware of these same red flags.”

The controversy has raised questions from political strategists, pundits, and elected officials as to how Santos was able to avoid the revelations until after the election, and what role media outlets and opposition researchers played in the failure. Santos’s lawyer claimed the reporting in the New York Times that blew upon the holes in Santos’s biography was a “defamatory” attempt to smear his name, but did not dispute any specific claims. In a tweet Thursday, Santos said he would tell his story “next week.” (Neither the Congressional Leadership Fund nor the Santos campaign immediately responded to requests for comment.)

Since Santos’s resume crumbled, Republicans have been relatively quiet. On Thursday, Nassau County Republican Committee Chair Joseph Cairo said that while Santos deserves a “reasonable amount of time” to respond to recent reporting, “voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos.”

Santos had fundraised off an endorsement from fellow New York House Republican Conference Caucus Chair Elise Stefanik, who has been mum on the revelations. And McCarthy, who endorsed Santos in the Republican primary, has not commented on the inconsistencies in Santos’s biography.

If Republicans did know about the inconsistencies in Santos’s biography, Zimmerman’s former campaign manager wonders why they didn’t — and still won’t — come out and disavow him. Zimmerman said, “All of this raises the question: How did GOP leadership continue to enable and support their chosen candidate while he lied to the voters of NY-03?”

The post Did Republicans Know About George Santos Before the Election? appeared first on The Intercept.