A series of revelations about New York State Rep. George Santos’ pattern of lies and deception have increased scrutiny on powerful New York State Rep. Elise Stefanik. Elise Stefanik is the fourth-ranked House Republican and a vocal supporter of Santos during the 2022 campaign.
Stefanik was the primary validator for the state Santos shares a home base in, and often promoted the candidate on public and private forums. Several prominent Republican donors donated to the little-known Santos because Stefanik, the state’s most influential elected Republican and prolific fundraiser, endorsed him. told CNN.
Ken Salamone, who donated $5,800 to the Santos campaign and more than $20,000 to the Community Chest after Stefanik’s team reached out on his behalf, said, “I would never have donated without Elise. “I thought she did her homework. I always do my homework but I didn’t. Shame on me.”
Another Republican donor, Christine Bianco, told CNN she was shaken by Stefanik and other Republicans’ support for Santos.
“He targeted me to be a big donor…he was such a con man,” Bianco said. “I tried to warn people.” Bianco donated a total of $550 to Santos, according to campaign records.
Another donor who attended a fundraising luncheon with Stefanik and Santos confirmed to CNN through a representative that “he donated to George Santos in support of Elise Stefanik.”
“Rep. Stefanik, like all other New York Republican elected officials, candidates, the NRCC, the NYGOP, and the entire House Republican leadership team, will endorse all Republican candidates in their eligible seats in New York. I did,” Stefanik’s campaign spokesperson told CNN, adding that Stefanik wasn’t. I was aware of the allegations (against Santos) before the New York Times reported them.
Multiple Republican operatives in Washington and New York told CNN that Stefanik was unaware of Santos’ lies, given that rumors about Santos had been circulating in Republican circles since at least the summer of 2021. He said he thought it was impossible.
“Stefanik’s team had a laser focus on getting Santos elected to Congress, which was better than any other race in the country,” said the team involved in the pre-midterm campaign. A senior Republican strategist said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said last week that he had “always had some doubts” about the veracity of Santos’ résumé. played the lead role in Neither McCarthy nor Stefanik, nor the prominent Republicans who have supported Santos, are calling for his resignation.
A source familiar with the dynamics of the situation told CNN that Stefanik “was an advocate through a process unique to (Santos), even when others asked questions. He was definitely a supporter.”
Stefanik’s support for Santos wasn’t because he deliberately hid information, but because he wasn’t paying enough attention, sources said Stefanik’s top political aide was involved in Santos’ campaign. Multiple sources told CNN that the aide advised Santos’ campaign closely and was involved in hiring people.
A spokesperson for Stefanik denied her aide was involved, saying, “Rep. Stefanik’s staff has never worked with or advised this candidate.”
The turmoil over Santos was a pariah for all but the Republican House leadership, sitting him on two committees and needing him to maintain a majority in the House, but the Republican Party’s “red I transferred to New York where I unleashed the wave. So many other states have missed them. The Nassau County Republican Commission, along with Republican congressmen from neighboring and neighboring districts, recently called on Santos to resign.
“His lies weren’t just hoaxes. Nassau County Republican Party Chairman Joseph G. Cairo said at a press conference last week, “He’s not welcome here at Republican headquarters.”
The backlash spurred by the Santos drama has threatened New York Republicans’ confidence in voters and donors in and around a series of swing districts, including Santos’ third constituency, which includes parts of Long Island and Queens. increase. 2021 election.
After the election, another donor’s family angrily asked Santos about the allegations first reported by The New York Times.In a text message seen by CNN, Santos responded by claiming he had been slandered.
When a source urged Santos to “publish evidence that refutes the work/school claims,” Santos objected.
“The party leader is 100% sober with me being trampled,” he texted the donor. I let them handle it the way they do, they are the experts, not me.
On August 11, 2021, Stefanik tweeted his support for Santos. One of her posts included a link to her WinRed online fundraising page asking for donations that benefit both her and Santos.
Stefanik wrote, “I am thrilled to endorse my friend and fellow America First Conservative George Santos in Congress on #NY03.”
“@Santos4Congress will fight NYC’s liberal elite and bring a new generation of Republican leadership to NY and America. He has my full support!
A little more than nine months later, on May 23, 2022, Stefanik took to Twitter to report that he had helped raise over six figures in Santos campaign funds.
“Wow! Great lunch event for @Santos4Congress! Raised over $100,000 to support George FLIP #NY03. George has my full and complete endorsement and is coming in November,” says Stefani Qu borrowed Trump’s words in a tweet. “New Yorkers will send George to Congress! #SaveNewYork #SaveAmerica”
Meanwhile, Santos recently highlighted support from Stefanik on Wednesday, posting a photo of the two together as a banner image on his Twitter account. Since then it has changed.
As multiple Republican operatives have suggested, Santos’ ability to keep a low profile for so long was facilitated by a series of unusual circumstances surrounding the midterm elections in New York.
Having run once in 2020 and losing in a landslide to then-Democrat Rep. Tom Suzzi under the district’s old boundaries, Santos looks set to be competitive if he runs again, even with Republicans. He was widely seen as a strange upstart. It’s gaining momentum on Long Island. When the Democratic gerrymander map was released in February 2022, the district was redrawn to include parts of the Bronx and Westchester, effectively removed from the Republican map.
However, the state high court eventually scrapped the gerrymander maps and appointed a “special master” to sketch a new, more politically balanced border. A new map, unveiled in May 2022, plunges the Democratic Party into a fierce game of musical chairs, with incumbents drawn into overlapping constituencies and candidates weighing their options based on the tossed map. So I made a headline.
The eventual re-election line benefited the Republicans, but their release came so late in the campaign season that it condensed and complicated the candidate selection process, operatives said.
“In 2020, the Democratic Party had strong precincts, strong incumbents, and people weren’t knocking on doors to run,” Cairo, county GOP chairman, said earlier this month. The 2020 cycle before the court ruling gets even darker. “Elected officials did not come forward (to run for office).”
By then, Santos was effectively entrenched as the Republican nominee. A New York-based Republican strategist examined his biography further as his race became increasingly competitive, and said there were few incentives that could undermine his campaign. .
The strategist couldn’t say for sure what Stefanik knew, but said he was likely focused on the task at hand of winning a House majority, like other high-ranking Republicans. told CNN.
“It kind of speaks to her shift over the past few years. It’s really become something of a zero-sum game,” said the strategist. “We will win at any cost, only winning matters.”
A source close to Stefanik, gripped by the Republican Conference chairman’s criticism, said: Anonymous consultant. ”
Sources also said other Republicans had close ties to Santos, alleging that Stefanik was being unfairly scrutinized.
“Currently, the Santos FEC has many prominent consultants and staff working for elected officials and committees. No one gave any advice,” a source told CNN.
Another New York Republican operative told CNN that “everyone[in the Republican campaign circle]failed in a way that he should have had more scrutiny,” adding that Stefanik “probably won a seat.” I think they were taken in by the fact that it happened.” win. ”
Although there were some suspicions about Santos, operatives said there was no indication at the time about the depth of the candidate’s lies, and most Republican state and local leaders in the state were former Republican Rep. He added that he was more focused on high-profile elections, including Zeldin’s election. In a contest with New York Governor Kathy Hochul, he lost by only about six points.
Other House elections, such as Rockland Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, who defeated Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, were also garnering more attention and resources.
“Stefanik and[House Speaker Kevin]McCarthy should go through this ethics process more quickly,” the operative said, ultimately voting to oust Santos.