Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is chased by reporters as he leaves a House Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

In the spring of 2022, George Santos’s congressional campaign submitted a handful of filings to the Federal Election Commission that did something unheard of in campaign finance: The campaign reported spending a total of $254,000 – in more than 1,200 small payments – to recipients identified only as “anonymous.”

A month later, in amended reports, those listed expenditures were gone. Campaigns generally are not required to itemize payments under $200, so the removal of the “anonymous” payments reverted, in a way, to customary practice.

But their brief inclusion surprised experts, several of whom told The Washington Post that they had not seen filings for expenditures to recipients listed as “anonymous.” A review of other federal candidates’ 2022 filings by The Post found only a dozen such instances, most of which appeared to involve money returned to donors who had attempted to give anonymously. (Federal rules require campaigns to disclose the identities of their donors.)

“The entire purpose of the reporting requirements is to provide voters and the public with information about how campaigns are spending their money,” said Erin Chlopak, senior director for campaign finance at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “By definition, reporting ‘anonymous’ defeats the entire purpose.”

The Post found that the expenditures by Santos’s campaign, which have not been previously reported, were in amounts just under $200, the threshold that would trigger a requirement for the campaign to keep receipts or other documentation.

The payments raise new questions for Santos, the 34-year-old freshman Republican from New York who has faced calls to resign after he lied to voters about key details of his biography. His campaign is the subject of multiple complaints filed with the FEC by watchdog groups including the Campaign Legal Center, with particular attention directed to more than $700,000 that he claims to have loaned his 2022 campaign.


Santos did not respond to messages seeking comment, and his lawyer declined to comment.

Santos’s campaign on Tuesday issued a slew of amendments to previous FEC filings, seeking to address concerns raised by the FEC’s analysis division on issues ranging from allegedly missing donor information to the possibility that the campaign had accepted contributions beyond the allowable limit.

On Wednesday, the campaign and affiliated political committees submitted forms indicating they had replaced Santos’s treasurer, Nancy Marks, a longtime accountant for GOP candidates on Long Island and beyond, with Wisconsin-based Thomas Datwyler. Datwyler’s name was written electronically on a line meant for the treasurer’s signature.

Datwyler’s lawyer, Derek Ross, told The Post that his client did not sign or authorize the paperwork and does not intend to serve as treasurer for the campaign or its affiliates. Ross said there must have been a miscommunication, as Datwyler told the campaign in an email on Monday that he would not become its treasurer.

Marks did not respond to requests for comment.

The payments to anonymous recipients did not emerge in this week’s filings, but rather were detailed in five reports the campaign submitted to the FEC last April.


At the end of 2021, the Santos campaign reported that it had spent about $551,000 on its operations. But a few months later, on April 15, the campaign made significant revisions.

Marks submitted four amended filings to the FEC that revised the 2021 operations spending upward – to more than $711,000. The increased spending was largely attributable to 697 payments to “anonymous,” totaling more than $136,200, filings show. Not only were the recipients anonymous, but the purpose of the disbursements – which campaigns are required to describe when they itemize payments – was also listed in each case as “anonymous.”

On the same day, Marks also submitted a report covering the first three months of 2022. It showed that the Santos campaign had paid “anonymous” recipients a total of $117,800, accounting for nearly half the campaign’s total spending during that period. The money was doled out in 590 separate payments, all but two of which were for $199.99 – just one penny beneath the threshold at which campaigns must keep receipts.

Campaigns are required to report individual payments below $200 only if they are among multiple payments to a single entity that add up to more than $200 within the two-year election cycle. When campaigns do report on payments, they are required to disclose the name and address of the recipient, as well as the date, purpose and amount of the expenditure.

“It certainly deepens questions about the repeated payments just under $200, and about where that money was really going,” said Brendan Fischer, a lawyer with expertise in campaign finance and the deputy executive director of the watchdog group Documented.

Even when campaigns do not itemize small payments, those expenditures are included in overall spending totals, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at D.C.-based Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg. In May, Marks submitted another round of amendments, this time removing some payments of under $200 for restaurant, gas and parking bills and all references to payments to “anonymous” – but appearing to keep those sums as part of the campaign’s spending totals, which remained unchanged.


Kappel said even the temporary inclusion of payments to “anonymous” raises doubt in his mind about the accuracy of the entire reports.

“I have never seen that,” he said. “It’s very troubling.”

Chlopak, of the Campaign Legal Center, said she found it hard to believe that the Santos campaign made so many small payments to so many people. “The likelihood that this committee made this number of below-$200 disbursements to completely unique recipients remains a serious question that is suspect,” she said.

The amended filings submitted Tuesday also intensified the spotlight on the money Santos has claimed to have loaned his campaign. In filings to the FEC in 2021 and 2022, Santos reported giving his campaign three loans totaling $705,000.

In the new filings, the campaign gave inconsistent accounts of the source of two of those loans. Boxes to indicate that a $500,000 loan came from Santos were checked in some places but not in one other place. A box to indicate that Santos was the source of a $125,000 loan was left unchecked. The new filings do not indicate where the money originated, if not from Santos personally.

To inform the FEC that a loan did not originate from a candidate’s own money would ordinarily require documentation showing that the loan came from a bank, Kappel said.


Fischer, Documented’s deputy executive director, said it was hard to tell whether the paperwork reflected “intentional obfuscation or sloppiness.”

The FEC makes public its requests to campaigns for clarifying information or corrections to campaign finance reports. According to those requests, the regulator did not ask the Santos campaign to explain its payments to “anonymous.” The FEC did ask the campaign to explain why it initially reported low 2021 spending levels that later were revised upward.

In a written response submitted in August, campaign officials blamed the oversight on a “glitch” in a database they used for campaign finance reporting.

“In reviewing the documents we realized that there were expenses that were not carried into this report,” the campaign’s response stated. “Once we realized the glitch in the system, we made, with the assistance of the database company, the proper adjustments. Unfortunately, that is why the expenses became increased.”

An FEC spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the Santos campaign’s filings.

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