Nassau County legislator Joshua Lafazan held a press conference outside Congressman George Santos’ Douglaston office on Wednesday, Jan. 25, to present legislation to the public before it was given to office staffers. According to Lafazan, the purpose of the “Get Egregional Officials Removed from Government Elections” (GEORGE) proposal is to put up barriers to prevent another candidate like Santos from lying about their entire background in order to be nominated for office.
According to Lafazan, the GEORGE package contains three proposals that address these concerns. First, it calls for mandatory background checks for all candidates, just as job seekers are subjected to for other types of jobs. Second, it prohibits anyone who has an outstanding foreign arrest warrant from holding office. Finally, it would be a criminal offense for a candidate to lie about their education, employment history, address and sources of income.
Lafazan, as well as many of the residents present, also reiterated their wish that Santos resign or that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy take action by casting a vote and supporting to have Santos removed from Congress. McCarthy recently stated that an ethics investigation will be conducted on Santos. If the ethics committee finds Santos broke the law, McCarthy said he would remove Santos from Congress.
“It’s not normal to have a congressman so preoccupied with keeping himself out of jail that he’s unable to actually serve the district he represents,” Lafazan said. “We have called on him to resign several times. The litany of lies he has told, he is the greatest con artist in the modern political history of this country.”
Lafazan said he believes Santos broke the law. He cited Santos’ own admission to the Federal Elections Commission that his own loan of $500,000 for his campaign was not a personal loan. This would violate campaign finance laws.
It remains to be seen how McCarthy will see this as enough to oust Santos from Congress.
“In the meantime, as he continues to serve, instead of despairing, instead of giving up, we are taking action to ensure that someone like George Santos is never elected again,” Lafazan said. “This account package was inspired by George Santos. This bill package should never be proposed because we wouldn’t need it.”
Lafazan is hopeful that Nassau County will become the model in passing on the GEORGE package. He expressed optimism that the package could garner enough support to eventually be proposed and passed as state law in Albany.
“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 companies grow. How can you get the representation you need with someone like that in office?
Common themes among voters speaking at the press conference before Lafazan brought the package to office were outrage at the amount of lies Santos has been telling, as well as concern about how rested the office workers are. According to some residents, when they called the office for minor questions, they often did not receive a direct answer, or were eventually transferred to the offices of local representatives.
One voter, Sheila Harmon, recalled an incident where she called the office asking to facilitate the process of obtaining tickets for tours of the White House and various parts of Washington D.C. Harmon felt that the staff member she spoke with was not very experienced was, since the The employee could not provide much information about this. In addition, Harmon said the staff member declined to provide a name.
“I had called several times in the last three or four weeks and there was no answer at all,” said Harmon. ‘But when I called [Tuesday] In the afternoon there was an answering machine that answered, but it didn’t say it was George Santos’ office. It was just, “Leave your name and we’ll get back to you.” I have done this before through Tom Suozzi and it went very smoothly.”
Harmon said she called New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s office on Jan. 24 after getting no information from Santos’ office. Schumer’s office contacted her and said they are already getting tickets for the White House tours. While Harmon noted that this was a minor issue, it made her concerned about the issues other voters may face trying to address bigger issues.
“It is a total disgrace that this man is coming to power,” said Kevin B. Cassin, a Bayville native and PFC Vietnam War veteran. “We don’t even know his name is George Santos. Another thing that is a total shame 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 have no more words with this man. Every day there are five more things he lied about. This man has to go.”
Later on Wednesday, New York Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Joe Morelle wrote a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asking that Santos not access classified information because of his sketchy history and potential security concerns. In their argument, they cited the fact that he is currently under investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York, and law enforcement agencies in Brazil. In addition to these legal concerns, there have been allegations that donations from Santos’ campaign have been linked to Andrew Intrater and his cousin, sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
“You have said publicly that the congressman ‘has a long way to go to gain confidence,'” Meeks and Morelle wrote in the letter to McCarthy. “Its unreliability could justify the intelligence community delaying or limiting certain classified information it shares with Congress. This could have profound implications for the legislature’s ability to carry out its legislative, oversight, and investigative duties related to the secretive programs of the executive agencies. It is clear that Congressman George Santos has violated public trust on several occasions, and his unfettered access to our country’s secrets poses a significant risk to the national security of this country. We urge you to act quickly to prevent George Santos from abusing his position and endangering our nation.”
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