Rep. George Santos’ staff is under scrutiny on Capitol Hill

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The hiring period is closing on Capitol Hill. The flurry of forwarded resumes is disappearing, staff positions in House and Senate offices are nearly filled, and there is often serious business going on in governing.

The parlor game, played in the Capitol’s busy hallways, hyperdrive text chains and chatty cafeteria lines, is a two-year carousel of work and training that is always closely watched by staff. Who’s up and who’s down? Who’s in and who’s out?

But no staff hire this year has been more closely watched than that of New York Republican Rep. George Santos, who has been buried in an avalanche of revelations since his election in November indicating he is not the person he once said he was. Be. For example, she didn’t graduate from Baruch College (or play volleyball for its team). Nor did he work for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. And his grandparents weren’t fleeing Jewish persecution in the Ukraine.

There are questions about where his money came from, how he financed his campaign, and whether he worked for a Florida company. The SEC sued and alleged it was a “classic Ponzi scheme.”

Whether or not he has to answer those myriad questions, Santos is assembling a staff for his Washington and district offices, a priority for first-term representatives. That means interviewing job candidates, checking resumes, running background checks, and finding people willing to work for a member who seems allergic to telling the truth.

Taking a job for Santos is rolling the dice on employees. In conversations with more than a dozen former and current Republican and Democratic lawmakers and staffers, many wondered if Santos would find another congressional office that would hire them, especially high-level staffers.

See the evolution of lies in George Santos’ campaign biography

So far, public information is available for five positions filled by Santos, including chief of staff and communications director, according to LegiStorm, which tracks and posts congressional hiring. The initial makeup of Santos’ staff appears to lack deep Capitol Hill experience, with new members generally looking to help them get off to an effective start and quickly adjust to the rhythms and demands of Congress.

Santos appointed Charles Lovett as his chief of staff. According to LegiStorm, Lovett served as Santos’ campaign manager and spent six months as a field organizer for the Ohio Republican Party. He also served as political director for Ohio Republican Josh Mandel’s unsuccessful primary bid for Senate. He had never worked on the mountain before. Viswanak Burra, Santos’ operations director, spent less than a year as special operations director for Rep. Matt Gates (R-Fla.) and most recently served as executive secretary of the New York Young Republican Club.

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His communications director, Nyssa Woomer, appears to have the most Hill experience. She worked for three Republican Party members between 2014 and 2018, before that as communications director for the Massachusetts State Republican Party and later as communications specialist for the state Department of Revenue.

Rafaello Caron, a senior legislative aide to Santos, worked for three GOP members, but his work in each office was limited. Rep. Six months as Madison Cawthorne’s (RN.C.) social media manager, Rep. Greg Stoup (R-Fla.) for two months as deputy communications director and one month for Rep. Paul A. He was also Kosar’s press secretary. (R-Ariz.), according to LegiStorm. He ran a consulting firm that mostly worked for longtime Republican congressional candidates. Gabriel Lipsky, who served as Santos’ campaign press secretary, will serve as his press secretary and office manager. She has no hill experience.

A Santos staffer familiar with the hiring process said the LegiStorm site was not up to date and that the congressman’s DC and NY offices were “fully staffed.” Each member of Congress is assigned 18 full-time staff positions.

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Woomer, Santos’ communications director, said Thursday that the congressman would not be available for an interview for this story. His staff, he said, “have all embraced this because we have an interest in serving the constituents of the 3rd Congressional District.” Employees of Santos did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Fully staffed or not, Santos’ offices must respond to the onslaught of requests from constituents and others already filling the inboxes of members of Congress.

Virginia-based GOP strategist Jimmy Keady, who worked as a Hill staffer on the senior staff for congressional rookies, said it’s “absolute” that a new member of Congress surrounds themselves with Hill veterans who know what they’re doing — otherwise, they can find themselves underwater very quickly.

“Capitol Hill is not a place where you can walk in and understand what needs to be done,” Keady said. “There’s a lot of rules, there’s a lot of regulation, and there’s a lot of risk that a lot of these new members do because they don’t have experienced staff around them.”

Keady said if a new member doesn’t immediately focus on constituency services, voters are going to feel it.

“If you have members saying, ‘I’m going to cut my constituent services, and I’m not going to get a service. [legislative director] — I’m going to have six people on the comms staff,’ you know, that’s fine — that might get you on Fox News,” Keady said. “But that constituent who’s been waiting six months for their senior benefits, they’re not going to get service because that’s a congressman’s job, too.”

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At the top of the to-do list for a new member is leasing a district office or offices — and furnishing them with everything, including Internet, phones, desks, chairs, and paper clips. From day one, they must begin responding to nonstop inquiries from constituents needing help with Social Security checks, veterans issues and passports. That’s all there is to it when a new member gets to know the politics of Washington and the official and other rules of Congress.

Jeff Jackson, a freshman Democrat from North Carolina, has been documenting his first weeks in Congress on Instagram, including briefings on how new representatives choose their office space and financial disclosures. He said hiring people with experience on the hill and in his district is a priority.

“It gives me a lot of comfort to have people coming in who know how to do this,” Jackson said in an interview. “I’ve only been here a few weeks, but what I’ve learned is that there’s a tidal wave that hits our office every day, and it takes a whole team to stay afloat. If you’re a man on a surfboard, you’re going to get crushed.

Running offices is difficult under normal circumstances, but Santos has come under intense media scrutiny. He faces calls from not only Democrats but also Republicans to give up his seat. Six GOP representatives from New York.

This month, a new member of the Republican Party, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, whose district borders Santos, said Santos told “absolute lies” and called for his resignation. Also Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph G. Cairo Jr. said Santos lacks the support of Republicans in the 3rd Congressional District. “Jorge Santos’ campaign last year was a campaign of deception, lies and fabrications,” Cairo said during a Jan. 11 news conference. “He has disgraced the House of Representatives, and we no longer consider him one of our congressmen.”

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Santos has said that he will not resign from his post. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who clings to a narrow majority in the House and needs Santos’ vote, has rejected calls for Santos to resign and said this month Santos was legitimately elected and sat unopposed. House Republicans have appointed Santos to the House Small Business and Science, Space and Technology committees.

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Freshman Rep. Chuck Edwards (RN.C.) knows all too well what happens when members are allowed to ignore constituent services: He’s cleaning up the mess left behind by his predecessor, Madison Cawthorne.

Cawthorne, who took office in 2021 at the age of 25, and He left in scandal, made publicity a priority as a legislator. “I built my staff around comms more than law,” he wrote in an email to Republican colleagues published by Time magazine in 2021.

After Edwards lost to Cawthorne in the GOP primary Mostly went MIA In some of his duties as a Congressman. By October, calls to his district office were relayed by voicemail saying he was leaving the office and not accepting new casework—outgoing members of Congress typically kept the office open and transferred all files to the incoming member. There is no disruption in service to residents of their district.

Instead, Edwards said Cawthorne left him nothing — “no files, no data, no Anything.”

“We have to start over,” he said.

He sought to finish out the remainder of his term in the North Carolina Senate, encouraging members who met quietly from Cawthorne to contact his state office. He recently heard from students who thought Cawthorne was going to recommend them to military academies and was anxious as the deadline approached.

In the state senate, he said, “Our mantra of office is constituent service first. We have already made it the office mantra of this Congress office.

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Staffers who choose to work for Santos will find it difficult to negotiate a future on Capitol Hill, said George McElwee, who served as chief of staff to former Pennsylvania GOP congressman Charlie Dent and is also president of the House Chiefs of Staff Association. .

“Especially for employees in those senior roles, people will wonder why they’re there. Why do they continue?” said McElwee, now a lobbyist at the bipartisan organization he co-founded in Washington. “That’s going to hurt them at some point in their employment prospects.”

McElwee didn’t expect to be able to get along with employees hoping to make a career out of Santos Mountain.

“A lot of people in his office probably saw the door, they were trying to find a way out,” he said. “They know that this is not a sustainable environment for them in their political future.”

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