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'Impossible' parking fees, puzzling diner bills: Retracing George Santos' steps in Miami

Aaron Leibowitz, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — Before George Santos’ life story began to unravel — his spectacular tales of college volleyball stardom and Wall Street pedigree earning him a reputation as perhaps Washington’s greatest fabulist — the Republican congressman was just a dark-horse candidate frequenting Miami’s hippest restaurants and rubbing elbows on the water with campaign donors.

Far from the New York district he now represents, Santos stayed multiple nights at the swanky W South Beach hotel. He ate at Nusr-Et in Miami, the steakhouse owned by the celebrity chef known as “Salt Bae.” He particularly enjoyed Miami Diner in Miami Beach, a vintage dining car with bar stools and neon lights that he visited on back-to-back days.

At least, that’s what his campaign finance reports suggest.

But as various details of Santos’ biography have been debunked and his campaign fundraising and spending have come under scrutiny, the time and money his campaign reported spending in South Florida also appears to have holes.

A Miami Herald review of Santos’ spending in the region raises questions about some of his campaign reports, and about what, exactly, he did in Florida — aside from holding a fundraiser on a yacht in Fort Lauderdale, which event organizers say did happen.

The managing partner of a diner where the campaign reported spending more than $200 over back-to-back days said he had no receipts matching items on the campaign reports.


A $199.99 stay at the high-end W South Beach hotel — where room rates are typically more than $700 per night — was flagged by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center in a wide-ranging complaint with the Federal Elections Commission earlier this month as improbable, “barring some type of private insider rate that would raise other serious violations of federal campaign finance law.”

Even his payments at a public beachside parking lot on Miami Beach, where the campaign listed payments as small as $3 and as big as $100, were deemed puzzling by the city’s parking department.

The apparent discrepancies add to the mystery of Santos’ ties to Florida, where his campaign finance reports suggest he took several trips along the campaign trail and where his New York-based company, the Devolder Organization, is legally incorporated.

“Maybe some of these disbursements didn’t happen at all,” said Saurav Ghosh, the Campaign Legal Center’s director of federal campaign finance reform. “It begs the question, ‘Well, how did they spend their money?’”


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