Rep. George Santos’ staffing under scrutiny on Capitol Hill


Hiring season on Capitol Hill is coming to a close. The flood of retweeted resumes is fading, staffing positions in the House and Senate offices are filling, and the most serious matters of governance are taking hold.

The biennial work carousel, a parlor game of the Capitol’s bustling corridors, FTL text chains and chattering cafeteria lines, has been a closely watched event for staff. Who goes up and who goes down? Who goes in and who goes out?

But perhaps no one’s hiring has been more closely scrutinized this year than that of the House of Representatives. George Santos, a New York Republican, has been buried since his election last November by a deluge of revelations that suggest he is not who he once claimed to be. For example, he didn’t graduate from Baruch College (or play volleyball for that team). Nor does he work for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. His grandparents did not flee the persecution of Jews in Ukraine.

There are also questions about where his money came from, how he funded his campaign, and what he did for a Florida company that the SEC is suing and calling a “classic Ponzi case.” Scam”.

Even as he has to answer — or not answer — those myriad questions, Santos has been mustering a staff for his Washington and regional offices, which is Office No. 1. The first representative has priority. That means interviewing job candidates, reviewing resumes, conducting background checks and finding people willing to work for members who seem allergic to telling the truth.

Working for Santos can be risky for employees. In conversations with more than a dozen former and current Republican and Democratic lawmakers and staffers, many wondered whether those who worked for Santos, especially at higher levels, would be able to find another that could hire them Congressional Office.

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According to LegiStorm, which tracks and publishes congressional hiring, public information is available for five positions Santos has held so far, including chief of staff and director of communications. The initial makeup of Santos’ staff appears to lack the in-depth Capitol Hill experience that newcomers typically seek to help them start effectively and adapt quickly to the cadence and demands of Congress.

Santos hired Charles Lovett as his chief of staff. According to LegiStorm, Lovett served as Santos’ campaign manager and worked for six months as a field organizer for the Ohio Republican Party. He also served as political director for Ohio Republican Josh Mandel’s unsuccessful bid for the Senate. He hadn’t worked at Hill before. Viswanag Burra, Santos’ director of operations, has been the congressman’s director of special operations for less than a year. Matt Gates (R-Fla.), most recently served as executive secretary of the Young Republican Club in New York.

His director of communications, Naysa Woomer, seems to have the most Hill experience. She worked for three Republican members from 2014 to 2018 before moving to Massachusetts to serve as communications director for the state Republican Party and then as a communications specialist for the State Department’s Revenue Service.

Santos’ top legislative aide, Raffaello Carrone, worked for three Republican members, but his tenure in each office was short. He spent six months as the Rep.’s social media manager. Madison Cawthorne, RN.C., served two months as Deputy Communications Director for the Representative. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) and Rep. Press Secretary for a month. According to LegiStorm, Paul A. Gosar (Arizona Republican). He also runs a consulting firm that primarily serves unlikely Republican candidates for Congress. Gabrielle 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 website was not up to date and that the congressmen’s offices in Washington, D.C. and New York were “overcrowded.” Each member of Congress has 18 full-time staff positions that can be assigned to their offices as they wish.

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Woomer, Santos’ director of communications, said Thursday that the congressman would not be interviewed for this story. His staff, she said, “are accepting that because we are interested in serving voters in the 3rd congressional district.” Santos staff did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Equipped or not, Santos’ office has already had to deal with the onslaught of requests from voters and others that typically fill up members of Congress’ inboxes.

Jimmy Keady, a Republican strategist in Virginia who served at Hill and has served on the senior staff of congressional freshmen, said congressional freshmen with Hill veterans who know what they’re doing are great. “Imperative” – ​​otherwise, they may soon find themselves underwater.

“Capitol Hill is not a place where you can walk in and know what to do,” Keady said. “There are a lot of rules, there are a lot of regulations, a lot of pitfalls that a lot of newcomers make because they don’t have an experienced crew around them.”

If new members don’t immediately focus on voter service, voters will feel it, Keedy said.

“If you had members decide, ‘I’m going to cancel my voter service, I wouldn’t have a [legislative director] – I’m going to have six people who are communications people, ‘You know, that’s good – that might get you on Fox News,'” Keady said. Get served, because that’s what MPs do too. “

The first order of business for newcomers is to rent one or more regional offices—and furnish them with everything, including Internet, phones, desks, chairs, and paper clips. From day one, they need to start responding to the constant inquiries from voters who need help with social security checks, veterans issues and passports. That’s all it takes for a new member to get acquainted with Washington politics and the official and other rules of Congress.

Jeff Jackson, a New Democrat from North Carolina, has been documenting his first week in Congress on Instagram, with posts including an explanation of how new representatives choose their office space and financial disclosures. Hiring someone with experience in the Hill and his region is a priority, he said.

“It made me comfortable to have someone come in who was versed in how to do it,” Jackson said in an interview. “I’ve only been here a few weeks, but I’ve learned that there’s so much work pouring into our office every day that it takes the whole team to keep it going. If you’re just one guy on a surfboard, you’re going to be overwhelmed.”

It’s hard enough keeping an office running under normal circumstances, but Santos is being scrutinized by the media. He faced calls not only from Democrats to give up his seat, but also from Republicans, including six Republican delegates from New York.

This month, Rep. New Republican Anthony D’Esposito, whose district borders Santos, said what Santos had told was an “outright lie” and called on him to resign. and Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph G. Cairo Jr. said Santos no longer has the support of Republicans in the Third Congressional District. “Jorge Santos’ campaign last year was a campaign of deceit, lies and fabrications,” Cairo told a conference on Jan. 17. Press conference on the 11th. “He’s disgraced the House and we don’t think he’s one of our members of Congress.”

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Santos said he would not resign. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who needs Santos’ vote because he holds a narrow majority in the House, has also rejected calls for Santos to resign and said this month that Santos was legitimately elected and unopposed. House Republicans have assigned Santos to the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Freshman Representative Chuck Edwards (RN.C.) is all too familiar with what happens if members allow voter service to go unnoticed: He’s cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor, Madison Cawthorne.

Cawthorne, who took office in 2021 at the age of 25 but left amid scandal, made advocacy a priority as a lawmaker. “My staff revolves around communication, not legislation,” he wrote in an email to Republican colleagues published in Time magazine in 2021.

After losing to Edwards in the Republican primary, Cawthorne has largely fulfilled some of his responsibilities as a congressman. By October, calls to his district office received a voicemail saying he was closing the office and not accepting any new casework — although outgoing members of Congress typically keep their offices open and send all documents to the office. Transferred to new MPs, so there is no interruption of service to residents in their districts.

Instead, Edwards said Cawthorne left him with nothing – “no papers, no data, no anything

“We had to start from scratch,” he said.

He’s trying to get a head start on what remains of his term in the North Carolina Senate, encouraging reticent voters in Cauthorne to contact his state office. He had recently received messages from students who thought Cawthorn would nominate them to military academies and grew anxious as the deadline loomed.

In the state Senate, he said, “Our credo of office is first and foremost voter service. We’ve made that the office mantra of the Congressional office.”

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For employees who choose to work for Santos, a future on Capitol Hill may be difficult to negotiate, George McElwee said.

“Particularly those employees who are in senior positions, people wonder why they’re there. Why are they still there?” said McElwee, now a lobbyist for a bipartisan firm he co-founded in Washington. “And it could hurt them at some point in their job prospects.”

McElwee doesn’t want Santos to be able to keep employees who want to have careers at Hill.

“A lot of people in his office were probably staring at the door, trying to find their way out,” he said. “They know it’s not a stable environment for their political future.”

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