Photo credit: Haiyun Jian/New York Times

George Santos should be held to the highest standards of ethics and integrity

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 23, 2023.

During his 2022 election campaign, George Santos, the newly elected Republican congressman, told many lies about his background and qualifications. He has defended himself by stating, “I’m not going to make excuses for this, but a lot of people overstate in their resumes. … I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that.” 

Congressman Santos, if you worked in the private sector and told the magnitude of lies you told the voters of the third Congressional District of Long Island, NY, you would be fired. Why? If you lied on your resume, how does the company know you won’t lie on the job?  Your co-workers won’t trust you. Why would anyone trust you as a member of Congress? You have zero credibility.

Should a congressman, who will vote on laws fundamental to our country, be held to a lower standard than an employee who lied to get a job? Should we not hold all lawmakers to the highest standards of ethics and integrity?

So, what did Santos lie about? During his political campaign, he claimed he had graduated from Baruch College. He had not. He later admitted he has no college degree. Santos claimed he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup on Wall Street, but he had not. He claimed his grandparents had escaped the Nazis but they had not, intimating that he was Jewish, but he is not. He now claims he is “Jew-ish.” New allegations come out every day regarding Santos’ lies.

There are many questions about some of his business practices and alleged violations of campaign finance laws. 

In 2017, Santos introduced himself as Anthony Devolder to a LGBTQ audience in order to recruit for a group he founded, “United for Trump.” Why did he think he needed to use an alias? Did he not think all of his lies would eventually become public, undermining his credibility?

In a rare sign of bipartisanship, both Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives are calling for Santos to resign. The list of Republican legislators calling for his resignation continues to grow.

A Jan. 12 Fox News special report is headlined, “George Santos: These four House Republicans demand embattled congressman resign.” The report quotes Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), stating, “Trust is the hallmark of good public service. When public servants deceive and mislead those they are tasked with serving, they are no longer fit to work for the people.” 

Photo credit: Haiyun Jian/New York Times

Santos commissioned a background study on himself in late 2021. Why he would do so is unclear. There was growing concern by a small group of Republican operatives who were aware of the study that the results would become public before the election. What is surprising is that the Republican party didn’t do more to vet Santos before the primary elections and that his Democratic challenger didn’t bother to learn of and expose his lies during the campaign. 

So far, Santos has refused to resign. Quoting Rep. James Comer, (R-KY), “It’s not up to me or any other member of Congress to determine whether he could be kicked out for lying. … If he broke campaign finance laws, then he will be removed from Congress.” 

Due to his reputation for ethics and integrity, Warren Buffett, a board member at Salomon Brothers, was asked in 1991 by the firm’s board to serve as interim chairman to help re-establish confidence in the bank after it had failed to make a timely disclosure to federal regulators. This occurred after illegal acts were committed by two of its traders of U.S. government securities. Both individuals were terminated.

Shortly after he became interim chairman, Buffett testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance at which he apologized for Salomon’s illegal actions. In his statement to the subcommittee, Buffett focused on his high standards of ethics and integrity. He said

I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have a contemplated act appear the next day on the front page of their local [news]paper, then be read by their spouses, children and friends … If they follow this test, they need not fear my other message to them. Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.

Lawmakers must be held to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. Again quoting Congressman D’Esposito from the Jan. 12 Fox News special report, “When public servants deceive and mislead those they are tasked with serving, they are no longer fit to work for the people.” 

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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