Another Santos Money Mystery: He Struck a Curious Business Deal With a Veteran GOP Operative

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) speaks with reporters as he boards an elevator on Capitol Hill on January 10, 2023. Francis Chung/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.This past weekend, George Santos, the Republican fabulist from New York, was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives, even as serious questions remained about his personal and political finances, particularly the source of the millions of dollars in income he claimed on financial disclosure forms and of the $705,000 he loaned to his campaign. As multiple investigations—federal, state, and local—envelope Santos and local Republicans demand he resign, one person who might be able to provide answers about his puzzling money trail is a veteran GOP operative named Nancy Marks, who was the the treasurer of Santos’ two congressional campaigns. Not only was she a key part of his political machine—and deeply tied into Republican politics locally and nationally—she was a business partner of Santos. Her story, which has yet to draw much public examination, is an important component of the Santos tale. 
On Monday, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog group, filed a civil complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging Santos’ campaign possibly violated numerous laws. The named respondents were Santos, his campaign, his company, and Marks. The complaint cited highly unusual items on Santos’ campaign finance reports, such as a long list of $199.99 disbursements—one penny under the amount that would have required itemization. One such payment was for a “hotel stay” at the W South Beach Hotel in Miami, Florida, where the going-rate for the least-expensive room is roughly $700 a night. 
Campaign treasurers are generally not liable for campaign finance violations, but it is illegal for them to knowingly submit false reports, according to Adav Noti, senior vice president and legal director at the Campaign Legal Center. Marks’ consulting company, Campaigns Unlimited, was paid more than $100,000 by the Santos campaign for accounting and fundraising services, according to FEC records. “It is awfully hard to believe that whoever compiled and formally submitted Santos’ FEC reports believed that they were true,” Noti says. “They are just, on their face, obviously false.”
Marks, who lives on Long Island, has for years worked in Republican politics, operating different businesses that provide services to campaigns. Her Campaigns Unlimited assists candidates, political action committees, and super PACs with accounting, fundraising, and campaign finance matters. She’s been a treasurer for dozens of GOP campaigns, including Lee Zeldin’s congressional campaigns and his recent gubernatorial bid in New York. In the 2022 election cycle, Campaigns Unlimited worked for more than 30 PACs and candidate committees, according to FEC records. These entities included the 1776 Project PAC, a group that attacks progressive school curricula, numerous Republican House campaigns, and Santos’ GADS PAC. At the state level, Marks and her companies received at least $10,000 from Rise NY, a PAC that was run by Santos’ sister, Tiffany, and that paid her more than $21,000 in wages. 
Campaigns Unlimited maintains a low public profile; it apparently has no website. Its address is Marks’ home in Shirley, New York. Also listed at her home address is a company called GMG Print and Marketing Resources LLC, which has printed lawn signs for Santos and other candidates. In the past two years, GMG made more than $38,000 from printing Santos signs. (The Nassau County Republican Committee paid for most of that.)
Marks was more than just a Santos campaign aide and vendor. She and several relatives contributed more than $30,000 to the Santos campaign. (The relatives each gave the legal maximum of $5,800.) These donors did not give to any other federal candidates this election cycle. The group includes Marks’ two children who were, respectively, 19 and 22 years old when they started donating to Santos, according to public records. 
Marks also became one of Santos’ business partners while serving as the treasurer for his most recent congressional bid. In May 2021, her GMG joined with a company Santos was about to incorporate called the Devolder Organization LLC and with four other Florida corporations to form in that state a political consulting firm named Red Strategies USA.
The Devolder Organization is the mystery firm that Santos claims was the source of between $3.5 million and $11.5 million in income and dividends he supposedly pocketed in 2021 and 2022. He established the company in Florida in May 2021 shortly after Harbor City Capital, a Florida investment firm where he had worked for the previous 10 months, was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of running a Ponzi scheme. (Santos was not implicated in the alleged scam.)
Santos has given vague and contradictory explanations of what Devolder did and how he earned millions from it. Devolder is at the heart of the Santos controversy and seems tied to the massive amount of personal money he poured into his campaign. (His financial disclosure forms show he made $55,000 in 2020 working for a different company that hosted conferences for investors, and these filings report no income from Harbor City Capital—though on Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Santos had received a payment in 2021 from Harbor City Capital after he had left the firm.) 
A few weeks after Santos and Marks set up Red Strategies USA in 2021, GMG Print and Marketing Resources was replaced as a partner in this enterprise by another company registered at Marks’ Long Island address: RIA Concepts Holding. According to a LinkedIn page, Marks is the owner of RIA Concepts. The page does not describe RIA Concepts, and no website for the company appeared in an internet search. According to FEC records, Santos’ 2022 campaign paid RIA Concepts nearly $17,000 for fundraising and printing services. 
All four of the other firms that were partners with Santos and Marks in their Red Strategies USA venture were each affiliated with a different former Harbor City employee, including the firm’s onetime chief financial officer DeVaughn Dames. Dames served as the registered agent for Santos’ Devolder Organization and three of the other companies that created Red Strategies USA. (An online biography for Dames describes him as a “seasoned executive with investment experience and more than $1.5 billion in transactions between the Bahamas and the USA.”)
One of the Florida companies in this group that organized Red Strategies USA was Jayson Benoit & Associates. Benoit, who had worked at Harbor City Capital, soon after became a partner with Santos’ Devolder Organization in a firm called RedStone Strategies, another mysterious outfit that, according to the New York Times, raised hundreds of thousands of dollar for Santos’ recent congressional campaign without disclosing its activities and that appears to have skirted campaign finance law. Benoit did not respond to a request for comment. 
The bottom line: Red Strategies USA was controlled by Santos, four other Harbor City Capital alums, and Marks. With the exception of RIA, the firms that created Red Strategies USA—including the Devolder Organization—shared an address at a small office building in the Melbourne, Florida, neighborhood where Dames ran his business. 
A New York Republican strategist who knows Marks and who is familiar with Red Strategies USA says that Marks considered Santos “her favorite client” and that she went on multiple business trips to Florida with him. 
Soon after Santos and his colleagues set up Red Strategies USA, it began providing digital consulting and fundraising services to Tina Forte, a New York Republican running against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Forte was a QAnon-supporting MAGA activist—a self-described “deplorable”—who had attended the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Forte announced her campaign against AOC in June 2021. At this time, Dames was her campaign treasurer, and the address for Forte’s campaign for the House seat representing New York’s 14th congressional district was the Melbourne address used by Dames, the Devolder Organization, and the other Florida companies that formed Red Strategies USA
This was an unusual arrangement. Santos and four former colleagues from a Florida company that went belly up because of an alleged Ponzi scheme each had their own companies in the Sunshine State. Those Florida enterprises and Marks’ consulting company then launched a political consulting firm that immediately hooked up with a QAnon-ish Trumpist as she initiated a long-shot campaign to bounce Ocasio-Cortez.  
Forte told local New York Republicans that she had been encouraged by Dames to enter the race, according to the New York GOP strategist, who says he concluded that Santos, Marks, Dames, and their colleagues hoped to profit from Forte raising tremendous amounts of money as a challenger to AOC. Dames did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Though Dames was listed as Forte’s treasurer when Forte first filed her declaration of candidacy with the FEC, Marks subsequently signed Forte’s first campaign finance filing as the treasurer for Forte’s campaign. At that point, according to these filings, the Forte campaign was based at the address for Marks’ Campaigns Unlimited and her home. Yet Marks was also serving as treasurer for another Republican in the race, Michael Rendino, the GOP Bronx chair, according to FEC filings.  The New York Republican strategist recalls that he told Marks that it was a bad idea for her to be the treasurer for two GOP candidates running against each other. “What the fuck are you doing?” he recounts asking her. 
From June through December 2021, Red Strategies USA earned about $110,000 from the Forte campaign. Then, according to FEC records, it did no more work for Forte. According to the GOP strategist, New York Republican Party officials leaned on Forte to cut ties with Red Strategies USA. When a Mother Jones reporter contacted Forte by phone, she said she was too busy making marinara sauce to talk. She did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.
Rendino dropped out of the race, and after Red Strategies USA ceased working for Forte, Marks went on to become the treasurer for a third candidate in the contest for AOC’s seat, Desi Cuellar, who was also running in the GOP primary. His campaign paid Marks’ Campaigns Unlimited $10,000 for accounting and compliance services. Forte won the Republican primary against Cuellar, who would remain a candidate on the Conservative Party line. In November, Ocasio-Cortez soundly defeated Forte and Cuellar. 
Red Strategies USA did not provide services to any other federal candidates or PACs beyond the Forte campaign. It is unclear what it did, if anything, after working for the Forte campaign. (Earlier in 2021, the firm had done ad and robo-call work for two GOP New York city council candidates, earning $26,000.) There appears to be no website for Red Strategies USA.
Marks had history with AOC’s congressional district. Two years earlier, she had been treasurer for John Cummings, a high school teacher and former cop, who was then challenging Ocasio-Cortez. Cummings, a Republican, raised a whopping $11 million for this race, in which he was eventually wiped out 72 to 27 percent. During that contest, Marks banked more than $170,000 from the Cummings campaign. When the election was done, Cummings was left with nearly $200,000 in campaign cash. 
Though Cummings, who now lives near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, opted to not again challenge Ocasio-Cortez in 2022 and has not publicly pursued any other political campaigns, he has continued to spend his 2020 campaign funds. From the end of 2020 until this past fall, he paid Marks $170,000 of the $193,000 leftover from his race against AOC, according to FEC filings. As recently as September, the Cummings campaign, with Marks still the treasurer, was paying her RIA Concepts $10,000 a month for “strategic political consulting services.” The Campaign Legal Center’s Noti calls these payments an “awful lot of money” for a “dormant campaign that’s not raising or spending any meaningful amount.”
The same FEC filings show that Cummings’ campaign last year paid $10,000 for “social media, web consulting services” to an entity called J Charles Consulting that is based in the Bronx within the same zip code as Cummings’ residence during his congressional campaign. (Cummings’ middle name is Charles.) The Cummings campaign also paid J Charles Consulting $1,540 on March 8, 2022, to cover “CPAC expenses.” This is presumably a reference to the Conservative Political Action Conference that Cummings attended, according to posts on his Facebook page. Cummings did not respond to questions sent to him via an associate. 
Mother Jones sent Santos’ lawyer a list of questions regarding the Devolder Organization, Red Strategies USA, his campaign and personal finances, and his relationship with Marks. The attorney replied that the list should be forwarded to Santos’ congressional office. Santos’ office did not respond.
Mother Jones emailed a similar list of queries to Marks and repeatedly contacted her office requesting an interview. She, too, did not respond.
Marks has long been involved in the sometimes rough world of GOP politics in Long Island. In 2016, Newsday reported that Marks had set up a meeting at her house where a Republican candidate for a local judgeship (for whose campaign Marks was the treasurer) met with a consultant with a felony criminal record. This consultant allegedly suggested that if the candidate paid him $10,000 and made a $2,000 donation to the Conservative Party, she would have a better shot at securing the Conservative Party line on the ballot. A text message cited by the newspaper indicated the consultant would be paid through Marks’ Campaigns Unlimited. But, the newspaper reported, the candidate did not make these payments. Marks told the newspaper there had been no such explicit offer, but Newsday said that she declined to answer questions about the money discussed at the meeting. 
As the treasurer for Santos’ campaign and as a close business partner of Santos’ Devolder Organization, Marks, an experienced campaign hand quite familiar with the intricacies of campaign finance, may well have knowledge about the money that supposedly came from Devolder and helped Santos win a congressional seat and about how his campaign raised and spent roughly $3 million. She is, no doubt, a key source for unraveling and explaining the mystery of Santos’ millions.