ALBANY — As federal officials probe embattled Rep. George Santos' campaign finances, records show he used the same Shirley-based campaign company as nearly 200 other Republican organizations since 2009, including former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.
The company is Campaigns Unlimited. Its principal, Nancy Marks, also has served as treasurer of the campaigns of Santos and Zeldin, who lives in Shirley, state and federal records show.
Last week, the Federal Election Commission sent Marks a letter asking the Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee, a political action committee that supported Santos’ campaign, about what appears to be a failure to fully identify some campaign contributors. The FEC also said three supporters apparently exceeded contribution limits.
Marks is listed as the treasurer of the political action committee as well as treasurer of Santos' “principal campaign committee” — called Devolder-Santos for Congress. Both committees share the same Shirley address in federal records.
FEC and state Board of Elections records detail a number of connections between Santos and New York Republicans, many of whom are now distancing themselves from him after he admitted fabricating parts of his resume dealing with his education, family and work history before winning the 3rd Congressional District in November. Discrepancies in Santos’ background, including an unresolved criminal matter in Brazil, were first reported by The New York Times after Santos was elected.
The records show Campaigns Unlimited worked for more than 190 Republicans, GOP parties and political action committees that funded and supported candidates at the state and congressional levels.
The vast majority of services provided by Campaigns Unlimited are listed as “professional services” or “office” work, such as bookkeeping and administration, but also included consulting, campaign ads and fundraising, the records showed.
Marks and Santos declined comment. Zeldin and his spokeswoman, as well as the state Republican Committee, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Federal records show Campaigns Unlimited worked in more than 30 congressional campaigns since 2015 and was paid more than $849,000. During that period, the company was paid more than $371,000 by the campaigns for Zeldin and $121,334 from Santos campaigns.
Hiring campaign veterans and their firms to do part-time administrative work or short-term contracts is often done by candidates of both parties, records show. Political observers said the records don’t appear to show anything illegal about the multiple roles of Campaigns Unlimited.
David M. Primo, political science professor at the University of Rochester and co-author of “Campaign Finance and American Democracy,” said he didn't find anything "particularly unusual" about Campaign Unlimited working for numerous groups because campaign finance compliance is complex.
"Campaigns need to hire outside firms to help manage campaign finance and other campaign management tasks," he said, "and these firms often become identified as Republican or Democratic based on their client base. They may also have a regional focus.”
John Kaehny, executive director of the Reinvent Albany good-government group, said such political operators are "like the spider at the central web" of many campaigns of the same party.
“It shouldn’t be, but it’s not unusual,” Kaehny said. “How they avoid conflicts of interest, I don’t know.”
Veteran good-government advocate Blair Horner said he was struck by the interconnections.
“To me it feels like a more insane version of a terrible system,” said Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. He said accountability in campaigns is hurt when hired companies represent more than one candidate or committee.
“There is a whole industry that is almost completely unregulated that provides the backdrop for how all these campaigns are run,” Horner said. “It makes it almost impossible for the public to know what’s behind it.”
Campaigns Unlimited also worked for the New York State Independence Party, which paid Marks' firm $5,000 in 2020.
The company also was paid $49,000 in 2015 by the 1776 Project Political Action Committee, which has sought to bankroll school board candidates around the country.
At the state level, Campaigns Unlimited worked for 164 Republican campaigns, parties and PACs that paid the company $1.25 million since 2009. Zeldin of Shirley paid the company $272,003 dating back to his State Senate campaign in 2010.
One of the political action committees that Campaigns Unlimited worked for in 2021 and 2022 was the Conquering Cancer PAC, which is also based in Shirley.
The PAC contributed $60,829 to Zeldin’s campaign in November 2021 and the next largest campaign contribution was $5,000, according to state records. At the time, Conquering Cancer was also paying Campaigns Unlimited $4,750 for accounting services and $9,750 for an item listed as “treasury retainer.” FEC records identify Marks as the PAC’s treasurer.
Democrats have chided Republican on their ties to Santos.
“I can’t say I blame them for trying to run as fast and far away from this guy as possible,” said state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs.
“They are married to Santos,” Jacobs said. “If you want to be unmarried to Santos, you have to have a real divorce. They have yet to call for his resignation … "