Nancy Marks' firm, Campaigns Unlimited, collected $1.29 million for work on Republican...

Nancy Marks' firm, Campaigns Unlimited, collected $1.29 million for work on Republican campaigns from 2008 to 2022 from state and local campaigns and $1 million from congressional campaigns since 2009. Credit: James Carbone; Flourish chart

ALBANY — For 30 years, Nancy Marks has been a key figure in more than 150 Republican campaigns while blazing an uncommon path to become the go-to GOP operative on Long Island.

Now she finds herself caught up in controversy after political and business associate, embattled Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), drew nationwide criticism for lies about his background that led to investigations about his campaign finances.

Marks, of Shirley, resigned as Santos’ campaign treasurer in January. Santos blamed her for mounting questions about his fundraising and spending as he sought to deflect questions about his own background and business dealings. The Federal Election Commission has asked Marks for clarifications on some of Santos' filings while Marks was treasurer.

For Marks, 57, it was the most public moment of a career built on toiling behind the scenes in the low-profile and usually low-paying jobs on campaigns, according to campaign financial records filed with the state Board of Elections and FEC, as well as interviews with Republicans who worked with Marks for years.

She had quietly created a Republican powerhouse for Long Island campaigns at the local, state and congressional level. Her firm, Campaigns Unlimited, which has the same Flintlock Drive address as her home, collected $1.29 million for work on Republican campaigns from 2008 to 2022 from state and local campaigns and $1 million from congressional campaigns since 2009. Last year, she was the treasurer for GOP governor nominee Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, a longtime client, as well as attorney general nominee Mike Henry.

Santos is the subject of a formal complaint by the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., to the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center accuses the Santos campaign of falsifying campaign finance records. The complaint names Santos, but also Marks in her professional and personal capacities.

Marks didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The treasurer is responsible for assuring the accuracy of campaign reports,” said Saurav Ghosh, the legal center’s director for federal campaign finance reform. “If there is a problem, they usually are not held personally liable, but that changes if the filing is egregiously bad.”

Under federal election law, the current treasurer of a campaign is responsible for the veracity and accuracy of all campaign records. But the FEC can investigate a former treasurer who may be found “personally liable” for “knowingly and willfully” violating the law and “recklessly failed to fulfill duties” of the treasurer.

We think given the seriousness of the Santos campaign problems that Marks was personally culpable for some of that.

-Saurav Ghosh, director for federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center

“We think given the seriousness of the Santos campaign problems that Marks was personally culpable for some of that,” Ghosh told Newsday.

Ghosh said the center found discrepancies and omissions in other campaigns where Marks was treasurer. FEC records show that in 2018 and 2021, the FEC sought information missing in filings from Marks, but neither case resulted in charges.

Two Republicans who worked closely with Marks over the years describe her as aggressive in seeking out businesses, expanding her services and client list to make more money, and being loyal to her candidates.

The sources said Marks got so deeply involved in expanding her role in campaigns to the point that one source had warned her to “stay in her lane” after she advised on press strategy. They said she was adept at networking, and expanding her clientele through introductions at party fundraisers and functions.

Zeldin, in a news conference this month, said he was just one of Marks' “200 different accounts, just to be clear.” He said any criticism of her by Santos, after he lied about his background, should be taken with “a healthy dose of skepticism.”

But Zeldin, who lost the gubernatorial race to Kathy Hochul, told Newsday that he is setting up a new federal PAC and "it is utilizing a different treasurer."

Nassau County Republican Party chairman Joseph Cairo said he’s unfamiliar with Marks’ work. He said he met her about a year ago when she met with party officials and other candidates, along with Santos and his sister, Tiffany.

Suffolk County Republican chairman Jesse Garcia declined to comment.

Marks as an individual contributed more than $10,000 to state campaigns from 2006 to 2022, mostly to her clients, including $420 to Zeldin, according to state Board of Elections records. Campaigns Unlimited contributed another $5,280, including $765 to the Suffolk County Republican Women committee, $350 to the Suffolk County Republican Committee and $600 to the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee.

At the federal level, where contribution limits are lower than in New York state election law, Marks contributed more than $3,000 as an individual and through Campaigns Unlimited to campaigns, including more than $300 to Donald J. Trump for President, $250 to Rep. Andrew Garbarino and $270 to Zeldin. The biggest was $2,900 to Santos in March 2021.

Some of those close to her had warned her about Santos and warned against getting in business with him to create a political consulting company called Red Strategies USA, one Republican source said.

“He is a person who is going to throw her under the bus,” she was warned more than a year ago, the source said. “Everyone thought George was wacky and goofy … no one took him seriously.” However, “She made her bed with him a long time ago …. He was clearly her favorite.”

Marks worked for several political committees that appealed to the conservative Republican movement on Long Island and in Congress. They included God, Guns, Life, which lists Marks as treasurer and paid Campaigns Unlimited $20,762 for accounting services in 2021-22. Veterans for MAGA and Defend the Constitution paid Campaigns Unlimited $21,250 for accounting and professional services during the same period. Related groups, including Sanity over Socialism, also listed Marks' Shirley address for its operations.

In all, 14 political action committees in New York state with business addresses at Flintlock Drive, Shirley, paid $90,062 to Campaigns Unlimited at the same address from 2012 to 2022, state records show. They included committees named Elec-Pac, which paid Campaigns Unlimited $36,324 from 2015 to 2022, and Stop the Spending PAC, which paid $5,627 from 2013 to 2019.

At the federal level, four committees with the Flintlock Drive address paid Campaigns Unlimited $51,500 from 2021 through 2022. They include God, Guns, Life PAC and Conquering Cancer PAC, which also lists Marks as its treasurer and paid $12,250 to Campaigns Unlimited, federal records show. Santos' GADS PAC, which stands for George Anthony Devolder-Santos and also lists Marks as treasurer, paid $1,500 to Campaigns Unlimited.

In addition, the now-moribund state Independence Party, which long worked closely with Republican campaigns on Long Island, paid $32,875 to Campaigns Unlimited from 2016 through 2022. The party paid another $14,000 to Campaigns Unlimited at the federal level.

Along the way, the great-grandmother of three also was deeply involved in civic causes in her hometown area. She was honored as recently as January for work for Colonial Youth and Family Services, a charity that seeks to promote physical, emotional and social wellness. She also served on the board of the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library.

In the midst of her political business’ greatest growth and busiest election cycles, tragedy struck. Her husband of 22 years, former correction officer Peter Marks, died on Dec. 22, 2019, at age 58.

Through it all she built her business through a novel and aggressive approach, according to Republicans who had worked with her. Here's how:

  • Marks would solicit donations from wealthy Republican supporters to campaign committees, some of which operated from her Shirley address, such as Rise NY PAC, which was created in 2020, records show.
  • The money would support campaigns, which would often hire her as treasurer or for other professional services and then hire one or more of her companies to do printing, fundraising and other duties operating from the same address. For example, Rise NY, which is run by Santos' sister, Tiffany, paid $12,500 to Campaigns Unlimited and $21,040 to GMG Printing and Marketing Resource.

It all began for Marks as an unpaid volunteer for then-Suffolk County Clerk Edward Romaine’s failed congressional run in 1992.

By 1995, she had risen to become Romaine’s campaign treasurer. She then worked part time on local campaigns for a few hundred dollars, mostly doing office work. For 15 months over 1994 and 1995, Marks, then going by the name Cartiglia-Marks, worked in the clerk’s office under Romaine, where she started as a $25,186-a-year clerical worker. In 1996, she began working as aide to former Suffolk County Legis. Fred Towle, ending that job in 1997. By then, she was the campaign treasurer for Towle and other politicians.

In 2003, Towle pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. After cooperating with prosecutors, he was sentenced to 6 months in prison in 2006.

Marks would continue to work the part-time jobs for campaigns as well as other jobs, such as with the Mastics-Shirley Chamber of Commerce in 2002.

In 2006, she recorded one payment — $244 from Judy Pascale as she ran for county clerk. But that portfolio grew quickly. By 2010, Marks started working for Zeldin on his state Senate campaign. Zeldin won, and Marks began to attract more clients, increasingly in State Legislature races.

Zeldin told Newsday that his long experience with Marks began when his and her daughters became friends at school and the two families began interacting through school activities.

In 2008, she opened Campaigns Unlimited out of her Flintlock Drive address, state records show. Her duties were no longer described in state records mostly as “office” work. She had grown to perform duties in most campaigns labeled “professional services,” consulting, brochures and mailings.

On Oct. 2, 2019, she signed on as treasurer for Santos’ first congressional campaign, which he lost in 2020.

By the close of the 2022 election cycle in November, Campaigns Unlimited worked for more than 40 candidates and political committees and took in $321,030. Of that, $134,743 was paid by the Zeldin campaign.

I don’t know anyone else who has a book of business like her. 

-David Catalfamo, a recent Republican candidate for the state Assembly

“I don’t know anyone else who has a book of business like her,” said David Catalfamo, a recent Republican candidate for the state Assembly and a former top aide to ex-Gov. George Pataki.

He said the job of campaign treasurer is intense because it requires understanding of complex state and federal election laws. A treasurer also must have enough organizational skills to hit multiple deadlines with detailed campaign finance reports. Many candidates still use a neighbor or co-worker to take on the task, but the job, while low-paying, is becoming more complex with more laws and accountability requirements, Catalfamo said.

Marks seized the opportunity to strike a new path by taking on the tasks of several campaigns at once.

“She saw a niche in the field, and it looks like she’s pretty successful at it,” Catalfamo said. “It’s hard to find people to be your treasurer … I can’t think of anyone who does it for multiple clients in the biz. I thought it was kind of ingenious from a business point of view.”

Republicans who worked with her said Marks diversified to increase her income and to offer more services than most other GOP operatives.

On Dec. 31, 2012, GMG Printing and Marketing Resources was created with the Flintlock Drive address. The company collected $96,608 at the federal level since 2012 and another $16,652 from six state and local campaigns. Of the six state campaigns, three also had hired Campaigns Unlimited.

Also in 2012, another company, GMG Printing, was created, according to state Department of State records. Its business address was also Flintlock Drive, Shirley. From 2012 to 2022, GMG Printing collected $229,563 in state and local campaigns and another $147,116 from campaigns at the federal level. The work included fundraising, campaign brochures, ads, lawn signs and professional services, according to state Board of Elections records.

Of the 24 campaign committees that Campaigns Unlimited worked for from 2012 through this year, 21 hired GMG Printing.

Marks’ business portfolio expanded again on May 5, 2021, in Florida.

R.I.A. Concept Holding, with an operating address at Flintlock Drive, Shirley, was part of six entities that created Red Strategies USA, a campaign consulting and services company. Days later, an amendment to the business documents creating Red Strategies replaced R.I.A. with GMG Marketing Resources, also of the same Shirley address.

Other entities involved in the creation of Red Strategies were the Devolder Organization, which was one of the companies Santos said he ran, Paul Niccolini Associates, Jayson Benoit Associates and D&D International Investment Services.

Niccolini and Benoit had previously worked with Santos at Harbor City, an investment company. Harbor City had been accused by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission of being a fraudulent Ponzi scheme. Neither Santos nor Niccolini nor Benoit was charged.

Red Strategies USA was paid $110,320 for digital consulting and fundraising in 2021 by Republican Tina Forte’s campaign for the 14th Congressional District, which covers the eastern part of the Bronx and part of north-central Queens. The seat was and still is held by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive in Congress and a prized Republican political target.

Forte’s payments to Red Strategies USA ended in 2021 for the August 2022 Republican primary. But then Forte’s Republican opponent, Desi Cueller, hired another company associated with Marks.

A former bartender and native of Cuba, Cueller hired Campaigns Unlimited for compliance and finance duties as well as for accounting at a cost of $10,000, FEC records showed.

That incident of serving two competing campaigns involving Red Strategies USA also has raised questions back on Long Island, said the Republicans who had worked with Marks.

“She was working for two Republicans in the same AOC race,” said one of the Republican sources. “She denies it, but her name is on the two filings …. ”

Ghosh of the Campaign Legal Center said financial records from campaigns that employed Marks raised other questions, such as a donation listed as “anonymous” and others where amendments were needed to clarify questions. 

“Was she just bad at it, or was she trying to enrich herself and others?” Ghosh asked. “I think we can all draw some important conclusions about how important campaign treasurers are. In some ways, they are the overlooked piece of the campaign finance system. But it’s a reminder that campaign treasurers have to do their job.”

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