Tag: congress

George Santos Allegedly Stole $3,000 From Veteran Whose Dog Needed Life-Saving Surgery

The George Santos story just keeps getting worse.

My first reaction to the initial New York Times story outing newly-elected New York congressman George Santos as a serial fabulist was surprise, then sadness because I knew his election was in large part made possible by the death of local news. If there’d been competent local media still operating in the area, Santos’ campaign would have ended as suddenly as it started in a flurry of revelatory news coverage, and Santos himself would have been a footnote, a political oddity and embarrassment to the local GOP.

Then for one glorious moment I thought maybe Santos was a performance artist, that we’d find out George Santos is the alias of some comedian or media provocateur whose congressional run was designed from the start to show that politics has become so polarized, so divorced from issues and hitched to ideological loyalties that even a widely disliked grifter — with no roots in the community and a completely fabricated resume — could win simply because he said the right things, pushed the right buttons and kissed the right behinds.

Alas, no Dax Herrera or Ari Shaffir came forward to claim credit for inventing the George Santos persona.

And it just kept getting worse. There were the stories about pending criminal charges for using stolen checks in Santos’ native (?) Brazil, former roommates who saw Santos on TV wearing expensive clothes he’d allegedly stolen from them, and Santos working as the director of a company under investigation for running an alleged Ponzi scheme.

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Sapphire, veteran Rich Osthoff’s service dog.

The latest story might be the most infuriating: Santos is accused of stealing $3,000 from a homeless, PTSD-suffering veteran whose beloved service dog needed life-saving surgery.

Rich Osthoff, who was living on the streets at the time, needed money to pay for veterinary surgery to remove a large and life-threatening tumor from his service dog, Sapphire. Osthoff says Sapphire was his lifeline during difficult times and he was desperate to get her the surgery she needed.

In 2016 a well-meaning vet tech and another veteran connected Osthoff with Santos, who claimed he ran a charity called Friends of Pets United and could help. At the time, Santos was going by the name Anthony Devolder.

Santos set up a GoFundMe drive for Osthoff and Sapphire, raised $3,000 with a tear-jerker of a plea, then basically ghosted Osthoff and his veteran friend Michael Boll, founder of New Jersey Veterans Network. After fobbing them off with a series of excuses, he stopped responding to their calls and vanished with the proceeds.

“It diminished my faith in humanity,” Osthoff said of the experience.

Santos denied the accusation.

“Fake,” Santos texted news startup Semafor on Wednesday. “No clue who this is.”

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Osthoff with Sapphire.

But dozens of other people besides Osthoff, Boll and the vet tech were involved and confirmed Santos’ role in the fundraiser, there are publicly visible tweets from 2016 linking to it — and crediting “Anthony Devolder” for running it — and GoFundMe acknowledged the existence of the drive.

In addition, news reports have confirmed Friends of Pets United, Santos’ “charity,” was never registered as a non-profit. Santos also defrauded an animal rescue group in New Jersey when he pocketed the proceeds from a 2017 fundraiser he ran on behalf of the organization, according to dozens of media reports. Santos was terse in his response to the accusations from Osthoff and Boll, but he was eager to talk about his non-existent pet charity during his campaign, when he claimed Friends of Pets United “saved” more than 2,500 cats and dogs over a four-year span and trapped and neutered more than 3,000 cats.

Santos’ lies are so numerous and so outrageous it’s difficult to keep track of them, and it’s doubtful he remembers all of them.

He claimed his mother worked at a financial firm at the World Trade Center and died in the 9/11 attacks, but Fatima Devolder left the US for Brazil in 1999 and never returned. She also never worked in finance. He claimed four of his employees died in the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting that claimed 49 lives. Santos never had any employees, his company didn’t exist, and he didn’t know anyone who died at the nightclub. He claimed ownership over an impressive and burgeoning real estate empire, but never owned any properties and owes more than $40,000 in back rent on a Queens apartment he shared with his sister for years. (His sister was also the recipient of a $30,000 FEMA handout and contributed a hefty $5,000 to his campaign, but still owes tens of thousands in back rent on the apartment, reports say.)

Rep._George_Santos_Official_Portrait_(cropped)
George Santos has refused to resign from congress despite calls from his own constituents, other lawmakers, figures in his own party and media commentators demanding his exit. Credit: Official congressional portrait

There are too many lies to list here, too much insanity to digest in one sitting, and it’s probably not good for the blood pressure to dwell on this weasel of a man allowing a homeless veteran’s service dog to die while pocketing the money raised for her surgery.

But we’re not done yet. We still don’t know how Santos bolstered his campaign with $750,000 of his own money, or where that cash came from. It’s not even clear if Santos is his real name, or if he’s actually a U.S. citizen, with some reports — like a New York Times story from last week — suggesting he may have married his former wife for citizenship.

While New York Republicans have been among the loudest voices to condemn Santos and demand he resign or be removed from congress, national party leaders haven’t made any moves to get rid of him — and have actually given him committee assignments — because they believe they need his vote in a slimmer-than-anticipated congressional majority.

As the lies keep piling up, the biggest question is: How long will this farce be allowed to drag on?

Buddy The Cat Elected Speaker Of The House In Surprise Vote

WASHINGTON — Buddy the Cat was elected Speaker of the House in a shocking twist ending to a week’s worth of drama over congressional leadership.

The tabby cat made history as the first feline speaker in congress after Republicans, frustrated with a failure to reach consensus over 15 rounds of ballots, threw up their hands and went all-in for Buddy.

“It became apparent that [California Republican] Kevin [McCarthy] wasn’t gonna get the votes he needed, and frankly I was tired of hearing Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert speak,” said Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw. “So we put our heads together, and we said, ‘Who’s got the savvy, the smarts and the muscle to lead us?’ And the answer just seemed so obvious. It could only be Buddy.”

The mercurial feline, whose priorities usually involve the procurement of more food, maintaining a steady nap schedule and terrorizing his human, was just as taken aback by the development as outside observers. Sources say he came around to the idea when he was told he’d be provided with a full staff of servants, could schedule legislative meetings around his naps, and could eat as much turkey as he pleases from the congressional cafeteria.

Buddy’s first hire was his human, who will be referred to as “chief minion” rather than the traditional “chief of staff.”

The new speaker also indicated he would create new committee assignments, and designated representatives Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Georgia, and Eric Swalwell, D-California, as the new fools — or jesters — of the incoming congress.

“Swalwell, don’t just stand there, juggle some bowling pins or something,” Speaker Buddy said during the first session, throwing a pencil sharpener at the California congressman for emphasis.

“Er, uh…yes, sir,” said Swalwell, who was wearing a green and purple suit and traditional clown makeup.

“Greene, get in there!” Buddy shouted. “I’ve got a space laser here and I’m gonna aim at at your feet. Dance! Dance, Greene, dance!”

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Buddy the Cat, center, sits on would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy after designating the congressman as his official cushion. (Note: Image to scale. Lawmakers are really small people.)

When former speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, expressed concerns about Buddy “besmirching this august body,” Buddy shushed her.

“August body? You’re telling me this is a legislative chamber? I thought it was a clown show. What do you see over there?” he asked Pelosi, waving a paw at newly elected fabulist Rep. George Santos.

The 19-term congresswoman, who first entered politics when Men At Work, Shalamar and Def Leppard were atop the music charts, looked at the New York Republican, who had been outed in recent weeks for lying about his educational background, work experience, ethnicity, religious affiliation and virtually every aspect of his life during his successful run for Congress.

“Er…a clown?” Pelosi asked.

Buddy stood up, ringing a bell on his desk and clapping excitedly.

“Winner winner, chicken dinner! A clown! Just like the rest of you!” He pointed to Santos. “Paint him up and put him with Greene and Swalwell, people, or you’re next.”

With a flourish, he collapsed back into his leather chair.

“Boebert!” he yelled, signaling the Colorado congresswoman-turned-cupbearer. “Turkey me!”

“Yes, sir!” Boebert said, cutting off a generous slice of roast turkey and feeding it to the speaker.

Buddy’s belch reverberated throughout the circular chamber.

“Now here’s what we’re gonna do,” he said, launching into what he called his Awesome 171-Point Plan for the De-Moronization of America.

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Marjorie Taylor-Greene, appointed along with Eric Swalwell as the new fools of congress.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, stood up.

“Will the Speaker recognize…” Schiff began before Buddy cut him off.

“Tape his mouth,” Buddy said, nodding to capitol policemen standing watch.

“W-w-what?” Schiff said, backing up as officers approached him from either side. “What is the meaning of this?”

Buddy cleared his throat, theatrically donned a pair of glasses he didn’t need, and read from a pile of papers in front of him.

“It says here your office sent 14,734 requests to Twitter, to delete or ban messages and accounts that were critical of you or espoused beliefs you don’t like,” Buddy said. “Tsk tsk. Do you deny it?”

Schiff swallowed as the officers grabbed him.

“They were terrorists! It was stochastic terrorism!”

“So someone tweeting, and I quote ‘Adam Schiff is a poopie head’ should be banned from social media and reported to the FBI?”

Schiff’s eyes widened.

“Please, I…you can’t! I have powerful friends! Powerf…”

The assembled representatives broke out into a cheer as an officer pressed heavy masking tape over Schiff’s mouth, muting the California congressman.

“Buddy! Buddy! Buddy!” they chanted, stomping the ground rhythmically.

Speaker of the House
Buddy the Cat, center, presides over his first term as Speaker of the House.

As of press time, Speaker Buddy had demanded a bill outlining congressional term limits that must be on his desk by Monday morning, under penalty of Democrats and Republicans being forced to dress up as donkeys and elephants, respectively, for the remainder of their terms.

He also exiled Rep. Matt Gaetz to an island with Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, designated Rep. Lauren Boebert as his cup bearer, replaced Rep. Maxine Waters’ chair with a dunk tank, and introduced legislation called the Awesome Weapons Emergency Shipment Of Magnificent Efficacy, or AWESOME Act, which would approve longer-range missile systems, turkey MREs and really cool tanks for Ukraine.

During a press briefing with reporters, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre answered a question about Buddy’s speakership by saying President Joe Biden believes he can work with the formidable feline.

“Whether or not the president visits the border is irrelevant. Look, he knows how important secure borders are to the American…” Pierre began, before a reporter pointed out she was reading from the wrong response card. “Ahem. My apologies. What did they tell me to say here? Ah, here it is. President Biden congratulates Speaker Buddy on his appointment, and has offered an olive branch in the form of a gift basket filled with vintage catnip, toys and various treats. The president has always loved cats ever since he was a lion handler in the Congo back in 1962, when he was known to the locals as Rafiki Joey from Scranton. He believes he can work with the Speaker on legislation that will benefit the American people as well as the Americats.”

Ban On Big Cat Pets Heads To Biden’s Desk

All that awaits is a stroke of President Joe Biden’s pen.

The Big Cat Safety Act was passed by the US Senate this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The law would ban the “ownership” of big cats as pets and would end their exploitation by roadside zoo operators, while also outlawing big cat breeding by private parties.

It’s a bipartisan effort that gained steam after years of efforts by animal rights organizations and documentaries like Netflix’s infamous Tiger King, which showed millions of viewers how the majestic felids are kept in cruel conditions and chained to an endless breeding treadmill to provide a constant supply of cubs. Those cubs are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth and used as props in lucrative “selfie with a tiger” offerings at unaccredited roadside zoos.

Private “ownership” of big cats has been a contentious issue and an embarrassment for American animal rights activists, particularly because almost all big cat species are critically endangered. There are more tigers living in backyards in Texas and Florida, for example, than there are living in the wild in the entire world.

Breeding for conservation is a process that involves careful planning by experts at accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Because there are so few big cats left, with some subspecies down to just a few hundred living animals, mates must be carefully chosen to avoid genetic bottlenecks and to ensure healthy and viable breeding populations in the future. As private breeders and roadside zoos breed the animals without regard to subspecies or genetic diversity, they do not contribute to species conservation in any meaningful way and can do harm with indiscriminate matches, conservationists say.

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Credit: Pexels

While the bill outlaws private ownership, it still allows sanctuaries, zoos and universities to keep big cats in regulated facilities that meet their physical and psychological needs. It also permits programs like the statewide puma project in California, which has been tracking the elusive felines for more than two decades and involves occasional sedation and temporary custody so the team can provide veterinary care.

“An extraordinarily cruel era for big cats in the U.S. finally comes to an end with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” said Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “We’ve been fighting for this moment for years because so many so-called ‘Tiger Kings’ have been breeding tigers and other big cats to use them for profit. And once the cubs grow too large for cub-petting or selfies, these poor animals get dumped at roadside zoos or passed into the pet trade, which is not only a terrible wrong for the animals, but also a threat to public safety. Now that the Big Cat Public Safety Act will become law, it’s the beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”

The Big Cat Safety Act cleared congress in mid summer, and its passage in the senate means it will get to Biden’s desk with several weeks to go in the current legislative session. Biden is expected to sign it without delay.

“For me, this fight for the big cats was never personal,” said Carole Baskin of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. “This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements.”

The new law does nothing for big cats currently in captivity, unfortunately. Current “owners” will be grandfathered in, although they won’t be able to replace their “pets” legally, as breeding and purchasing the animals will be illegal. The last “pet” members of the panthera genus in the US will die out within the next two or three decades, assuming no major outliers in lifespan.

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As felines who can purr but not roar, mountain lions are not technically “big cats,” but they’ll also be protected under the new law. Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Finally, Wild Cat ‘Ownership’ Could Be Banned Under The Big Cat Public Safety Act

There are more tigers living in cramped backyards in Texas than there are in the wild.

At roadside zoos, shady people like Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Joe “Exotic” of Tiger King fame, breed big cats like rabbits so they have an endless supply of cubs to steal from their mothers before they’re weaned, pumped full of sedatives, and handed off to tourists who take selfies with them but never stop to consider the welfare of those baby cats or the harm they’re enabling.

And in states like Florida, where “Muh freedoms!” reign supreme over all other values, people can own any wild animals they want, with no real oversight and no mechanisms to ensure they’re doing right by the animals. There’s nothing forcing “exotic” animal “owners” to keep the big cats, monkeys and other mammals in proper enclosures where they have stimulation and — just as importantly — won’t escape and hurt neighbors.

India the tiger Transported to BBR
India the tiger was still just a cub when he was spotted wandering through residential neighborhoods in Texas, where he’d been dumped by his former “owner.” Credit: Humane Society

Thankfully, things could change soon as lawmakers are expected to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a rare bipartisan effort that would finally make it illegal to keep tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, pumas and other wildcats privately, whether in homes, businesses or non-accredited “zoos.”

Currently keeping big cats is illegal or severely restricted in most states, but like many things in the US, there’s a confusing patchwork of laws and things that would be unthinkable in other states are perfectly acceptable in places like Texas and Florida.

Because, you know, “muh freedoms.”

Now is a good time to point out that this blog has always been, and will remain, politically agnostic. I have my own political beliefs as any other person does, but PITB is a cat humor, news and advocacy blog, and the only politics we discuss here are those that relate to animal welfare. Equally important, Buddy and I want people of all political persuasions to feel comfortable as readers and commenters on PITB. (Although that could change if one or both political parties suddenly makes a move against the nation’s Strategic Turkey Supply. Then Buddy’s gonna have to get biblical.)

The Big Cat Safety Act is co-sponsored in congress by representatives Mike Quickly, D-IL, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and in the senate by senators Susan Collins, R-ME, Tom Carpenter, D-DE, Richard Burr, R-NC, and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.

It’s endorsed by a wide range of groups, from the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums to the Humane Society and various bar associations. The proposed legislation also has the support of the White House, which released a statement this week urging its passage.

If your congressional representative or your senators aren’t publicly on board with the Big Cat Safety Act, you can make your voice heard via the Humane Society’s site, which allows you to draft and send letters to the offices of your lawmakers.

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Cheetahs, already critically endangered, have been almost entirely wiped out by poachers who sell their cubs on the illegal wildlife market. Credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels

Montana’s Governor Killed A Mountain Lion In One Of The Cruelest Ways Imaginable

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has to go.

The so-called “avid hunter,” who once boasted of serving “mountain lion teriyaki, antelope chops wrapped in bacon, and elk tenderloin” to investment bankers visiting his home, apparently wanted to kill another puma so badly that he put the word out to fellow hunters.

On Dec. 28, one of those hunters caught sight of one of the large and elusive felids just a few miles outside of a protected area near Yellowstone. The hunter unleashed his hounds on the cat, who escaped up into a tree, and kept the dogs there for hours to prevent the puma from escaping while the Mighty Hunter Gianforte drove hours to the location, got out of his car and bravely shot the terrified animal at point blank range.

What Gianforte did was not hunting, according to retired physician, naturalist and outdoorsman E. Donnal Thomas Jr., a Montanan who is well known for writing about hunting and outdoor sports.

Driving to a place where quarry has already been trapped and shooting it is “the difference between a hunter and shooter,” Thomas told the Yellowstone Mountain Journal. “He didn’t hunt the lion and he didn’t have to hike for six hours to reach it. It sounds as if all he did was walk to the bottom of the tree, pull the trigger and kill it.”

Mountain lion in a tree
A mountain lion, also known as a puma and cougar, in a tree in Montana’s Little Belt Mountains. Credit: Forest Service Northern Region/Wikimedia Commons

The governor may have broken the law, and certainly violated ethical guidelines, by refusing to say anything about the “hunt” and having his press office ignore phone calls, emails and public records requests by journalists. That’s primarily the reason the story is breaking now, more than two months later: Journalists were finally able to track down people with firsthand knowledge of Gianforte’s “hunt” and corroborate the details with other people who were in the know.

Gianforte has had his share of hunting incidents in the past, including two incidents in which he broke the law, once for hunting an elk without a permit, and once for killing a wolf that was radio collared and actively tracked by scientists. (He was let off with a warning.)

In that incident, Gianforte killed the wolf after it ventured out of protected lands, as he did with the mountain lion, who was also wearing a tracking collar. The cat turned out to be a five-year-old male who was monitored by staff at Yellowstone park.

If you’re wondering why Gianforte’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he famously assaulted and body-slammed a Guardian reporter who made the mistake of doing his job and asking Gianforte — who was a congressional candidate at the time — about his healthcare policies.

“At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” wrote Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who witnessed the assault. “Faith [Mangan, field producer], Keith [Railey, photographer] and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”

In an audio recording of the assault, an angry Gianforte screams “Get the hell out of here!” while the shocked reporter responds, “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses!”

Hunting mountain lions should not be legal. There is no such thing as “too many mountain lions,” even by arbitrary federal standards, as the animals are rare, elusive, not hostile to humans and rarely harm people unless cornered or their cubs have been threatened. There have been between 15 and two dozen fatal encounters with mountain lions in the last century. By contrast, dogs kill an estimated 25,000 people a year.

While we refrain from discussing politics or ideology on PITB, primarily because we want all readers to feel comfortable as regulars on the site and we believe politics shouldn’t poison everything, we agree with writer Abigail Weinberg’s assessment:

“Puma. Cougar. Mountain lion. There are many names for the big cats that roam the Americas, rarely attacking humans.

But there’s only one name that springs to mind for Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte: Asshole.”

Montana, you can do better.


All images from Wikimedia Commons.