In a recent turn of events, George Santos, the expelled New York Republican, has found a new way to make money: selling custom video messages on the Cameo app. This venture, unlike some of his previous financial pursuits, is perfectly legal and ethical, according to experts.
After being expelled from the House, Santos turned his talents to Cameo, an app that allows users to purchase personal videos made by public figures. Despite facing 23 charges for wire fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and other crimes, Santos claimed that he made more money on the app in one week than he did after nearly a year in Congress with a $174,000 salary.
Santos’ videos, currently priced at $500 each, have prompted a mixture of delight and mockery. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel pranked Santos into recording several videos for his show, and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) purchased one to troll scandal-plagued Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, stated that Santos has a First Amendment right to make whatever videos he wants. He added that the public is likely to take these videos in context, given Santos’ reputation and conduct.
Kathleen Clark, a professor of law who studies government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, pointed out that Cameo customers know where their money is going, unlike those campaign donors who were unaware of Santos’ alleged fraudulent activities.
Santos isn’t the first politician who tried to profit off his troubles with the law. Former President Donald Trump has been selling NFTs since last December, and he recently announced that snippets of the suit he wore for his August mug shot would be available for purchase.
The New York Republican also isn’t the first former politician to make money off Cameo: Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin have both made videos on the app in recent years.
Richard Briffault, a professor of law who studies government ethics at Columbia Law School, suspects that users buy the videos based on Santos’ amusement value rather than his connection to the crimes he’s allegedly committed.
This case serves as a reminder of the importance of ethical conduct in our Constitutional Republic. It is crucial for voters to be aware of the actions and behaviors of their elected officials, both during and after their terms in office. As we continue to strive for fair and honest elections, let us not forget the role we play in holding our representatives accountable.