“He has a First Amendment right to make whatever videos he wants. And I think the public is going to take these videos in context, given his reputation and his conduct, but he’s no longer subject to U.S. House ethics rules,” said Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration.
Santos isn’t a congressman anymore and has every right to profit off the videos, said Kathleen Clark, a professor of law who studies government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis. She pointed out that Cameo customers know where their money is going, “unlike those campaign donors who didn’t know that he was going to be scaling their credit card numbers or appropriating campaign dollars for personal purposes.”
Santos isn’t the first politician who tried to profit off his troubles with the law, Painter said. 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.
“People want to pay for sort of silly things when people misbehave. There’s not much you can do about it,” Briffaut said.