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Welcome to the Creator Economy, George Santos!

You won’t find George Santos bumbling around the U.S. Capitol anymore. The scandal-ridden lawmaker’s colleagues expelled him from his post after 11 months, a congressional ethics probe, and a litany of federal criminal charges.

But you will find him recording birthday messages and dishing personalized insults on Cameo for $250 a pop. ( He quickly raised prices from the original $150 fee.) That’s because Santos has exited the political-industrial complex and entered the creator economy.

“Hey, fantasy football league! Uh, dorks! Ha-ha-ha!” the Republican says into the camera. “Looks like one of your friends isn’t really your friend and you should really consider a new friend because he thinks none of you get laid because you’re a bunch of dorks that never get anything right on your football fantasy league.” Yeah, someone paid him $150 for that tongue twister.

You might be thinking, Oh brother. What a grift! Classic Santos. But you’d be wrong. This is quite possibly the only griftless exploit of Santos’ storied career. This is just how internet fame works now. The erstwhile congressman is just cashing in while he still can.

Allegations of fraud and malfeasance are so rampant and unremarkable among Washington’s political class that it’s impressive when anyone achieves newfound levels of notoriety like Santos has. He was elected in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in 2022 with a largely invented life story. Since then, it’s come out that he’d crossed so many lines, made up so much shit, and allegedly broken so many laws that even the U.S. Congress, never known for its stern discipline of crooks, had to throw him out.

After first indicting Santos in May, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn unsealed a superseding indictment on Oct. 10 with 23 total charges. Santos was charged with wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, aggravated identity theft, credit card fraud, falsifying records and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, making false statements to the House of Representatives, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

OK, enough legalese. Here’s the juicy stuff: Santos allegedly stole his family members’ identities, made unauthorized charges on donors’ credit cards, inflated his campaign’s funds, and lied about it to federal officials. After defrauding donors, he allegedly spent their hard-earned cash on the porn site OnlyFans, on designer products at Ferragamo and Hermès, and on Botox injections, according to a House ethics report.

There are so many other scandals too. He probably or definitely lied about his education, about his employment history, about his mother and where she was during Sept. 11about being Jewish, about his grandparents fleeing from the Holocaust, and about his niece getting kidnapped. He was even accused of stealing $3,000 meant for surgery for a veteran’s dying dog. Just comic-book levels of villainy.

And he’s also full of surprises: He shocked the world by hard-launching his husband, Matt, in a condolence tweet for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. And after running through a group of protesters while holding a mystery baby, he was asked if the child was his. “Not yet” was his answer. There really isn’t anyone like him: Santos is one of the all-time weirdos in American political history.

Before him, the most recent member of Congress to be thrown out of office was James Traficant, who was expelled in 2002 after being convicted of 10 felonies for bribery, racketeering, and tax fraud, among other crimes. Traficant served a seven-year sentence, was released, and later died after a tractor fell on top of him.

None of the congressional crooks between Traficant and Santos accomplished such a feat. In recent years, a member of Congress body-slammed a reporter, another slept with subordinates, and yet another had an affair with a woman tabloids called an “ISIS bride” because her husband joined the Islamic State group. One was convicted of insider trading, another was convicted of stealing from charities, and yet another was convicted of stealing campaign funds. Santos, determined never to resign, was the only one expelled.

On Tuesday, the campaign of Democratic Sen. John Fetterman paid $150 for a custom Santos video directed at Sen. Robert Menendez, who was indicted in September for accepting bribes from the Egyptian government. “Hey Bobby! I don’t think I need to tell you, but these people who want to get you in trouble and want to kick you out and make you run away, you make them put up or shut up!” Santos said in the video. “You stand your ground, sir. And don’t get bogged down by all the haters out there. Stay strong! Merry Christmas!”

I thought my ethically-challenged colleague @BobMenendezNJ could use some encouragement given his substantial legal problems.

So, I approached a seasoned expert on the matter to give ‘Bobby from Jersey’ some advice. pic.twitter.com/y8iX55EyNi— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) December 4, 2023

That’s how it goes on social media platforms. So-called creators—or, if you prefer, influencers—build a following on a platform like TikTok or Instagram, Twitch or YouTube. Many of these platforms let creators participate in revenue-sharing agreements and earn pennies per view, but the real money comes off-platform. The famous, semifamous, and pseudo-famous can monetize their fame through Substack newsletters, via membership programs on Patreon, or by selling custom video messages on Cameo.

I once sent my wife a Cameo from the actor who plays Luke in Gilmore Girls. And my friends once bought me a Cameo from the Eagles’ third-string running back Boston Scott. Both were phenomenal. Cameo is a great place for B-listers, D-listers, and the nichest microcelebrities all across the internet. Those are the ranks that George Santos is joining.

If Santos gets really brave, maybe he’ll make a guest appearance on Dancing With the Stars or the Bravo cinematic universe. Until then, he’s enjoying the small riches of the creator economy—the kind of low-grade outrage monetization he should’ve been doing all along instead of defrauding veterans and lying about the Holocaust.

Welcome to the creator economy, congressman. It’s great to have you here. And if you have to go away for a while, maybe it’ll even be waiting for you when you get back.

Source: Slate