Editorial: Indicted officials should not hold public office

On Friday, George Santos was expelled from the House of Representatives by a vote of 311 to 114. That 114 congressional representatives could vote against expelling Mr. Santos is hard to comprehend in light of the Mount Everest of lies he has told and the federal charges he faces.

1st District Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), an outspoken critic of Mr. Santos’s seat in Congress, was one of the 311 who voted to show Santos the door.

“George Santos is a lying fraudster who stole an election to get to Congress,” Mr. LaLota wrote in an email Tuesday morning. “My fellow New Yorkers deserve a real representative. George Santos deserves to be in prison, not in Congress. 

“He lied to voters, donors and party leaders to get to this point, committing numerous acts of fraud,” he added. “He has had plenty of time to do the right thing and resign. New York and the House will be better off when he is behind bars. With the expulsion of George Santos, Nassau and Queens County residents are one giant step closer to having real representation in the House of Representatives.”

Well said.

The depth of Mr. Santos’ (alleged) criminality can be seen in the 23 federal felony charges pending against him, along with a scathing House ethics report that accused him of misusing more than $200,000 in campaign donations on a wide variety of items, including Botox treatments, trips to the Hamptons and the “adult” entertainment site OnlyFans. 

Next year, Mr. Santos will go on trial in federal court on Long Island. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts, blaming his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, for any financial errors. In October, Ms. Marks pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. 

With Mr. Santos’s expulsion, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul must call for a special election to fill the now-empty 3rd District congressional seat on western Long Island.

At the time of his expulsion, Mr. Santos was not the only government official facing very serious criminal charges. New Jersey’s Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, is also under federal indictment. So far, he has refused to do the right thing and resign from the U.S. Senate. Mr. Menendez is charged with trading his Senate position to enrich himself and for working secretly to advance the interests of the Egyptian government. When federal agents searched his residence they found, among other things, gold bars and large amounts of cash.

This is the second corruption case filed against Mr. Menendez in just six years. A 2017 trial failed to reach a verdict against him.

We applaud Mr. LaLota and his colleagues in the House who looked at the charges against Mr. Santos and voted to remove him. They did the right thing — for the House, but also for the reputation of our government. Considering the seriousness of the charges against Mr. Menendez, it’s startling to see him still in the Senate.

America is in turmoil right now as we move closer to next November’s national election. If we followed the rule that, while an indictment is not proof of guilt, it’s not a small thing either, so no candidates or elected officials should hold or run for office until those charges are adjudicated, we’d be better off.

Out of respect for our Constitution and the rule of law, this would seem to be simple common sense.