What prevents US candidates from misrepresenting or outright lying about themselves?

What laws, regulations, procedures, etc. are in place that address a candidate lying about their own resume/CV and their qualifications for the position they are campaigning for and/or have been elected to? I'm not talking about lying about their platform, their campaign promises, etc., but actual fraud as outlined by this answer. I'm also not interested in lies told about someone else.

To keep this focused, let's restrict this to federal offices, such as congress and the presidency.

My question is prompted by the actions of George Santos, but I'm really interested in what can be done, is being done, or is already in place to prevent this from happening.

  • 1
    This questions looks pretty classically like trying to discredit somebody.
    – Boba Fit
    Feb 22 at 20:49
  • @BobaFit, nope, I'm not trying to discredit anyone. I'm simply trying to figure out what could prevent the same thing from happening in future elections and how it's currently being handled in the case of Santos. I'd hope that anything created to prevent intentional cases of fraud wouldn't be misused against someone who simply misspeaks. Feb 22 at 21:02
  • This question could be improved by editing out all references to George Santos and making it a generic question about lying about things such background, education, work history, and other things that people look for in a politicain.
    – Joe W
    Feb 22 at 21:31
  • 1
    @CGCampbell VERY impressive, indeed. Santos takes the standard joke about politicians ("How can you tell when a politician is lying?") to the next level. Feb 24 at 11:18
  • 4
    @Ben, there's a difference between lying about something verifiable (like a CV) and stating their future intentions. A candidate can honestly promise to do something when they get into office, only to find out later that the deals more senior politicians make that impossible, or votes go against the policy they tried to implement. Yes, flat out lying about your platform is bad, but it's much harder to prove intention like that. Fraud, such as lying about work history, destroys all trust. Fraud is a crime in many other arenas. And lying about your CV will get you fired from any other job. Feb 24 at 22:28

4 Answers 4


Just looking at the rules for the House of representatives, there are very few restrictions on candidates. They need to be 25 years old, US citizens and inhabitants of the state they wish to represent. Quote from wikipedia: "The constitutional requirements of Article I, Section 2 for election to Congress are the maximum requirements that can be imposed on a candidate." The only disqualification is: under the Fourteenth Amendment, a federal or state officer who takes the requisite oath to support the Constitution, but later engages in rebellion or aids the enemies of the United States, is disqualified from becoming a representative.

In particular lying about items on your CV like your academic qualifications does not prevent you from being a candidate. As I read the rules, even currently being in prison for some fraud or other crime committed would not prevent one from being a candidate.

Of course, if you lie about your CV this could be made public and possibly people will not vote for you afterwards but that is not a law in any way.


(I'll start with the case of George Santos because that limits it to a specific office and a specific accusation of misbehaving. I'll deal with other offices later but those are mostly kept brief because a lot would depends on the circumstances)

The House can expel him as a member. That's the path House Speaker McCarthy mentioned to journalists in late January. According to NBC News quoting Speaker McCarthy:

“If for some way when we go through Ethics that he has broken the law, then we will remove him, but it’s not my role,” McCarthy said. “I believe in the rule of law. A person’s innocent until proven guilty.”

So how does that work and who is we? If we look at the US Constitution Annotated we'll find that Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 reads:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Indeed, there is precedent for removing members even though the cause for expelling has quite a high bar historically. The House website lists 5 members who have been expelled and the reasons included either disloyalty to the Union or bribery related convictions in each case.

I think to keep this focused, let's keep this about federal offices, like Congress and the presidency.

My question is prompted by the actions of George Santos, but I'm really interested in what can be done, is being done, or is already in place to prevent this from happening (again).

To answer your question, there is probably not a lot that can be done before someone gets elected to a political office other than getting someone else elected. When someone does get elected to Congress then they are subject to the respective ethics committees.

As for the executive, there is oversight through the Attorney General (who may appoint a special counsel) as well as the Office of the Inspector General.

Most of the courts have ethics committees too, you could find those by searching for the name of the court and the term 'judicial ethics committee'.

The notable exception to this is the United States Supreme Court in which Justices seem to be mostly self-governing. According to a 2022 publication in the Atlantic:

Chief Justice Roberts has noted that Supreme Court justices voluntarily consult the Code of Conduct and other ethical rules for guidance. He has also pointed out that the justices can seek ethical advice from a variety of sources, including the Court’s Legal Office, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Codes of Conduct, and their colleagues. But this is voluntary, and each justice decides independently whether and how ethical rules apply in any particular case. No one—including the chief justice—has the ability to alter a justice’s self-judgment.

  • The question asks about what can be done to prevent fraudulent candidates from running for an elected office position. This answers what can be done after the fact. Feb 24 at 11:31
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    @DavidHammen I don't agree that the question only asks about pre-emptive actions. In the question body it also says 'and/or have been elected to'. Even if that's the spirit of the question then waiting to see if the candidate actually does get elected and then using the procedures in place to remove them seems like a valid response. The spirit of the question I see is not so much about disqualifying a con artist from running but more about preventing someone from conning their way into office and getting away with it.
    – JJJ
    Feb 24 at 11:53
  • Is a recall referendum for a congressman possible? If yes that would be anoother option.
    – mustermax
    Mar 2 at 11:47

What are the laws, regulations, procedures, etc., concerning a candidate lying about their own resume/CV and their qualifications for the position they are campaigning for and/or have been elected to?

Nothing. The only things mentioned in laws, etc., are age, citizenship, not supporting a rebellion, and residency. That final one (being a resident of the district) is state-specific and has been abused.

The George Santos issue almost certainly will be resolved less than two years from now, in November 2024. The local Republican party almost certainly will not let him run for reelection as a Republican. He is a national embarrassment to the GOP who could well cost the GOP that purplish seat in the 2024 elections. The local Democratic party almost certainly will not let him switch parties and run as a Democrat.

George Santos is far from the first extreme fraud to run for and be elected to office. That the problem will soon be resolved is good enough for a country with an intentionally vague constitution.

Some before-the-fact solutions include better reporting, better opposition research, and a better informed electorate. All were problematic with regard to George Santos. When I see the local equivalent of the North Shore Leader tossed on my lawn, I toss it directly into the recycling bin. The number of local news outlets and the local quality of reporting those few local news outlets that are left has dropped precipitously. This is a nationwide problem.

I pin most of the blame for George Santos's election on the local Democratic party and on the Democratic candidate who ran against Santos. While I toss the local equivalent of the North Shore Leader in the recycling bin, the group that did opposition research for that Democratic candidate should not have done the same. Some of the very bad information regarding Santos was already available prior to the election, and that should have conduced the opposition research group to dig deeper. They didn't. That was a huge failure.

The better informed electorate issue has been an issue since the country was formed. There isn't a good solution for that issue. What is the government going to do, fine me for tossing the local equivalent of the North Shore Leader directly into the recycling bin?


I just wanted to post an update to the George Santos situation, as he has been expelled from Congress as of today, Dec 1, 2023.

He survived an attempt* earlier this year to expel him when it was just based on his falsification of his background, but it is now successful with the addition of his indictments for "laundering campaign funds and defrauding donors".

Indicted Republican George Santos' brief career in the U.S. House of Representatives came to an end on Friday, when fellow lawmakers voted to expel him over criminal corruption charges and accusations of misspending campaign money.

The House voted 311-114 to immediately remove the controversial freshman lawmaker, above the two-thirds majority required to oust one of its own.


In a 23-count indictment, they accuse him of inflating his fundraising totals in order to draw more support from the Republican Party, laundering funds to pay for personal expenses, and charging donors' credits cards without permission.

Two former campaign aides have pleaded guilty to related fraud charges.

Santos denies wrongdoing, and his trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 9, 2024, shortly before the November elections that will determine control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.


Since the expulsion is mixed with more than just lying about his qualifications, I'm not going to move the green check for "correct answer". This action by Congress does at least partially answer my question. though, since he lied about campaign contributions, too. The Santos' situation is also intermingled with the issues with the Speaker of the House being (chaotically) replaced.

So, this shows the answer is: a member of Congress can be expelled even if they aren't convicted of a crime, as long as there more than a reasonable suspicion that they actually committed the crime. This backs up the answer by JJJ.

Santos' case shows that he did commit several counts of fraud, even admitting some of it himself.

* The attempt to expel Santos apparently failed primarily because Congress members wanted the Judicial matters to be ruled on first.


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