State Senator Edward McClain surrendered his seat in 2009 after having been found guilty of 48 counts of theft, money laundering, mail fraud, bribery, conspiracy, and political corruption. After sentencing, and anticipating being held at a minimum-security federal prison, he quipped: "I guess I can learn how to play golf now."
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Of all the scandals involving former Alaska Governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, none were more embarrassing than the revelation that the Republican National Committee had spent around $150,000 on a new wardrobe for her and her family. (Or maybe it was the Bridge To Nowhere. Or Troopergate. Or or) While the Campaign Finance Reform Bill of 2002 makes it illegal for campaigns to fund such items, political parties are still allowed to do so.
What about a governor who, after acting like she disappeared during a crucial live TV debate, actually disappears? Jan Brewer got her act together after her re-election until December 2012. The Hill reported: "Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) said Tuesday they have no idea where Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) is. 'No, everybody keeps asking me that,' Kyl told The Hill. 'I didn't know she was missing.' McCain answered similarly." Maybe she's hiking the Appalachian Trail
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Former Arkansas Governor and President Bill Clinton has been involved in numerous alleged scandals. Clinton admitted a sexual encounter with model Gennifer Flowers, as well as an "improper physical relationship" with intern Monica Lewinski. Right-wingers in Arkansas were furious over Troopergate, a term coined after an expose by David Brooks that claimed two state troopers had arranged Clinton's sexual liaisons while on the clock. Brooks has since apologized for "bad journalism," saying the whole scandal was politically-motivated b.s.
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Former California Governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated and had a child with his maid. He described the affair as "the stupidest thing I've done in [my marriage]." Allegations of sexual misconduct have long dogged Schwarzenegger, who has been dubbed "The Gropenator" by the scandal-hungry media, embarrassing the state of California that embarrassed itself by electing (and re-electing!) him.
In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart looked like a good bet for the '88 Democratic nomination when he responded to rumors of an affair by challenging the media to put a tail on him. One paper did just that — and subsequently published details of his meetings with an attractive blonde model named Donna Rice. A photo emerged of the two of them together on a yacht aptly called Monkey Business. Lost in the media frenzy: the fact that Colorado would have been better served by someone who didn't have such a distracting personal life.
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Ex-Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is one of those "tough on crime" politicians who found themselves in trouble with the law. The former high-flier, once a potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate, spent 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of accepting free services from a construction contractor. He also received gifts from his subordinates such as champagne, cigars, a hot tub, and a canoe.
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Congressman Tom Evans of Delaware lost his bid for re-election in 1982 after becoming embroiled in a scandal involving lobbyist Paula Parkinson, who later gained notoriety by posing for Playboy. The scandal, involving rumors of Congressional votes being exchanged for sex, also embroiled future Vice-President Dan Quale, who denied sleeping with Parkinson and whose wife famously quipped, "Anybody who knows Dan Quayle, knows he'd rather play golf than have sex any day."
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Rick Scott, hailed as the "most disliked governor in America," is a Tea Party-supported governor who earned his unofficial title by rejecting free stimulus funds that would have produced a high-speed railway for all those old people who shouldn't be allowed to drive to use instead. A no-brainer and Scott blew it.
Congressman Newt Gingrich, who went on to become a controversial Speaker of the House, led the effort to impeach President Clinton over the Lewinski scandal, but marital honesty as a qualification for holding public office was apparently only relevant for other people. In 1993, while still married to his second wife, Newt began an affair with a staffer 23 years his junior. He didn't lose his job over his indiscretion, but the incident appears to have hurt him during his 2012 presidential bid.
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Either Hawaii never has major political scandals or the state government is too busy answering phone requests for Barack Obama's birth certificate to bring any of them to light, because the only politicians ever accused of corruption or other political crimes were exonerated.
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Larry Craig, a senator from Idaho, was arrested in 2007 for lewd conduct in a mens restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. An undercover police officer in the adjacent stall claimed Craig used a number of signals commonly used to solicit sex, including brushing his foot against the officer's foot. Craig claimed that he simply had a wide stance, but later entered a guilty plea to a lesser change of disorderly conduct.
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Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has become synonymous with luscious locks and suspect morals. His hair was all over the news when he was arrested in 2008 on corruption charges, most famously involving an alleged attempt to sell President Obama's former senate seat to the highest bidder. Impeachment followed, as did a conviction and 14-year prison sentence in which his trademark 'do is destined to grey.
Indiana Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox was fired in February 24, 2011, after he tweeted a request that Wisconsin police to "use live ammunition" to evict pro-union demonstrators from the state capitol. In a later he tweet he wrote, "You're damn right I advocate deadly force". He later claimed his remarks had been meant to be satirical.
One of the biggest political scandals to hit Iowa took place in 1986 at a bachelor party attended by 25 legislators, staffers, lobbyists and (you guessed it) reporters. An investigation followed after reports of nude dancing and sexual misconduct surfaced. Two legislators and three others were indicted (one was convicted of indecent exposure, both of violating gift laws) in what became known as the Mingo Stag Party scandal.
The Finney Bond Scandal of 1933 hit at the height of the Great Depression. Perhaps to counteract their sinking fortunes, several of the leading citizens of Topeka conspired to forge $1.25 million dollars of bonds and warrants. They were eventually found in the state treasury and prominent brokerage houses. The state treasurer, attorney general, and auditor were all embroiled in the scandal and the governor placed the treasury under martial law until the trials were finished.
Kentucky State Treasurer James Tate was known as "Honest Dick" because of his perceived integrity. Then, in 1888, shortly after witnesses saw him filling two large sacks with gold and silver coins, Tate disappeared. The money taken comprised nearly all the cash in the Kentucky State Treasury and Tate was never found, though he was believed to have gone first to Brazil and then to China.
In 2007, Louisiana Senator David Vitter was caught up in scandal when his telephone number was identified on a list of clients held by an infamous provider of call girls known as the DC Madam. He later said that he had "asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife," but we wonder what they had to say about allegations that Vitter frequented prostitutes in New Orleans and rumors that wore a diaper during foreplay.
Maine politician Frederick Wintle resigned from the State House of Representatives in September 2011 following an incident involving a firearm. In what police described as a bizarre series of events, Wintle pointed a handgun at a newspaper photographer in a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot, after speaking to the man about an infant who died in a homeless shelter. Wintle served 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to criminal threatening.
The Maryland Republican Congressman Bob Bauman lost his fight for re-election in 1980 thanks to his arrest for solicitation of a male prostitute. (The charges were dropped when he entered a treatment program for alcoholism.) As a married, Catholic father of four, Bauman had not been sympathetic to gay rights issues until he was charged with soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy. He later wrote an autobiography entitled The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative.
Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, was where Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge in 1969 after leaving a party. The woman with him, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Kennedy waited nearly 10 hours to report the accident. The Senator was able to plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received only a two-month suspended sentence, while his constituents, some of whom were blinded by the Kennedy mystique, supported him for years.
The former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was caught up in numerous scandals and allegations of corruption during his time in office. He finally resigned after being indicted on ten felony charges including perjury and obstruction of justice and is currently on trial. Many of the allegations stemmed from a wild party said to have taken place at the city-owned Manoogian Mansion, in which a stripper (who was later murdered) was assaulted, although Kilpatrick wasn't connected to the assault.
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Jon Grunseth, the Republican candidate for Governor of Minnesota, withdrew just nine days before the 1990 election, throwing it into chaos. His resignation followed the revelation that in 1981, he had invited three underage teenaged friends of his daughter (who was also there) to go skinny-dipping with him in his pool.
Mississippi Congressman Jon Hinson was arrested in 1976 for exposing himself to a policeman at the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. He blamed this on alcoholism, and was amazingly elected in to public office just two years later. Voters more than likely regretted their decision when in 1981, Hinson was arrested again and charged with sodomy after being caught having oral sex in a restroom in the House of Representatives. (The outcome of these cases is unknown, as later, Hinson sadly passed away from AIDS.)
Missouri State Representative Scott Muschany resigned in 2008 after having been indicted by a grand jury for the alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl — incidentally the daughter of his mistress. He was acquitted, following his defense that he didn't mean to be naked in front of a minor. He said that he thought he heard a burglar and so followed his mistress into a room that just happened to contain her sleeping daughter. This does not, however, address allegations that the girl was touching him, but whatever.
Conrad Burns, a former senator from Montana, was investigated for numerous allegations of improper campaign contributions and faced huge criticism for helping a tribal school from Michigan (not Montana!) secure $3M for a new building. He was also slammed for a speech given on the U.S.'s dependence on Arab oil because he referred to Arabs as "ragheads". He later apologized for these remarks, saying he "became too emotionally involved" with his material.
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Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, a former two-term senator from Nebraska, has been accused of bigotry for actions like saying that the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people" and having once referred to an ambassadorial nominee as "openly, aggressively gay". He also garners controversy through his calls for his votes against some Iran sanctions.
Despite numerous rumors involving Las Vegas and organized crime, the most spectacular political scandal in Nevada relates to the state's first Treasurer, Eben Rhoades. Rhoades sold state land and used the money for both bogus investments and to fund his cocaine habit. The crimes only came to light in 1869 when he died of a heart attack at a party, presumably from a drug overdose. Today, the theft is estimated to cost Nevada $30 million each year in lost interest on the stolen land.
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In 2002, during the election for a vacated Senate seat, New Hampshire Republicans hired a telemarketing firm that jammed the lines of a rival call center mobilizing the Democratic vote. The legal proceedings that followed left the New Hampshire GOP virtually bankrupt and saw four Republicans plead guilty to federal telephone harassment charges. The scandal, naturally enough, became known as Phonegate.
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James McGreevey, the Governor of New Jersey, resigned in November 2004 after it emerged that the married father of two had had an affair with another man. Marital infidelity aside, McGreevey's pillow talk could have impacted world affairs. His amour was a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces who McGreevey had appointed as his Homeland Security Advisor.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico caused a sensation in 2007 after one of the Democratic presidential nomination debates. In an MSNBC interview, he responded to a question about the supposed crash of a UFO at Roswell in 1947 by saying "the federal government has not come clean on all that issue and it should " If Richardson knows something we don't, this would doubtless be the biggest political scandal of all time. Instead, he's just a big tease who let everybody down.
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In 2008, New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer, who had previously served as Attorney General, was suspected of bribery when suspicious bank transactions were brought to the attention of federal investigators. It turned out that the payments — tens of thousands of dollars — were not bribes, but payments for high-priced prostitution services. Spitzer resigned but was never charged.
North Carolina Senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards had an affair and fathered a child with film-maker Rielle Hunter, all while Edwards' wife was battling cancer. He was subsequently accused of soliciting and using campaign funds to hide the affair. He was found not guilty on one charge and the judge declared a mistrial on the other five, with the jury deadlocked.
William "Wild Bill" Langer's term as Governor of North Dakota ran from 1932 to 1934, when he was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and removed from office. Not one to go quietly, he gathered some friends, declared North Dakota independent, enacted martial law, and barricaded himself in the governor's mansion. In the end, North Dakota did not secede from the Union, but Langer was re-elected as governor and went on to represent North Dakota in the U.S. Senate for 18 years.
Congressman Donald "Buz" Lukens from Ohio saw his career end in disgrace after a scandal involving allegations that he paid a 16-year-old girl $40 in exchange for sex. In 1989, as a result of the allegations, he was convicted on a charge of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" and ordered to serve 30 days in jail, obtain psychological counseling and (believe it or not) get tested for STDs.
Following Clarence Thomas's 1991 nomination to the Supreme Court, Anita Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her. Hill recounted an incident when Thomas examined a drink can on his desk and asked: "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?" and other alleged comments. Thomas remained undeterred and called the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings "a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks."
The former Governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmidt, had his career torpedoed in 2004 after admitting to a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. Goldschmidt, a former Mayor of Portland and Secretary of Transportation in President Carter's administration, only escaped prosecution for statutory rape because the statute of limitations had expired, according to the State Bar. Further controversy arose from his describing this sexual relationship as "an affair."
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The "kids for cash" scandal sounds like fiction and indeed later became the basis for an episode of Law and Order. Two elected judges were accused of accepting money from the builder of a private prison in exchange for giving juveniles harsh sentences. The governor later said that as many as 6,000 young people had their rights violated. One judge pled guilty to racketeering, while the other was found guilty on 12 counts of fraud and extortion.
When Rhode Island State Representative Daniel Gordon was arrested in 2011 for drunk driving he blamed on Gulf War-related PTSD until it was discovered that he had not seen combat. He had previously spent time four months in jail on a conviction of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and for assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend. Gordon's drunk driving case is ongoing.
In June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared for six days, with neither his wife nor his security detail knowing where he was. Despite an initial report from a staffer that he was hiking in the Appalachians, it subsequently emerged that he'd been in Argentina with his mistress.
Bill Janklow, the longest-serving Governor of South Dakota, resigned in 2004 after he was convicted of manslaughter. The deadly accident occurred when Janklow, traveling well over the speed limit, collided with a motorcyclist. The superintendent of the state highway patrol said that Janklow had been stopped 16 times by state troopers while governor, but had never once been ticketed.
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Operation Rocky Top was the FBI code name for an investigation into Tennessee's state government in the 1980s. The undercover operation revolved around the illegal sale of bingo licenses and bribes to legalize horse racing. In the end, there were over 50 convictions. The State House Majority Leader was jailed and The Secretary of State and a state representative committed suicide, possibly because of the ongoing publicity.
One of the biggest political scandals in Texas history was the Sharpstown Scandal of 1971-72, a stock fraud scheme in which favorable loans were granted to various state officials in exchange for supporting legislation advantageous to a wealthy local banker. Two dozen state and former state officials were charged but only three were convicted of bribery.
Congressman Allan Howe from Utah was booted out of office by voters after a scandal that followed his 1976 arrest for soliciting prostitution from two undercover female cops. Prior to the election, Howe had refused to resign, saying that he had been lured to the red light district "under the false pretenses of an invitation to a political gathering."
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When the closest thing to a "Vermont political scandal" is Howard Dean yelling his way to third place in the 2004 Iowa caucus, you know you have a pretty mild state.
In 2001, U.S. Senator Chuck Robb admitted that when he was Governor of Virginia he had spent time alone in a hotel room with Tai Collins, a former Miss Virginia. Robb denied an affair but admitted that they had shared a bottle of champagne and that she had given him a nude massage. Hmmmm There were also rumors of cocaine use, but Robb claimed not to know what the drug even looked like.
James West, the former Mayor of Spokane, Washington, had a strong record of supporting so-called anti-gay legislation. It therefore came as a surprise when allegations surfaced that he had molested boys when a Boy Scoutmaster. He denied this, though admitted to having met men through online dating sites. Though the FBI declined to press charges due to a lack of evidence, the voters were unconvinced and recalled him in 2005.
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Against expectations, JFK won the West Virginia Democratic primary by a wide margin in May 1960, setting him on a path that ended in the White House. The win was rumored to be because of the efforts of the influential boss of Logan County who had apparently suggested that "35" would help Kennedy win. Getting their just desserts, JFK's people provided $35,000, not the $3,500 that the impoverished state's boss had expected.
The Wisconsin Witch Hunt wasn't just a catchy name for a political scandal, it centered around an "actual" witch. In 2001-02, two Wisconsin politicians tried to oust a state employee from her position as prison chaplain merely because she followed the Wiccan religion. What made the situation really absurd was that the chaplain, who was not ousted, had changed her name to the Rev. Jamyi Witch.
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The Teapot Dome scandal of 1922-23 was one of the biggest stories of the decade. It involved bribery and the transfer of favorable leases, which had originally been reserved for the U.S. Navy, to private oil companies at Teapot Dome, Wyoming. When the scandal broke it resulted in the imprisonment of Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall — the first time a presidential cabinet member had been sent to jail for actions taken while still in office.