25 Biggest Political Scandals in History

Posted by , Updated on May 25, 2014

Politics, as many people know, can be quite a dirty business. Because of the many perks that are included with public service, such as fame, power, money, and honor, there are certain politicians that cannot control themselves and give in to the temptations of corruption and greed. Some of the more common scandals that are mentioned in the news have to do with extramarital affairs, excessive use of funds, improper utilization of taxes, and more. But of the many crimes that have been seen in the field of politics, these are the 25 biggest political scandals in history that truly stand out.

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25

Teapot Dome Scandal

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During US President Warren Harding’s time in office back in 1922 Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall accepted a bribe of over $404,000 from Mammoth Oil and Pan America Petroleum to to get the leasing rights to the oil reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming. Unfortunately for Fall, the press caught wind and he was exposed. Prior to Watergate this was considered “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics”.

24

The Profumo Affair

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The Profumo Affair was a 1963 British political scandal named after John Profumo, Secretary of State for War. His affair with Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy, followed by his lying in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, forced the resignation of Profumo and damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government. Macmillan himself resigned a few months later because of ill health.

23

The Chappaquiddick Incident

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In the Chappaquiddick incident on July 18, 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne, a female passenger of U.S. Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, was killed when he accidentally drove his car off a bridge and into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Kennedy swam free and left the scene, not reporting within nine hours, but Kopechne died in the vehicle. In the early hours of July 19, Kopechne’s body and the car were recovered. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a two-month suspended jail sentence. The incident became a national scandal, and may have influenced Kennedy’s decision not to campaign for President of the United States in 1972 and 1976.

22

Robert Packwood

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Oregon politician Robert Packwood’s political career began to unravel in November 1992, when a Washington Post story detailed the claims of sexual abuse and assault by ten women, chiefly former staffers and lobbyists. Packwood initially denied the claims but after portions of his diary were subpoenaed he ended up resigning rather than facing the fire.

21

The Wilbur Mills Scandal

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Wilbur Mills was a popular US congressman but things fell apart for him after getting a DUI right after engaging in a scuffle with Argentinean stripper, Fanne Fox. To make things even more comical, when he was pulled over she was actually with him in the car. Before the police officer could even say a word, however, she jumped out the back and dove into a drainage ditch after which she was taken to a mental hospital and left Wilbur with some serious explaining to do.


20

Mel Reynolds Scandal

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In August 1994, Illinois congressman Mel Reynolds was indicted for sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer that began during the 1992 campaign. He initially denied the allegations and continued to campaign but was eventually convicted and sent to prison both for the rape charges as well as charges related to bank fraud and money laundering.

19

The Keating Five

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The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s. Basically they had prevented Charles Keating, Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association from being audited in return for receiving campaign funding. Unfortunately for everybody else in America the association collapsed under the corruption causing billions of dollars worth of damages and ruining the reputations of the senators.

18

The Chen Shui-bian Scandals

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Although President Chen Shui-bian wanted to see a strong and independent Taiwan his family’s (and his own) lack of self control managed to undermine many of his positions. His son-in-law was caught money laundering and insider trading, his wife wired over $21 million to various banks in the world, and he was arrested after his resignation for embezzlement of funds and receiving bribes. High aspirations don’t necessarily make good leaders.

17

Berlusconi Bunga Bunga Parties

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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was involved in a lot of messes in his 17 years in office. He was known as a playboy, fraud, pedophile, swindler, and gangster. Basically anything bad…that’s what he was. The most famous of his escapades however were probably the huge promiscuous parties he through that have come to be known by the nonsensical term bunga bunga.

16

The Moshe Katsav Rape Scandal

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Moshe Katsav, former President of Israel, was accused of raping and sexually harassing up to ten women. While he was still in office police raided his house and seized computers and documents. There were calls for him to resign or suspend himself from the presidency which he refused to do. After stepping down, however, he lost his presidential immunity and was promptly convicted of the crimes.

15

The Florida State Voting Recount

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The election between George Bush and Al Gore was plaqued with issues but it wasn’t until Florida bungled its voting system that the trouble really began. With the world watching the state had to count and recount all its ballots until finally the courts stepped in and chose Bush.

14

The Gary Condit Affair

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Gary Condit, a former representative from California, was reported to have an affair with Chandra Levy, an intern at his Washinton DC office. After she disappeared he admitted to the affair but denied anything to do with her disappearance. He was cleared as a suspect, however, when Chandra’s body was found and police determine that Ingmar Guandique, a Salvadorian immigrant, was responsible.

13

When North Dakota Governor William Langer took office in 1932, he and five co-conspirators required all state employees to donate part of their annual salaries to his political party. Collecting this money was not prohibited by state law and was a common, traditional practice. However, when donations were made by highway department employees, who were paid through federal relief programs, the US attorney charged that the donations constituted a conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He and his colleagues were eventually brought to court. Although he was convicted of a felony and told to resign as governor he ended up declaring North Dakota independent, instituting martial law, and barricading himself in the governor’s mansion until the Supreme Court would meet with him. Eventually a settlement was reached and a new governor was chosen.

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After standing up before Congress and yelling, “You Liar!” at President Barack Obama congressman Joe Wilson was rebuked by the House of Representatives for his behavior and he later apologized to the president about the event.

12

The Langer Affair

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When North Dakota Governor William Langer took office in 1932, he and five co-conspirators  required all state employees to donate part of their annual salaries to his political party. Collecting this money was not prohibited by state law and was a common, traditional practice. However, when donations were made by highway department employees, who were paid through federal relief programs, the US attorney charged that the donations constituted a conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He and his colleagues were eventually brought to court. Although he was convicted of a felony and told to resign as governor he ended up declaring North Dakota independent, instituting martial law, and barricading himself in the governor’s mansion until the Supreme Court would meet with him. Eventually a settlement was reached and a new governor was chosen.

11

The Foley Affair

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On September 28, 2006, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross reported that in 2005, congressman Mark Foley had sent email messages from his personal AOL account to a former Congressional page, asking the page to send a photo of himself to Foley, among other things. Foley’s office confirmed that Foley had sent the messages but said it has a practice of asking for photos of individuals who may ask for recommendations and that the page had requested a recommendation. Eventually, however, other pages ended up coming forward and led to a severely tarnished reputation.

10

The Larry Craig Scandal

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On June 11, 2007 US Senator Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Apparently there had been complaints of sexual activity in the restroom so a police officer was stationed in the one of the stalls undercover. Eventually Craig entered the stall next to him and began reaching under the partition to signal the officer. The officer responded by flashing his badge under the partition and pointing towards the exit.

9

John Edwards

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Although the National Enquirer isn’t known as the most legitimate news source, they did manage to spill the beans on Senator John Edwards affair with videographer Rielle Hunter. The worst part about the whole situation though was that his wife Elizabeth had been diagnosed with cancer…that’s low.

8

Elliot Spitzer

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According to published reports, investigators believe Spitzer paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over a period of several years while he was Attorney General, and later as Governor. Spitzer first drew the attention of federal investigators when his bank reported suspicious money transfers, which initially led investigators to believe that Spitzer may have been hiding bribe proceeds. The investigation of the governor led to the discovery of the prostitution ring after which he obviously resigned.

7

Rod Blagojevich

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After it was discovered that Illinois congressman Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s former congressional seat to the highest bidder his plan didn’t go over very well with authorities and he was arrested on some severe charges of corruption.

6

The Appalachian Trail Lie

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From June 18 until June 24, 2009, the whereabouts of politician Mark Sanford were unknown to the public, as well as to his wife and the State Law Enforcement Division, which provided security for him, garnering nationwide news coverage. He had told his staff that he would be hiking the Appalachian Trial but failed to answer any phone calls. Not long afterwards, however, reporter Gina Smith ran into him at the airport in Atlanta returning from Argentina. Apparently he had a mistress and had decided to go pay her a visit.

5

Clinton – Lewinsky Scandal

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Infamous for his firm denial and then subsequent admission of having an affair with 22 year old White House aid Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton faced impeachment although he was later acquitted.

4

William Jefferson Scandal

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Suspecting Louisiana congressman William Jefferson of bribery, the FBI raided his congressional offices in May 2006, but he was re-elected later that year. On June 4, 2007, however, a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on sixteen felony charges related to corruption which led to a 13 year prison sentence.

3

The Plame Affair

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On July 14, 2003, Washington Post journalist Robert Novak, from information obtained from Richard Armitage at the US State Department, effectively ended Valerie Plame’s career with the CIA (from which she later resigned in December 2005) by revealing in his column her identity as a CIA operative. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, adviser to then Vice President Dick Cheney, was eventually determined to the be source of the leak and subsequently charged.

2

Iran–Contra Affair

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Also referred to as Irangate, the scandal involved US President Ronald Reagan’s senior administration officials secretly facilitating the sale of arms to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo. They had hoped that the arms sales would secure the release of hostages and allow U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. Unfortunately for them the plan was uncovered and led to a huge international mess.

1

Watergate

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The Watergate scandal blew up after the June 1972 break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex of Washington DC. The Nixon administration initially attempted to cover-up its involvement but it eventually led to his resignation. There is still no conclusive understanding of what they were actually trying to accomplish with the break in.

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