25 Biggest Political Scandals in History

Posted by on March 7, 2013

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.


Teapot Dome Scandal

Teapot Dome ScandalDuring 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”.

The Profumo Affair

The Profumo AffairThe 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.

The Chappaquiddick Incident

Chappaquiddick IslandIn 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.

Robert Packwood

Robert Packwood IronyOregon 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.

The Wilbur Mills Scandal

Wilbur Mills ScandalWilbur 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.

Mel Reynolds Scandal

Mel Reynolds ScandalIn 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.

The Keating Five

The Keating FiveThe 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.

The Chen Shui-bian Scandals

The Chen Shui-bian ScandalsAlthough 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.

Berlusconi Bunga Bunga Parties

Bunga Bunga PartyItalian 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.

The Moshe Katsav Rape Scandal

Moshe Katsav Rape ScandalMoshe 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.

The Florida State Voting Recount

The Florida State Voting RecountThe 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.

The Gary Condit Affair

Gary Condit’s AffairGary 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.

Joe Wilson

Yelling Joe WilsonAfter 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.

The Langer Affair

Defrauding the Federal GovernmentWhen 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.

The Foley Affair

Infatuation over Male PagesOn 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.


Josef is a video game fan that loves tech, gadgets, computers, and anything else that's digital. He also likes to scour various news and information around cyberspace, and sharing it with others.

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  • Jay

    What, no ABSCAM?

  • Amanda

    None of these scandals, with the exception of Chappaquidick, hold a candle to the “phony scandals” our current administration wants to sweep under the rug, mainly the deaths in Benghazi and the complete absence of any effective measures to protect these men, the leaking of the names of the Seal team who took out bin Laden, followed by the deaths of some a patriot like Snowden being forced to go on the run for telling the American public they were basically being spied on, and God knows how many Americans and other innocents have been killed thanks to Holder’s Fast and Furious gun-running. You’ve got Watergate as #1, but as those of us who want justice served for all of the above will say, at least nobody died because of Watergate.

    • Jay

      How’s that Kool-Aid?

  • Joy Travern

    You are in error on your number 13 (unlucky number, I guess). Joe Wilson did NOT “stand(ing) up before Congress and yelling, “You Liar!” at President Barack Obama.” During the President’s State of the Union address, Joe Wilson covered his mouth as if to cough and very loudly said “You Lie!” Unfortunately for him, cameras were everywhere and he was quickly identified before the speech was over.

    • Nate Brock

      Either way…Joe Wilson was right.

    • Defiant

      Who cares!? Obama is the worst liar to sit in the oval office…how on EARTH is this one of the “biggest political scandals in history!?”