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The Friday Line: Ranking Modern Political Scandals

The arrest of Rod Blagojevich has sparked a furious debate on the Fix about where the Illinois governor's blatant attempt to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder ranks in the annals of modern political scandals.

Friday Line

In order to determine Blagojevich's place in this (un)distinguished lineage, we thought it necessary to identify the critical elements that go into any political scandal.

The cornerstone of every major scandal in recent political memory is either money, sex or abuse of power -- or, in particularly juicy scandals, a little of all three. Without money, sex, or abuse of power it's hard for a scandal to be worthy of its name. Imagine Bill without Monica, Nixon without CREEP or Gary Hart without "Monkey Business."

Once a scandal has one of those three elements, the rest is gravy -- although there are a number of other variables that differentiate the merely pedestrian political scandal from the truly great.

The more high profile the politician, the better the scandal. Scandals like Watergate that reached directly into the office of the president are hard to top. The fact that Elliot Spitzer was the governor of New York made the revelation that he had frequented a high-end escort service more shocking. Scandals centered on an individual member of Congress -- Bill Jefferson, Duke Cunningham, Vito Fossella -- are simply less eye-catching to the general public.

Turnabout or an absolute contradiction of expectations can really amp up the quality of a scandal. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's strong social conservatism added to the intrigue when his name turned up on the D.C. Madam's list; New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's admission that not only had he had an extramarital affair but also that he was gay packed a double whammy.

A particularly outrageous detail also has the potential to take a scandal to a whole new level. Jefferson's alleged acceptance of bribes was good but the fact that the feds found $90,000 stored in his freezer (cold hard cash -- heyooooo!) was better. Cunningham's willingness to sell his office for gifts as good, that one of the gifts was an antique toilet was better. And so on.

Context matters. That Blagojevich came up through the "Chicago Machine" means that a slew of stories can (and will) be written about the long history of corrupt politicians in the Windy City. Ditto Vitter and Jefferson in Louisiana, and Sen. Bob Torricelli in New Jersey. Context is why former Sen. John Edwards's admission of an extramarital affair was such a major scandal; his wife, Elizabeth, was a central part of his presidential campaign in 2008 and her struggles against cancer made her a nationally-known figure in her own right.

All of these elements have to be considered when trying to compare the political scandals of modern vintage (for our purposes that's from Watergate forward) against one another. It's a tough task but someone has to do it, so below you'll find our top ten political scandals beginning with Watergate and continuing through "Pay-Rod." The number one ranked scandal is the one that offers the best combination of the most elements we laid out above -- making it the best/biggest political scandal in recent political history.

It's impossible to do a list like this and not forget one (or several) amazing political scandals. Given that, we apologize in advance if your personal favorite didn't make the top 10.

As always, the Line is meant as a conversation starter. Feel free to agree or disagree with our picks in the comments section below.

To the Line!

10. James Traficant: A sentimental pick for the Fix who, as a cub reporter, watched and listened as Damon Chappie, Roll Call's investigative mastermind, bird-dogged the Ohio Democrat for years. Traficant, one of the strangest members of Congress in recent memory (and that's saying something), insisted he was wrongly accused of bribery and racketeering and chose to represent himself at the trial. He was ultimately convicted although by the spring (after eight years in jail), Traficant will move to a halfway house to complete his sentence. (Damon, a friend and mentor to many of the best young journalists in Washington including The Fix, passed away in 2004.)

9. House Bank: This early 1990s scandal was wide-reaching -- hundreds of members of Congress were found to have overdrawn the funds available in their House bank accounts. Most received a slap on the wrist. Roughly two dozen were singled out for scorn by the House Ethics Committee, and a handful eventually faced criminal charges. The suspicion toward Washington caused by the House bank scandal is credited by many political observers as providing the spark for the 1994 Republican wave election that put the GOP back in charge of the House after 40 years in the wilderness.

8. Elliot Spitzer: Yes, we know this was just a sex scandal but the audacity of it (meetings at the Mayflower Hotel with an escort!) and the political potential of Spitzer (widely seen to be a presidential candidate in the future) gives this one a special place in our heart. And, because it all happened in New York, it allowed the world to see the genius of the headline writers for the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

7. "Pay-Rod": Maybe it's just because the decline and fall of Blagojevich is so fresh on our mind. Maybe it's becauseFixistas think it is the best political scandal in recent memory. Maybe it's the 78-page criminal complaint against Blagojevich in which he reveals the deepness of his delusion (a run for president in 2016!). Whatever the reason, it's hard not to put the selling off the Senate seat being vacated by the President-elect pretty high on the Line.

6. Keating Five: A long-forgotten scandal reemerged during the 2008 campaign when Barack Obama's campaign sought to remind voters about John McCain's involvement with developer Charles Keating. McCain, in truth, was a sidelight (at best) in the Keating Five but it nonetheless impacted his career in national politics. (He has cited the Keating Five as his impetus for seeking to reform the campaign finance system.) Of the other four members of the "Five," Sens. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Don Riegle (R-Mich.) retired at the end of their terms. Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) served until retiring in 1998.

5. Iran Contra: Any scandal that can be summed up in three words -- "money for guns" -- has to have a place in the top 10. This scandal had the potential to be among the biggest of all time, but President Ronald Reagan was never found guilty of anything other than a dangerous distance from the everyday affairs of the office. The Iran-Contra scandal also brought Oliver North into the national spotlight, setting the stage for his disastrous/captivating 1994 Senate race against Democrat Chuck Robb.

4. Jack Abramoff: Lobbying was never the same after Abramoff's massive pay-to-play approach to influencing elected officials was revealed. The casualty list from those with ties to Abramoff is impressive; Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), Tom DeLay (R-Texas), John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) lost, resigned or were jailed as a direct result of their ties to Abramoff. People like former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.) and Ralph Reed (R-Ga.) lost bids for higher office due in varying degrees to links to Black Jack.

3. ABSCAM: Forgotten amid the panoply of scandals that have followed it, Abscam -- a sting operation organized by the FBI targeting elected officials in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- started the aggressive approach by the feds to corruption among politicians. All told, six members of Congress -- including recently deceased Rep. Raymond Lederer (D-Pa.) and Sen. Harrison "Pete" Williams (D-N.J.) were convicted on bribery charges.

2. Monica Lewinsky/Impeachment: Whether you think this was a wildly overblown scandal between a president with bad judgment and a White House intern or a deep corruption of government with President Bill Clinton at the heart of it, it's hard to argue that the entire sordid saga didn't influence politics in a fundamental way. Democrats' electoral gains in 1998 were widely ascribed to voter reaction to the overreach of congressional Republicans while former Vice President Al Gore's decision to keep Clinton at a distance in 2000 was the direct result of the Lewinsky scandal. Oh yeah, and it led to only the second presidential impeachment ever.

1. Watergate: After more than three decades, the Watergate break-in -- and all that came after it -- is still the granddaddy of all political scandals. It fundamentally reshaped politics (ethics reform, increased transparency) and journalism, and captivated a country (eventually). It also happened to lead to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Hard to top that.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 12, 2008; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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Next: Whither McCain?


You forgot the one with the ultra-conservative, gay-bashing congressman from South Florida (I've already forgotten his name) who inappropriately texting the congressional pages. That was a doosie!

Posted by: jax71231 | December 15, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Bank of America and Mr. Higgins missing $millions, It can happen to you, my fellow Americans

More info:

Posted by: srmaxhiggins | December 13, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project has informative statistics on addressing global poverty.

$30 billion ends world hunger
$550 billion is the US Defense budget

This organization has the ability, resources, and policy-makers to suppress the threat of global poverty by enacting legislation here in the US, which is tied to the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Please support organizations such as The Borgen Project so that we may rid the world of poverty.

Posted by: atsegga | December 12, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

By what stretch of imagination did you include Senator Hart on this list? He was never even accused of criminal activity or of public corruption. He has lived an extraordinary life of public service to this day. He and his only wife will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year. Isn’t it time to leave them alone? Do you just tar everyone with the same cheap brush?

But, if you insist, you should at least get your facts straight. The taunt, “follow me around,” was not the impetus for the unprecedented invasion of Senator Hart’s privacy. That comment had not yet been published when reporters staked out in the bushes outside the Senator’s townhouse. They were prompted by an uncorroborated, anonymous phone tip. Check out the dates. It was the worst kind of “gotcha” journalism, and you’re perpetuating it.

Posted by: tomasagee | December 12, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

>> "Any scandal that can be summed up in three words -- 'money for guns' ... "

The summary of Iran-Contra wasn't "money for guns."

It was "arms for hostages."

You were right that it was an easy scandal to grasp when it was boiled down to three words. But you remembered the wrong three words.

Posted by: EgoNemo | December 12, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

This Blagojevich was flaming. He must have some kind of personality disorder.

I bet David Axelrod, who put him in office, is staying up late at
night rereading all email he ever exchanged with Blagojevich in light of the corrupt stream-of-consciousness style talk he was busted for, cursing every "LOL" he responded with.

Posted by: AsperGirl | December 12, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I still believe the Reynolds “double” scandal (crimes and pardon from Clinton) ranks above things like Traficant and the Keating Five (who were never convicted of anything). Governor Spitzer, who was being called the next President from the Democratic Party ranks much higher. Edwards was the VP on a ticket that almost won the White House. His affair while his wife was dying is far more scandalous than the Keating Five.

But the disturbing pardon of Clinton supporter and Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds is inexplicably missing from most scandal lists. Reynolds had been convicted on August 22, 1995, on 12 counts of sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Later he was convicted on 15 counts of bank fraud and lying to the FEC and SEC. This was a child rapist involved with child pornography. But, he received a Clinton pardon.

Posted by: CaptainQ | December 12, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 12, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Truly a shame, and such a disgrace.

Posted by: PatrickNYC1 | December 12, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

a good scandal also needs a name, which in this case i nominate to be "b-bay"

Posted by: Elizabeth_Spayd | December 12, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

To: txgall --

Precisely. But don't blame Chris.

"Mainstreamediaitis" is contagious, and seems especially endemic in D.C.

I had it, too... until I experienced the rude awakening described in the links, below.

You sound like someone with an opening, inquiring mind. Check it out.

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 12, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse


Wow, not a mention of torture and or rendition; NSA warrant-less wiretapping; Iraq War; Hurrican Katrina; SWIFT; Delay's K Street Project; or the largest transfer of wealth in American history...

Chris, can't say you are a serious student of American history and/or politics.

Posted by: txgall | December 12, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Bill “Cold Cash Jefferson” rolls off the tongue.

Posted by: leapin | December 12, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

To: leapin

It's all there in the links if you really want to know.

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 12, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

scrivener50 -

Please indicate what you did to get the government on your case.

Posted by: leapin | December 12, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Would you scream like a stuck pig if I said R=Fundamentalist? I don't know. Don't care either.


then why write this down?? - to reveal the cloud of confusion you inhabit.

My little list was for a specific date. It seems you can't read or write. the result of a Lib education I must presume.

I personally consider self-enriching scandels to be more heinous than simple sex peccidillios. there have been Rs caught up in human frailty but the odious nature of graft and greed in the Lib ranks is miasmic. the treatment of the perps is worse. Instead of being shunned, they retain leadership and are admired for fighting the accusations. Rs are thrown out immediately.

The MSM reporting of this is so slanted, most voters simply are unaware.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"I want the moon" - caligula

Obama says he's frustrated with industry mismanagement that helped create the current crisis, but he also says millions of American jobs rely on a viable auto industry. He said his hope is that a deal can be reached to provide temporary assistance while demanding long-term restructuring.

It won't be long before grand speeches and talking from both sides of his mouth will be revealed for the emptiness that it always was.
Eventually, leaders have to decide, A or B, you can't vote Present or choose to not decide or ask for both.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse




The mainstream media is complicit by its unwillingness or inability to aggressively investigate and report on the variety of egregious abuses of power outlines in the articles below:

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 12, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Eh, Zouk - you bore me. Do you know anything but Republican talking points? So D=liberal? Would you scream like a stuck pig if I said R=Fundamentalist? I don't know. Don't care either.

Please address my point - I certainly don't accuse Democrats of being very smart about avoiding criminal prosecution (hint, hint...figure out the subtext, if you can...) But your little scorecard there just does not justify your conclusion. Since you refuse to answer the question - it does not conclusively prove anything relative to corruption - it just says that 16 Democrats were convicted to 4 - well now, wait a minute - what about Senator Voinovich? OH GASP! You missed another one! Could your list be wrong!? So 5 - Republicans - I guess you don't count Craig and I'll give you that one.

As usual, you are biased AND trying to pass of misninformation as fact.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 12, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

anyone on his team are being investigated regarding this incident?


I know you would prefer to bury this in the graveyard along with all the clinton fiancial misdealings but the fact remains, there is a fox in the henhouse:

“Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the president-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer ‘fingerprints’ on the president-elect’s involvement with Change to Win, because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, ‘you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.’”

Rahm? see your attorney right away. in case you forgot, rahm was the messiahs first pick as wing man.

One can expect O to state, "this was not the Rahm I knew..." One can expect the gullible Libs and MSM to swallow it whole.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Anyone interested in the history of modern day political scandals knows that "It's always the little things that get them." Here's why. See

Posted by: saturdaymorningpost | December 12, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

By my count: 15 Democrats, 3 Republicans. Since then, we can add James Traficant (D-OH) and Randall Cunningham (R-CA). Call the score 16 to 4, Democrats leading.

He did moonbat. still 4 to 1 advantage Libs. finally something you are good at.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Actually, no, it does not equal old politics at this point in time. See, my mind realizes that you cannot draw a conclusion regarding political behavior based on one incident in one fixed point in time - So, I would tend to evaluate the actions of a particular administration based on the whole activites of that administration after they have been in power for a while.

Why the hell should he say anything? What should he say? This is still an ongoing situation...and no one, including the prosecuter has even implied that Senator Obama or anyone on his team are being investigated regarding this incident? So why open your mouth and inject yourself into it? Why say anything when there is nothing to say? Being a smart politician does not equal corruption.

As always, you are biased.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 12, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Search for Obama dog draws expert advice

such a hard decision. Hire a team of analysts. on the one hand......while on the other.......sounds like his auto bail-out position - straddle every point possible, the mindless Lib voters will only hear the half they agree with and ignore the rest.

still not a single decision of substance in his entire career.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry Zoukie - you actually employ innuendo in presuming that I am employing innuendo - that's quite clever!

And you ignore the point I was making - that your logic is flawed..

And Zoukie, why didn't Randy Cunningham make your little list?


As always, you're an idiot..

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 12, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Bailing out the "American" automobile manufacturers is a terrible idea until and unless they stop outsourcing. Over on CNN they are reporting that the *average* outsourced parts and assembly of a GM car is under 45%. On a Toyota, on the other hand, 80% of parts and materials and assembly labor is American! So, sadly, buying a Toyota Camry or Tacoma means you are buying American. Buying anything from GM means you are buying Chinese and Indian and Mexican.

As a nation, we must climb off the free trade bandwagon. It has wrecked our economy and placed our nations security, even it's future existence, in jeopardy. We have permitted, even encouraged U.S. companies to outsource millions of jobs, displaced more than 3 million U.S. engineers and computer programmers with Indian H1-B workers just since 2003.

When we embarked upon the free trade train wreck we were told that we would outsource low paying jobs, keep our technological advantage, and create millions of high paying jobs for American workers. It hasn't quite worked out that way, has it. We've kept the minimum wage jobs and outsourced everything else. The nation that was the factory of democracy in World War II has been reduced to a country with no manufacturing capacity, no new technology (and we're dependent on foreign scientists for the second hand new technologies we do get), all because of free trade. Free trade isn't just nonsense, it is dangerous nonsense. End the H1-B and L-1 visas immediately and you "create" at least three million jobs for American workers that are begging for those jobs! End outsourcing by bringing back trade tariffs and duties, things every one of our "trade partners" use to protect their jobs. Couple those with punitive taxes on investments, *investors*, and businesses that outsource jobs and you would see a flood of jobs returning to this country. Dell, Microsoft, Amazon, wouldn't keep their Indian call centers open for one week if they had to pay $5 or $10 for every service call they handled from the U.S. Apple would move their iPod, iPhone, Mac and other product assembly lines back here PDQ if they had to pay the 100% duty that India charges for importing U.S. made computers. The whole recession/depression is artificial. Congress could end it tomorrow if they took these simple steps. That they do not is both indicative of how corrupt and wedded they all are to business and foreign money, how cynically they use our jobs for bogus foreign policy initiatives, buying "friends", and how bankrupt and unrepresentative our government has become.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | December 12, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

refusing to answer questions = not transparent, not change, not new politics, aka same old crooked pols hiding from the truth

your mind (euphamistically speaking) reaches predictable dead ends

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

dim Lib, I appreciate that you prefer to employ innuendo and ignore actual convictions. If I were in your shoes, I would try to hide from the truth as well.

the simple fact is if you gather crooked public officials in any objective way, the list is guaranteed to be a majority Dem product.

Libs like to include things like "the war" or "the economy" to include loony notions of criminality and prefer to ignore perjury, selling pardons, etc. because they were improperly motivated by the evil doers on the right.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"I doubt that the Blagojevich scandal would have risen to much national interest without the potential for collateral damage through some kind of involvement of the President-Elect"

No way. You've got a governor blatantly trying to sell a Senate seat. That is going to make headlines no matter who once occupied that seat.

The salty language really helps things.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 12, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

How exactly does refusing to answer questions = culture of corruption, there Zoukie?

Your mind makes interesting leaps.

As always, you're an idiot.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 12, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Zouk - interesting little list there Zouk - without going into the Republicans that you left off the list (i.e. - Larry Craig) your conclusion is erroneous, or shall we say fanciful. Just because X number of Democrats were actaully convicted of some crime, vs. Y number of Republicans that were, does not then lead itself to a mathmetical formula that proves that one party is more corrupt then the other.

Your conclusion is certainly obviated by situations such as members of the current administration refusing to respond to lawful subpeonas issued by Congress.

As always, you're an idiot.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 12, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama's Chief Of Staff Refuses To Answer The Question Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to answer questions from reporters about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Blagojevich

Lib promises about transparency lasted almost a month (not even). the culture of corruption continues unabated.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

There clearly are a number of dimensions to the impact of a scandal that makes ranking them difficult. I doubt that the Blagojevich scandal would have risen to much national interest without the potential for collateral damage through some kind of involvement of the President-Elect
One scandal that I would certainly have included in the top ten is Alberto Gonzales' record in the Department of Justice. Patrick Lehey did a good job of bringing that scandal to light. But that performance did not prevent him from pressing Hillary Clinton to drop out of an undecided primary battle simply because it was convenient for the Democratic Party. Many of the proponents of virtue in the media went farther than that and suggested that Obama should pay for Clinton's exit by helping her retire her campaign debt That kind of deal is not that much different from what Blagojevich was looking for.
So far Obama appears to have done a remarkable job of avoiding a variety of pits that would have been very easy to fall in. The apparent fact that Blagojevich believed there was no real chance that Obama would deal with him is surprising. One of Obama's big potential pits is the huge amount of money that his campaign has raised. It probably would not have been hard to meet Blagojevich's terms and still stay within the law.
This scandal cannot be realistically ranked until we know the extent of the collateral damage. It appears clear that Obama did not authorize anyone to deal with Blagojevich. But it also seems clear that someone told Blagojevich that Obama would not deal. Most likely it was Rahm Emanuel. It would not be too surprising if the discussion included some description of the terms Blagojevich was looking for and did not absolutely preclude any willingness to deal. Hopefully it was not enough to seriously compromise Emanuel. Jesse Jackson Jr. probably was not that lucky.

Posted by: dnjake | December 12, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

What about Patrick Kennedy (Ted's son) getting drunk and crashing his car into a barricade in D. C. earlier this year?


I am afraid we must exclude the Kennedys. they could populate an entire top ten list on their own. In fact a Kennedy remaining sober and not crashing a car, much less killing anyone, is grounds for expulsion from Camelot.

I wonder how much is on the table for the NY Senate seat? Caroline's experience makes Obama and Palin appear to be lifers. how could the MSM have dropped this meme so fast? is is "an inconvenient truth" or rather the "willing suspension of disbelief".

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The WaPo two-step: One article stresses how Obama has tried weawy, weawy hard to distance himself from Blago and this one throws out a bunch of previous scandals to allow the current scandal to fade into the pack.

Here's tomorrow's headline - "All important questions answered in Obama - Blago case".

Posted by: grohlik | December 12, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

don't forget the Obama birth certificate. for someone who has promised full transparancy, spending hundreds of thousands on fighting this seems peculiar when he could simply relase the original.

Simple conclusion - he is hiding something.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I am half-hoping Rod Blagojevich tries to appoint himself to the Senate in these waning days, if for no other reason than to move himself up your list.

Posted by: MShake | December 12, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"Dennis Hassert's Highway land deal"

What about Hastert's implication in covering up the Foley case? That added a whole new dimension to that scandal. The condoning of the act by Republican leadership really made the whole issue very radioactive for the entire party.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 12, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I forgot Major Marion Barry (D.C.). Drugs & prostitutes, but got re-elected anyway.

Posted by: star_key2 | December 12, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

What about Patrick Kennedy (Ted's son) getting drunk and crashing his car into a barricade in D. C. earlier this year? Charlie Rangle's tax free Dominican hideaway? Dennis Hassert's Highway land deal, Ted Steven's "special gifts", Chris Dodd and his special treatment by Countrywide Mortgage, Barney Frank's intern scandal, Valerie Plame cover up by Libby? It goes on and on.

Posted by: star_key2 | December 12, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone forget selling pardons? got to be the most agregious of all. that pol is about to reenter as Sof S. the thugs rule on.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The NTU's list is of "Members of Congress Who Were Convicted of or Pled Guilty to Major Offenses, 1992-1999." NTU staffers had to compile the list from Washington Post archives and Congressional Quarterly Yearly Almanacs. (It takes real work to compile an apples-to-apples, fair list.) Here is that list:

Nick Mavroules (D-MA). Tax evasion, accepting illegal gratuity, 1992.
Albert Bustamante (D-TX). Racketeering, 1993.
Carroll Hubbard (D-KY). Fraud and corruption, 1994.
Carl Perkins (D-KY). Fraud, 1994.
Charlie Rose (D-NC). Agreed to pay fine for financial disclosure irregularities, 1994.
Larry Smith (D-FL). Tax evasion, 1994.
Dave Durenberger (R-MN). Financial disclosure misdemeanor, 1995.
Walter Fauntroy (D-DC Delegate). Financial disclosure misdemeanor, 1995.
Gerald Kleczka (D-WI). Convicted of DWI, 1987. Arrested for DWI, 1990 and 1995.
Mel Reynolds (D-IL). Sexual misconduct, 1995.
Walter Tucker (D-CA). Extortion, 1995.
Charles Wilson (D-TX). Agreed to pay fine to Federal Election Commission, 1995.
Joe Kolter (D-PA). Fraud and conspiracy, 1996.
Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL). Mail fraud, 1996.
Wes Cooley (R-OR). Lying about war record in official voter pamphlet, 1997.
Jay Kim (R-CA). Campaign finance violations, 1998.
Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH). Financial disclosure irregularities, 1998.
Austin J. Murphy (D-PA). Voter fraud, 1999.

By my count: 15 Democrats, 3 Republicans. Since then, we can add James Traficant (D-OH) and Randall Cunningham (R-CA). Call the score 16 to 4, Democrats leading.

That would make Democrats 4 times (or 300%) more corrupt than Republicans.

We need to ask our Democratic leadership what’s going on. We could start with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who promised two years ago to end the “culture of corruption,” and bring us “the most ethical Congress in history.” Perhaps we should ask President-Elect Obama, who promised us an open, transparent, honest government.

Somehow, though, I don’t think they’ll be taking our calls.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick - (D)
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer - (D)
Former Senator John Edwards (D)
Rep. Charles Rangel (D)
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D)
Newark Mayor Sharpe James - (D)
David Kernell, son of Tennessee Democrat Mike Kernell (D)
Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey (D)

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 12, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Can't go with Spiro Agnew because he referred to these as "Watergate onward." Although, as a Marylander born and raised, I have to raise a glass to the highest ranking political official ever to come out of one of those original thirteen colonies.

I happened to very much like Clinton and the job he did, but I think you should refer to the second ranking scandal as "The Entire Clinton Presidency." There were so many and they pretty much melted together.

Also, maybe Clinton should be number one. I think two of the "Clinton girls" appeared on the cover of adult magazines, you never saw G. Gordon Liddy there!

Posted by: andygoldman | December 12, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

You can't mention Wilbur Mills/Fanny Foxe without mentioning Wayne Hayes/Elizabeth Ray -- the "secretary" who didn't know how to type.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | December 12, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza wrote: "New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's admission that not only had he had an extramarital affair but also that he was gay packed a double whammy."

Granted, the part about him being gay added to the drama, but did it really add to the scandal? Growing up in a society that forces you into the closet is what strikes me as scandalous. This reflects worse on the media who propagate the stereotypes AND rail against them.

Posted by: hiberniantears | December 12, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Hehe, I suppose the Teapot Dome scandal and some of the action during Ulysses Grant's administration are relegated to the dustbin of time.

Posted by: rocketman528 | December 12, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Barack won't suffer in this latest scandal because Barack Obama had the foresight and wherewithal to stay away from the likes of Blagojevich, who could do nothing for him but get him dirty.

Posted by: alligator10 | December 12, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Barack won't suffer in this latest scandal because Barack Obama had the foresight and wherewithal to stay away from the likes of Blagojevich, who could do nothing for him but get him dirty.

Posted by: alligator10 | December 12, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Mel Reynolds, Mel Reynolds, Mel Reynolds. Congressman and married man having sex with a high school girl and agreeing to meetings with her girlfriends for more and embezzling thousands of dollars to boot. Then a second scandal ensues when the convicted sex offender and embezzler gets pardoned by Bill Clinton. Why was he pardoned? Did Bill admire Mel's ability to seduce underage girls? Who pardons sex offenders? Mel is top ten for sure.

Posted by: BothSides | December 12, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget Wilbur Mills (D-Ark) who was caught drunk with a stripper in the Tidal Basin in D.C.

Posted by: rogden71 | December 12, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I'd certainly add Wilbur Mills, Fanne Fox and the Tidal Basin to the list. It doesn't get much seedier than that....

Posted by: RickJ | December 12, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Mark Foley??

Posted by: the_skilled99 | December 12, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

dognabbit wrote: "fill that need for intimate fulfillment"

Okay, so I was redundant. Redundant. Redundant.

BTW, I remember the AAWIN BURRH! commercial, too.

Posted by: dognabbit | December 12, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

The audacity of Eliot Spitzer was that before he was pegged for paying for prostitution, he was prosecuting perpetrators of ... prostitution! He thought he understood the system so, so well that he would be able to survive a tip-toe through the escort minefield. You take that first step and nothing explodes, so you take the next step and so on and so on, until you feel invincible.

Spitzer's hypocrisy is similar to that of Larry Craig's, Mark Foley's, or Ted Haggard's railing against homosexuality while secretly engaging in gay behavior. The difference may be that I believe these gentlemen were living in denial, hoping they could exorcise what they believed to be "demons." We can't say that we know if Spitzer ever wanted to exorcise his need for a high-priced "escort".

One thing is clear: powerful men are constantly confronted by sexual temptations. Bill Clinton had issues with sex that he should have worked out through therapy a long time ago. But he didn't, so he continued to seek ways to fill that need for intimiate fulfillment. (He bears responsibility for this.) If not for a nasty Ken Starr-led Republican vendetta against him (the audacity of interrupting the GOP's permanent hold on the White House!!!), Clinton's womanizing would have been filed in secrecy alongside thousands of powerful men before him.

Posted by: dognabbit | December 12, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I think the Scooter Libby trial should have made the top ten. We ended up in a war because of what he and his boss did. The only reason it didn't take down the Vice-President is because he was protected by a republican led congress.
Not to mention it set-up the whole culture of corruption argument for the 2006 sweep by the democrats.

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 12, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse


They're not out to 'Preserve, Protect and Defend the Constitution of the United States' but to Destroy It!

U.S. Now Only 2 States Away From Rewriting Constitution

Critic: 'This is a horrible time to try such a crazy scheme'

Posted: December 12, 2008
12:25 am Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A public policy organization has issued an urgent alert stating affirmative votes are needed from only two more states before a Constitutional Convention could be assembled in which "today's corrupt politicians and judges" could formally change the U.S. Constitution's "'problematic' provisions to reflect the philosophical and social mores of our contemporary society."

"Don't for one second doubt that delegates to a Con Con wouldn't revise the First Amendment into a government-controlled privilege, replace the 2nd Amendment with a 'collective' right to self-defense, and abolish the 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments, and the rest of the Bill of Rights," said the warning from the American Policy Institute.

"Additions could include the non-existent separation of church and state, the 'right' to abortion and euthanasia, and much, much more," the group said.

Posted by: AJAX2 | December 12, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

These corruption scandals splatter mud everywhere - and Obama will suffer when the partisan wolves smell the blood. ...........

Posted by: glclark4750 | December 12, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I have to say, Section506, I'm impressed that anyone else remembers that commercial.

Posted by: GJonahJameson | December 12, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Section506 | December 12, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

What about Spiro Agnew? Hey, he was a Governor taking envelopes of cash and then transfered the business to his 1600 Pennsylvania Ave address. Geez, give the guy some respect. He was the VP!

Posted by: tobetv | December 12, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

The Cunningham scandal was hugely important. It revealed the systematic corruption that allies members of Congress who grant earmarks with the lobbyists who seek the earmarks while handling the fundraising chores of the congressional sponsors. The third party in the corruption is the federal contractor (frequently with some harebrained program the Congressman pushes on the Pentagon) who leverages a few tens of thousands in campaign contributions and a few hundred thousands to receive earmarks worth millions.

Posted by: nataninez | December 12, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse





This is what gets me: Voters often fail to identify the corrupt politicians and refuse to vote for them - the Voters almost never have the attitude, this corruption is hurting, we have to get these guys out.

Posted by: 37thandORules | December 12, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

mikedow1 is correct

Posted by: 37thandORules | December 12, 2008 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Don Riegle ran for Congress as a Republican, but he switched parties. He was a Democrat by the time of the Keating scandal.


Posted by: mikedow1 | December 12, 2008 7:09 AM | Report abuse

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