Top 10 Scandals of 2008
From Albany to Alaska, from Chicago to Wall Street, 2008 produced a bumper crop of political and business scandals.
The editors here at The Post's Investigations blog have sorted through the greatest hits of the year -- from the first hints of a corruption probe into Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens last January to the FBI's wiretap of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in December. With so much to choose from in 2008, you might have a different ranking. Let us know.
10. Hillary's 1996 Trip to Bosnia » During her unsuccessful bid to become Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a point of describing a rather harrowing encounter at an airport in the Bosnian city of Tuzla in 1996. She described a scene involving "sniper fire" in the war-torn region and claimed she had to duck as she ran to an awaiting vehicle. Videos taken during Clinton's landing showed an otherwise peaceful setting. The former first lady was forced to admit to a "mistake" in memory.
— Clinton, describing the scene at the Bosnian airport in 1996. She later admitted to being mistaken about the episode.
9. Rangel Hounded by Ethics Questions » Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the New York Democratic congressman who heads the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has been at the center of a swirl of questions since July, including a questionable gift from an oil executive to his charitable foundation, the use of office stationary to solicit contributions and the below-market-rate rentals of apartments in New York and Washington.
— Rangel, sarcastically speaking at the same July press conference, in response to a question about whether he will resign his chairmanship.
8. Palin's Family Feud » When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the GOP vice-presidential candidate, her political record came under intense scrutiny, including the most controversial point during her gubernatorial term -- the dismissal of the state's police commissioner. Palin had fired Walt Monegan after unsuccessfully pushing the state's top cop to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper. "Troopergate" became a hot-button campaign issue and two independent reports released around Election Day didn't agree on whether Palin had erred in firing Monegan.
— Palin, in a July 17, 2007, e-mail to Monegan, relaying a story about how a Alaska state proposal to prohibit people considered mentally ill from carrying firearms made her think of her ex-brother-in-law.
7. AIG Goes to California » The subprime mortgage mess was encapsulated by the quick fall of American International Group Inc., the giant insurance firm, which got $124 billion from the government in October as it teetered. Lavish trips for senior managers after the bailout, including a $400,000 weeklong excursion to the St. Regis resort in Orange County, Calif., didn't help matters.
— AIG CEO Robert Willumstad, speaking to congressmen about an executive trip to the St. Regis resort in California (after the federal bailout had been secured).
— An unknown audience member during the congressional hearing, responding to a question from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who had wondered aloud what $10,000 on "leisure dining" at the St. Regis was actually spent on.
6. The Mayor and the Text Messages » Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is spending four months in a county jail after he was convicted of lying under oath to hide an affair with his chief of staff. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice Sept. 4 as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. The Detroit Free Press had obtained dozens of sometimes-racy text messages between Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, which showed the extent of the relationship.
— Kilpatrick, in a text message to Beatty on Sept. 13, 2002, talking about whether the romantic liaison between the pair was seen by the mayor's bodyguards.
Check out Scandals No. 1 though 5 after the jump:
5. 'Uncle Ted' Indicted, Convicted, Loses Seat » Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was charged with accepting illegal gifts from a wealthy oil executive and was convicted of seven felonies in a federal trial in October. He vowed to fight the conviction and hold onto his seat, but the Republican icon lost re-election.
— Stevens, speaking to onetime friend, wealthy oil executive Bill Allen, in a secretly-recorded phone call in October 2006 that was played during his trial.
4. Edwards and His Mistress » Former presidential candidate John Edwards, once a North Carolina Democratic senator, found himself in hot water after the National Enquirer revealed he had an extramarital affair with a campaign videographer. Edwards admitted the affair in a nationally-televised interview with ABC but denied he was the father of Rielle Hunter's child. The baby's birth certificate was noticeably missing the name of a father.
— Edwards, speaking to ABC News about a photo published in the National Enquirer allegedly showing him holding the child of his former lover, Rielle Hunter. Edwards has denied being the father of the baby.
3. Spitzer and the Hooker » New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, once a shining star in the Democratic Party, was forced to resign in March after federal investigators discovered he hired an expensive escort during a trip to Washington. The former state attorney general saw his career go up in smoke, although he ended up not facing any criminal charges.
— Spitzer, speaking to an escort company operator when told that his prostitute for the evening would be a young brunette named "Kristen," according to a federal affidavit.
2. Tapping The Governor's Phone » An FBI wiretap in late November and early December caught Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat for future jobs, lobbying connections for his wife and even his own Cabinet position. The fallout is still being felt. Blagojevich has been charged but refuses to resign.
— Blagojevich, talking about potentially selling President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, according to a federal wiretap.
— Blagojevich, speaking to reporters the day before he was arrested on federal corruption charges.
And, drumroll, please. The No. 1 scandal of the year...
1. Madoff's Ponzi Scheme » New York financier Bernard L. Madoff came under investigation in December after his two sons, both business partners, told federal authorities that their father admitted to running possibly the largest Ponzi scheme in American history. Investors are still coming forward but Madoff has estimated that investors lost $50 billion.
— Madoff, speaking to Barron's in 2001 about his approach to trading on Wall Street.
By Amanda Zamora |
December 22, 2008; 3:08 PM ET
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