Year in and year out, the media and American public are treated with juicy, shocking stories of scandals in the land of politics. Political scandals are so prevalent in the modern era, in fact, that they’re becoming shockingly expected when they happen. It has come to the point where the American public simply shrugs when the latest sex scandal breaks the airwaves, and we say things like, “I knew that guy was bad news,” or something along those lines.
Political scandals have been a fixture to our institution of government for as long as we’ve been a country (and far longer, of course). When they happen to the highest public servants in the country, it really gives us a glimpse inside the goings-on and corruption of our bureaucratic system. What could these people have been thinking, being the most watched and analyzed celebrities on the biggest stage in politics?
Whether you’re a democrat or republican, independent, far-left liberal or ultra conservative, libertarian, capitalist, socialist, fascist… there are certainly some cringe-worthy stories in recent past for just about everyone. These scandals involve the entire gamut of corruption: from sex scandals to drug scandals, misconduct with taxpayer money, lying, financial gain from campaign money, etc. You name it, and some stupid politician has either thought about it, or done it and gotten caught.
Some of these disgraces are underreported, while some scandalmongers can’t seem to escape the media’s tunnel vision, becoming little more than caricatures of themselves on late-night comedy (see: Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor), since the joke possibilities are endless. The truth of the matter is that this is a serious epidemic in our broken system of governance, and for that reason we’d like to shed some light on the top scandals of recent history, ranked in terms of overall severity and implication to the American people.
10. Chris Christie
The GOP’s poster boy and 2016 presidential nominee faced some heat earlier this year in what has been dubbed “Bridgegate.” It is a great example of a story that garnered far too much press for the overall implication of the “scandal.” Appointees of Christie collaborated to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, NJ, along the George Washington Bridge, as retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election. Christie claimed he had no knowledge of the plans, fired some aides, and an investigation began, which ended by clearing his name. The scandal still gets headlines to this day. All in all, this one scandal might have actually improved Christie’s popularity.
9. Trey Radel
Congressman Trey Radel of Florida was once a respected star and rising hopeful in the Tea Party movement. That all came crashing to a halt when, in late 2013, Radel found himself in the middle of a sting operation after buying 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover agent. He was sentenced to a one-year probation, and originally planned to serve out his congressional term. A former television reporter and self-proclaimed alcoholic, Radel took a six-week leave of absence for inpatient rehab, and then reversed his course and resigned from office upon returning from leave. His arrest came just 10 months into his first term.
8. Bob McDonnell
The once-governor of Virginia was close to being Mitt Romney’s Vice President pick in 2012. Then, in January 2014, McDonnell and his wife were indicted on 14 counts of corruption by the feds. He is alleged to have accepted over $165,000 worth of gifts from a tobacco entrepreneur in return for giving the conglomerate Star Scientific, Inc. aid. He used campaign contributions to fund an all-expenses-paid New York trip and shopping binge, a $50,000 two-year loan, and multiple lavish dinners and luxuries. His wife basically claimed that they were broke. He’s now known as the first governor facing criminal charges in Virginia’s 250 year history.
7. Anthony Weiner
Former New York House representative and mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner fell a long way with “Weinergate.” His first sexting scandal caused his resignation from congress in 2011. After his apologetic return to politics in 2013, he ran in the New York mayoral election and was caught sexting more pictures to at least three women, under the alias ‘Carlos Danger.’ While this brilliant politician humiliated his wife and earned top-rate media spotlight, he continued his campaign and ended with a dismal 4.9% in the Democratic primary.
6. Bob Filner
The San Diego Mayor only lasted for six months in office before rampant allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment came to light. Three of his long-time supporters called for his resignation based on allegations that he had sexually harassed female staff members. While apologizing via video statement, he also claimed innocence and said he was seeking help for his behavior and would not resign. A total of 19 women stepped forward to continue allegations. Then Filner had the gall to ask the city to pay his legal fees regarding the sexual harassment lawsuit, which city council voted against. Filner resigned and faced one felony count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor battery charges, reaching a plea bargain for three months house arrest and three years probation.
5. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
As the son of famed civil rights activist and presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, this former Illinois House representative had a lot going for him. That is until investigations began in 2012 about possible misuse of campaign funds. Jackson resigned from Congress in late 2012, calling mental health problems (such as bipolar disorder) the source of his misconduct. Then, in 2013, he admitted to using $750,000 of campaign funds for over 3,000 personal purchases, violating federal campaign law. He pled guilty to one count of wire and mail fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, while his wife was sentenced to 12 months in prison for attempting to conceal the crimes by filing false tax returns.
4. Kwame Kilpatrick
No one on this list has fallen further than former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Plagued by allegations of scandal and corruption, the mayor eventually resigned after being found guilty on felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to four months in jail in 2010, and then 18 months to 5 years in prison for violating probation. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 additional felony charges of a 38-count felony indictment, including wire and mail fraud and racketeering. By taking part in what a federal prosecutor called, “a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud,” by some of Detroit’s highest officials, Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison in late 2013.
3. Ed Snowden, NSA
Whether he’s a hero in your house or the ultimate traitor to America, everyone has heard of NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden within the last year. Classified as the most significant leaker in US history, Snowden released thousands of classified documents to media outlets in an attempt to show the American people that they were always being watched. A startling revelation to many, Snowden was charged by DOJ with espionage. He remained stranded in a Russian airport transit zone for over a month, until the Russian government issued him a one-year, renewable asylum. Debates have risen over mass surveillance, the balance between information privacy and national security, and government secrecy, all stemming from this one man.
2. Eric Holder, Fast and Furious Scandal
This shameful gunwalking tactic by the ATF involved a series of sting operations where the ATF purposely allowed dealing firearms to illegal straw buyers in the hope that they could be tracked to Mexican drug cartels and leaders. The project intended to stem gun trafficking into Mexico, but had the opposite effect. As of 2012, only a third of the sold firearms have been recovered, and none of the high-level cartel members have been arrested. Instead, the guns have been linked to over 150 deaths of Mexican civilians. As a result of released documents, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first member of the Cabinet of the US to be held in contempt of Congress. This scandal also weakened ties between the American and Mexican governments.
1. IRS Wasteful Spending
One of the most damning and disgraceful scandals for American taxpayers comes at the hands of the IRS. The point is that government bureaucrats and agencies spend our hard-earned money endlessly, and even if this particular scandal was a “drop in the bucket” money-wise, the government is solely funded by workers in the private sector, and they should act on our behalf. The IRS spent $50 million on wasteful conferences between 2010 and 2012, and spent $50,000 of taxpayer money on two parody videos. They spent thousands on IRS employee hotels and benefits. Tax reform will take a backseat while this bipartisan disgrace is investigated. Things like this are what fuel American taxpayer’s disillusionment with the federal government.
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