Political scandals of the United States

From Academic Kids

This article provides a list of major political scandals of the United States.


Scope and organization of this article

Categorizing and listing scandals

Division of this article's list of American political scandals into three categories --- (1) federal; (2) state-and-local; and (3) sex ---- is somewhat arbitrary and sometimes overlapping. It seems possible that separate sub-categories could be developed, within the "federal" rubric, for example, for scandals that have emerged during the course of the confirmation hearing for a political or judicial appointee. Another approach might be to categorize American political scandals by the nature of the alleged wrongdoing (separating "private immorality" scandals, where possible, from graft, bribery, and other abuse of the public trust; or separating misconduct that led to criminal indictment, from non-criminal matters).

The arrangement of the list of federal-level scandals in this article follows a more or less chronological order; in the case of state and local scandals, the arrangement is alphabetical, by state.

Political "scandal"

It is not always clear whether a particular flap involving a politician should count as a "scandal." For example, the alcohol-related problems that have plagued Senator Ted Kennedy probably never rose to the level of a "scandal," apart from the question of drunk driving in the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident involving the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

The illegal mining of Nicaraguan harbors, and the Reagan administration's refusal to inform or consult the Senate about this, caused an enormous uproar in the Congress (including condemnations by Republican Senator Barry Goldwater), but its status as a "scandal" is debatable, even though, as a result of the U.S.-sponsored paramilitary actions in Central America, the United States in the case Nicaragua v. United States, ultimately became the only nation ever adjudged by the International Court of Justice to have been guilty of sponsoring terrorism. Scandalous though it no doubt was that United States intelligence agencies had been covertly and unlawfully engaged in terrorism, neither the World Court judgment nor the covert violent acts were treated in mainstream media exactly as a "scandal." On the other hand, the secret funding of the contras (of which the Nicaraguan harbor mining and other covert violence were part), in the context of secret negotiations with Iran concerning embassy hostages, was ultimately treated as a scandal and dubbed the Iran-Contra affair.

Andrew Johnson's unpopular approach to Reconstruction is perhaps seen as less a "scandal" than the circumstances that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, even though Johnson, like Clinton, was impeached.

"Political" scandal

Some major news stories that surely count as "scandals" are nevertheless not usually considered "political" scandals. An obvious example would be the story concerning allegations that entertainer Michael Jackson (who is not a politician or a public official, although he is a public figure) engaged in improper relations with children. Likewise, the ImClone "insider" stock investigation that led to the conviction of Martha Stewart was certainly a celebrity scandal, and there was doubtless a political dimension to her prosecution, but Martha Stewart was not acting as a public official or a politician, so her case is not normally considered a "political scandal." Again, although the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy certainly exercises political power, the recent ecclesiastical scandal involving priest sexual misconduct and alleged coverup is not directly related to federal, state, or local governments and thus is not included among "political" scandals.

Even when public officials are involved, a scandal is not always considered "political" in nature. An example of this might be the Tailhook scandal, which was generally regarded as a military, rather than a political scandal. Likewise, the 2004 photographs of degradation and alleged torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were viewed by some to implicate highly placed Defense Department officials, but the events at Abu Ghraib were generally treated as a matter for military discipline rather than as a political scandal.

"Major" political scandal

There is no bright line to distinguish "major" scandals from "minor" scandals. The nature of the particular act or occasion of wrongdoing need not be great, but the consequences (such as resulting notoriety, resignation, etc.) are normally significant. For example, a single "innocent" remark by then U.S. Senate majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi in appreciation of Strom Thurmond on the occasion of Senator Thurmond's 100th birthday ultimately brought attention to Senator Lott's poor record on civil rights and associated him with white supremacy and racial segregationism, which ultimately caused this powerful political leader to step down from his role as majority leader.

This article includes a category of scandals on the "state and local" levels; this suggests a relative scale concerning the extent to which a scandal must be publicized or celebrated in order to be deemed "major."

At times, investigative news coverage of a political scandal may itself be considered scandalous if it is deemed to violate journalistic standards, as happened in 2004 in connection with allegations that CBS News and Dan Rather were negligent or malicious in allowing fabricated military records to be used in connection with a report of allegedly dishonorable conduct by President George W. Bush in avoiding his military service obligations. Even though the falsified records in question were only a tiny part of the evidence and were corroborated by other testimony and documents, the focus suddently shifted from the alleged dereliction of duty on the part of Mr. Bush, to Dan Rather's irresponsible, improper, and possibly biased, authentication of a particular set of records. Similarly, an official investigation into alleged wrongdoing can itself come to be viewed as scandalously wrong if it appears to be politically motivated. An example of this is the perception, especially among supporters of President Bill Clinton, of malicious abuse of prosecutorial powers in the investigations conducted by Kenneth Starr, which ranged from Whitewater to Travelgate to Filegate to the Monica Lewinsky matter. Another example of "scandalmongers" becoming scandalous might be the abuses and excesses of the Joseph McCarthy anti-communist witchhunt.


A frequent element of major political scandals is stonewalling, and often a cover-up is involved, which in some cases can even lead to formal criminal charges of obstruction of justice or perjury. In many cases, the "damage control" denials and other deception involved in efforts to "cover up" a scandal became themselves more scandalous, and more damaging to political careers, than the underlying problem. As embarrassing to the Nixon administration as the Watergate burglary was, what ultimately caused him to resign was the erosion of congressional support as it came to light that Nixon and his associates were concealing information and destroying evidence.

Campaign attacks distinguished

A distinction should perhaps be drawn, between allegations in negative campaign ads, and political scandals. It has become commonplace for the campaigns or the surrogates of political candidates to accuse opposing candidates of scandalously unworthy behavior. Although some of this mudslinging can on occasion lead to investigations that bear fruit as scandal, more often than not the purpose of such ads is simply to create a temporary negative association with a certain candidate, only long enough to influence an upcoming election. In the race for the 1988 Democratic nomination, campaign attacks were launched against various candidates, including allegations of plagiarism by Senator Joe Biden, and allegations of attack videos secretly prepared by the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis, etc., but it appears that few of these campaign allegations (even when substantiated) were widely considered to consititute major political scandals. On the other hand, one Democratic hopeful in 1988, Gary Hart, famously withdrew from the race after being caught in the Donna Rice "Monkey Business" illicit sex scandal, which was apparently deemed sufficiently salacious to qualify as a major political scandal.

Contemporaneous notoriety versus historical research

A distinction can be drawn, between scandals that were widely publicized close to the time, and information about improprieties that did not surface until some time later. For example, rumors that either President John F. Kennedy or his brother Robert F. Kennedy had a sexual affair with Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe did not become widespread until after all three were dead. Another example of delayed publicity is Thomas Jefferson's alleged relationship with Sally Hemings, which remained relatively unknown for nearly two centuries before it became widely publicized. In the more recent case of prominent white supremacist Senator Strom Thurmond, whose long political career had been built upon racial segregationism, it was not until after his death in 2000 (at age 100) that Essie Mae Washington-Williams came forward to reveal that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, who had impregnated her then-16-year-old mother, an African-American maid working for the Thurmond family in the 1920's.

On the contemporaneous end of the spectrum, Grover Cleveland's fathering of a child out of wedlock while he was Governor of New York was widely reported in his own day and became something of a campaign issue in the 1884 presidential election. Likewise, Cleveland's White House marriage to 21-year-old Frances Folsom raised some journalistic eyebrows at the time, as did rumors that he beat his wife.

Systemic scandals

Not included in this article are pervasive systemic scandals, such as the role of money in the political process.

Campaign finance

Some supporters of grass roots democracy have called the dominance of campaign contribution money in the political process the "great scandal" of modern democracy. Details of this systemic scandal are well documented by the Federal Election Commission, the Center for Responsive Politics, and elsewhere. Thus, except for the more extreme or celebrated cases of outright quid-pro-quo bribery, the "normal" purchase of access and influence by means of political donations is not covered in this article.

"Revolving door" conflicts of interest

An increasing phenomenon is the facility with which government officials have come to move between serving in public office and working for private interests. Former members of Congress often join private lobbying firms upon leaving Congress; policymakers and other appointees to regulatory agencies are often selected from within the industries those agencies are charged with regulating, and then the "public servants" often quickly slip back into their private roles at the end of the appointment. Because private interests may well be at odds with the public interest, this situation has at times been widely viewed as a systemic political scandal. Rules designed to slow down this so-called "revolving door" process have had no substantial effect on this practice. And even some of the more celebrated instances of this type of conflict of interest, such as President Ronald Reagan's acceptance of a million dollar speaking fee from Japanese company, Fujisankei Communications Group, after leaving office, or large book advances for the Clintons, have come to be treated simply as routine practice rather than as "political scandals."

Corporate scandals, including accounting scandals

Because of the close connection between certain politicians and certain corporations, some corporate accounting scandals that have come to light in recent years could reasonably be considered political scandals. For example, both the Enron scandal and the Harken Energy scandal implicated close associates of President George W. Bush. Occasionally a particular episode of corporate fraud will be treated as a "political scandal," but the widespread extent of corporate wrongdoing, and the systemic influence of corporate power on politics, would make it difficult to present a comprehensive account of all "political scandals" involving corporate misconduct.

Salacious Gossip versus Crisis of Legitimacy

News coverage of some of the more sensationalized political scandals has tended to focus on salacious details, resembling gossipy tabloid coverate of Hollywood celebrity scandals. On the other hand, some political scandals have been treated more soberly as crises implicating the legitimacy of government. In either case, it is widely believed that political scandals are capable of profoundly undermining the credibility of government, in the public mind.

List of scandals

Federal-level Scandals

  • King George III and Thomas Hutchinson, royal governor of Massachusetts, accused in the Declaration of Independence (1776) of outrageous wrongdoing and abuses against fundamental rights
  • Conway Cabal (1777-1778)
  • Yazoo land scandal (1790s)
  • Aaron Burr duel with Alexander Hamilton (1804); See also Burr's "New Empire" conspiracy
  • Judge John Pickering impeached and convicted in absentia by U.S. Senate for drunkenness and use of profanity on the bench (1804)
  • Aaron Burr New Empire (Southwest) conspiracy (1804-1807) and treason trial (1807)
  • James Wilkinson conspiracies (1787-1811)
  • Corrupt Bargain (1824)
  • Swartwout-Hoyt scandal involving the Port of New York Collectors' Office, became a struggle between President John Tyler and Congress concerning authority to appoint and pay investigative commissioners (1841-1842)
  • Simon Cameron, war profiteer (1860-1862)
  • Tammany Hall (1854-1934)
  • Star Route Frauds postal contract corruption involving Arkansas Sen. Stephen W. Dorsey, who became Secretary of the Republican National Committee during James A. Garfield's 1880 presidential campaign (1876-1882)
  • Gould-Fisk scandal (1869)
  • Crédit Mobilier of America scandal (1872)
  • Salary Grab Act (1873)
  • Whiskey Ring (1875)
  • Senator-elect La Fayette Grover implicated (1878) in vote-rigging scheme while Governor of Oregon: See State and local-level scandals
  • Ezra Ayres Hayt, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, forced to resign by Secretary of Insterior Carl Schurz due to allegations of rampant corruption (1880)
  • Dakota Territorial Governor Nehemiah Ordway indicted on corruption charges (1884) and removed by President Arthur
  • Gold Conspiracy
  • Santo Domingo
  • Sanborn Contract
  • Bribing of Belknap (William Belknap)
  • Newport Sex Scandal (1919) Franklin Delano Roosevelt accused of tie to homosexuality at Naval base (Consider moving to Sex scandal category)
  • Teapot Dome scandal (1922)
  • Ford-Coolidge Deal (1922-1924)
  • Department of Justice tax scandal (1951-1952) leading to the firing or forced resignations of 166 employees of the agency; investigations were widely regarded as a systematic cover-up for high-level wrongdoing
  • McCarthyism (1948-1954)
  • Vicuna Coat scandal of Eisenhower's chief of staff Llewelyn S. Adams (1958); See State and Local level (New Hampshire)
  • Billy Sol Estes (1961)
  • Bobby Baker (1963) aide to LBJ was involved with underworld figures
  • Adam Clayton Powell of New York expelled from Congress (1967) but re-elected anyway
  • Senator Thomas J. Dodd censured for financial misconduct and corruption (1967)
  • Supreme Court Associate Justice Abe Fortas resigns in financial scandal (1969) that emerged during his nomination to become Chief Justice
  • Harold Carswell nominated by President Nixon as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court withdrew (1970) after publication of a speech 20 years earlier: "I yield to no man . . . in the firm, vigorous belief in the principles of white supremacy."
  • John Connally Milk Money scandal
  • Pentagon Papers (1971)
  • Watergate scandal (1972-1973)
  • Nixon Jewelry (1974) Violation of Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act of 1881, as amended in 1966.
  • Spiro T. Agnew scandal (1973)
  • Judge Otto Kerner, Jr. resigned U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (1974) after exhausting appeals in conviction for bribery, mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion while Kerner was Governor of Illinois
  • Nixon Pardon (1977)
  • Lancegate President Carter's OMB Director Bert Lance resignation amidst allegations of misuse of funds (1977)
  • Koreagate alleged bribery of more than 100 members of Congress by South Korean government; charges were pressed only against congressmen Richard T. Hanna (convicted) and Otto E. Passman (not prosecuted because of illness); also involved was Tongsun Park (South Korean President Park Chung Hee)
  • Betty Ford addictions (1978)
  • Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia punished after his ex-wife produced cash "gifts" he had hidden in an overcoat (1979); Talmadge later wrote, "I wish I'd burned that damn overcoat and charged everything on American Express." Talmadge the same year admitted to having spent five weeks in alcohol rehabilitation; he was not re-elected to the Senate in 1980.
  • Abscam (1980)
  • Debategate (1980)
  • October Surprise (1980)
  • Anne Gorsuch Burford refusal to turn over EPA documents (1982)
  • William Casey insider trading (1983)
  • Iran-Contra affair (1985-1986)
  • Savings and loan scandal and the Keating Five (1980-1989): Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, Don Riegle, John Glenn, and John McCain
  • "Pothead jurist," 1987: President Reagan's first controversial nominee to replace Justice Powell was Judge Robert Bork. Judge Bork, who coincidentally had fired Archibald Cox in the Nixon-era Saturday Night Massacre, was rejected for his allegedly extreme judicial philosophy; the second nominee was Judge Douglas Ginsberg, who had to drop out of consideration after he admitted having smoked marijuana while a Harvard Law School professor.
  • Senator John Tower's nomination as Defense Secretary derailed due to allegations of habitual and extreme alcohol abuse and improper ties to defense industry (1987)
  • Mario Biaggi convicted (1988) in Wedtech scandal of bribery, extortion, racketeering, filing a false tax return, mail fraud, and false financial disclosure; resigned from U.S. House before he could be expelled
  • Speaker of the U.S. House Jim Wright from Texas forced to resign after ethics committee investigation found dozens of violations of House rules, including alleged improper receipt of $145,000 in gifts by Wright's wife from a Fort Worth developer and large profits from "sale" of Wright's speeches (1989)
  • Anthony Lee Coelho of California resigns from U.S. House for unethical finance practices including "junk bond" deal (1989)
  • Alcee Hastings, federal district court judge impeached (1989) and convicted of soliciting a bribe; subsequently elected (1992) to U.S. House
  • Senator David Durenberger denounced by Senate for unethical financial transactions (1990)
  • Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal implicates former Defense Secretary and Washington insider Clark Clifford (1991)
  • House Bank scandal (1992)
  • Mary Rose Oakar (1992) allegations of "ghost employees" on payroll
  • Travelgate (1993)
  • Zoe Baird's nomination as Attorney General and Kimba Wood's subsequent near-nomination were derailed by past employment of illegal aliens as nannies. (1993)
  • Walter Fauntroy, Delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia, guilty plea regarding lying on financial disclosure form (1995)
  • Wes Cooley (1996)
  • Walter R. Tucker III of California resigned before bribery conviction (1996)
  • Secretary of Agriculture Michael Espy forced to resign from office despite ultimate acquittal on criminal corruption charges (1998)
  • Bruce Babbitt, Interior Secretary, independent probe (1998-2000) of alleged lying to Congress concerning influence of money in 1995 American Indian tribe casino decision finds no criminally prosecutable perjury by Babbitt
  • Vice-President Al Gore (1998) allegations of improper fundraising and "no controlling legal authority" defense
  • Whitewater scandal (1994-2000)
  • Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich financial improprieties
  • Dan Rostenkowski post office scandal (1994)
  • Henry Cisneros resigns as Housing Secretary and, after lengthy probe that began in 1995, pleads guilty (1999) to lying to the FBI about money he paid former mistress Linda Medlar a.k.a. Linda Jones; later pardoned by President Clinton in 2001 (Possibly reclassify or cross-reference to Sex scandal)
  • Pardongate (1999, 2001)
  • Linda Chavez, nomination as Secretary of Labor derailed by past employment of illegal alien. (2001)
  • Jim Traficant financial corruption conviction and expulsion from House (2002)
  • Robert Torricelli bribery scandal (2002)
  • Trent Lott resigned as Senate majority leader amid racial controversy
  • Yellowcake forgery false evidence presented in case for 2003 invasion of Iraq (2003)
  • Valerie Plame affair (2004)
  • Halliburton Company (2000-2004)
  • Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal (2004-2005)
  • Tom Delay, reprimanded twice by House Ethics Committee and indictments of aides (2004-2005)
  • Bernard Kerik, nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security derailed by past employment of illegal alien as nanny, and amid allegations of various other ethical improprieties. (2004)
  • Bush administration payment of columnists including Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus (2004-2005)
  • Downing Street Memo minutes of U.K. government secret meeting (dated 23 July 2002, leaked 2005) include summary of MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove's report that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." As of June 2005, it is too early to tell whether the scandal that President Bush was not truthful to the Congress will continue to grow and could reach impeachment proportions, or will simply fade away.

State and Local-Level Scandals

  • Alabama Governor Harold Guy Hunt convicted of improperly using campaign money and removed from office (1993)
  • Arizona Governor Evan Mecham impeached and removed from office 1988, faced with recall, pending criminal charges for illegal financial dealings (of which he was later acquitted), and public outcry over his derogatory remarks about African-Americans and gays, and his cancelation of Arizona's observance of the Martin Luther King holiday (which led to a boycott of Arizona by various groups)
  • Arizona "AZSCAM" legislators caught on videotape taking payoffs for favors to gambling figure
  • Arizona Governor John Fife Symington III convicted of fraud (1997)
  • Arkansas Governor James Guy Tucker, Jr., convicted of fraud conspiracy (1996); See related Whitewater scandal, under Federal-Level Scandals
  • Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton investigated for corruption but cleared (1868-1871)
  • Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton: See Federal-level scandals, which dogged President Clinton
  • California San Francisco Mayor Eugene Edward Schmitz convicted of graft and bribery, including misconduct during the Great Earthquake (1906-1907); convictions later overturned on appeal
  • Connecticut Republican Governor John Rowland Bribery (http://slate.msn.com/id/2102799/)
  • District of Columbia Democratic Mayor Marion Barry caught on videotape using drugs in an FBI sting
  • Florida Governor Harrison Reed subjected to three separate impeachment inquiries (1868-1872)
  • Illinois Republican Governor George H. Ryan involved in sale of government licenses and contracts while he was Secretary of State
  • Illinois Governor Lennington "Len" Small, associate of Al Capone, embezzled, sold pardons, etc., but was never convicted
  • Illinois Chicago alderman "Bathhouse John" Coughlin graft operation with fellow alderman Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna, the so-called "Lords of the Levee" extracting protection payments from gambling and prostitution
  • Illinois Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson, years of ongoing corruption
  • Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. bribery, mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion: see Federal-Level Scandals, as Kerner was found out and convicted after becoming a federal judge
  • Operation Greylord in Illinois, involving influence peddling and bribery of Circuit Court judges (1980s)
  • Indiana Governor Warren McCray: forced to resign after conviction for mail fraud (1924)
  • Indiana Governor Edward F. Jackson: taking bribes and trying to bribe a previous Governor on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan (1928)
  • Kansas Governor Charles Robinson impeached but acquitted of state bond scheme (1862)
  • Kentucky State Treasurer James Williams "Honest Dick" Tate ran off with the entire state treasury and was impeached (1888)
  • Kentucky 1899 gubernatorial election dispute leading to armed conflict and assassination of William Goebel (1900)
  • Louisiana Governor Richard Webster Leche convicted (1940) of using the mails to defraud the state by the sale of trucks to the Highway Department
  • Louisiana Democratic Governor Earl Long committed to insane asylum while in office
  • Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards convicted of extortion (2000)
  • Maryland State Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr., convicted of food stamp fraud, 1983
  • Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel convicted of mail fraud and racketeering (1977)
  • Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew (see Federal-level Scandals, as his gubernatorial misconduct did not catch up to him until after he was Vice-President of the United States)
  • Maryland politician Ruthann Aron (Montgomery County Council and former 1994 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate) who ran on a "tough on crime" platform convicted of hiring "contract" hit man William H. Mossburg Jr., in 1997, to kill her husband and a lawyer (1998)
  • Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller telephoning Maryland Court of Appeals Judges ex parte, trying to lobby them not to overturn the unconstitutional redistricting plan he had championed (2002)
  • Massachusetts politician James Michael Curley, various allegations of corruption and a few convictions in first half of twentieth century
  • Minnesota Minneapolis city council members Brian Herron (taped by FBI accepting $10,000 bribe in 2001) and Joe Biernat (accepting free plumbing work on house)
  • Minnesota Democratic consultant and businessman Pat Forciea convicted of extensive bank fraud charges
  • Mississippi Governor John A. Quitman resigned (1851) after indictment for violation of Neutrality Act in connection with Cuban insurrection against Spain (later acquitted of charges)
  • Missouri Thomas J. Pendergast "machine boss" in Kansas City convicted of tax fraud (1939)
  • Nebraska Governor David C. Butler impeached and removed from office (1871)
  • New Hampshire former Governor Llewelyn Sherman Adams Chief of Staff to President Eisenhower forced from office in "Vicuna Coat" scandal involving giving special favors to givers of gifts (1958)
  • New Jersey Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague resigns as mayor (1947) amid accusations of widespread corruption; resigns other party offices later on
  • New Jersey Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey sex and corruption scandal (2004)
  • New York Tammany Hall (1854-1934) See Federal-level scandals, because the influence of the New York City political machine was felt at the national level
  • North Carolina Governor William Woods Holden impeached and removed from office in corruption scandal (1870)
  • North Dakota Governor William Langer removed from office (1934) for alleged racketeering
  • Dakota Territorial Governor Nehemiah Ordway corruption (1884) See Federal-level scandals.
  • Ohio Cincinnati City Council member (and later Mayor) Jerry Springer resigned (1974) after vice investigation uncovered personal check he had paid a prostitute
  • Ohio Summit County Probate Judge James V. Barbuto corruption by trading sexual favors with female defendants for leniency in their cases, exposed on national TV by Geraldo Rivera (1980) (classified here because it was less a Sex Scandal than a "crooked judge" scandal, although Geraldo played up Judge Barbuto's preference for being spanked while wearing women's undergarments)
  • Oklahoma Governor John C. Walton impeached and removed (1923)
  • Oklahoma Governor Harry S. Johnston impeached twice, second time convicted and removed (1928-1929)
  • Oklahoma Governor David Lee Walters pleaded guilty to misdemeanor election law violation (1993)
  • Oregon Governor La Fayette Grover (later U.S. Senator) implicated, but eventually exonerated, in vote-rigging scheme to give Oregon's electoral votes in the 1876 presidential election to Democrat Samuel Tilden
  • Pennsylvania State Treasurer Budd Dwyer committed suicide on television before he was to be sentenced on bribery and related convictions (1987)
  • Rhode Island Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci convicted of racketeering conspiracy (2002)
  • Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton loses his reelection bid after exposure of a bribery scandal, (1976-1979)
  • Texas Governor James Edward Ferguson impeached and removed from office for financial misconduct (1917)
  • Texas Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, first woman elected Governor of a state in the U.S. and wife of the removed ex-governor, was implicated in the same financial improprieties that had brought "Pa" down and lost the Democratic primary in 1926
  • Texas George Parr, the so-called "Duke of Duval County," suspected but never convicted of various illegal activities, including ballot box stuffing and fraud (1905-1975)
  • Texas The Veterans Land Board Scandal tainted many prominent state politicians, including Governor Allan Shivers. (1954)
  • Sharpstown scandal in Texas (1971-1972)
  • Wisconsin Governor William Augustus Barstow resigned 1856 amid invesigation of corrupt business practices and election wrongdoing

Sex Scandals

See also, Accusations of rape against U.S. presidents


Grossman, Mark. Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed. (2003).


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