The Year in Scandals
Correction: A previous version of this post misidentifed the Menedez staff member who was arrested for stealing an opposing candidate’s signs while on loan to a local campaign. It was the assistant to his chief of staff.
2012 was not short on political scandals. Here's our rundown, from Desjarlais to Jackson.
-- Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.: The former Chicago congressman disappeared from the House in June without explanation, with his office releasing only cryptic messages for weeks before revealing that the congressman was being treated for bipolar disorder at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic. Jackson won reelection handily without emerging -- his only contact with constituents in the lead-up to the election was a robocall urging patience. Reports surfaced that Jackson, who had been under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics, was under federal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds, and on November 21 Jackson submitted his resignation to House Speaker John Boehner. Numerous Chicago-area Democrats are now competing in a special election called to replace him.
-- Former Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich.: McCotter abruptly resigned July 6 after failing to qualify for his party’s primary, a rare feat for an incumbent. McCotter’s team had turned in twice the required number of petition signatures, but most were disqualified, leaving him far short and ultimately yielding fraud charges against four McCotter staffers. Shortly before his resignation, it was also revealed that McCotter, who had waged a short-lived presidential campaign, collaborated with his brother on a vulgar television script. Three of the four former McCotter aides pleaded guilty in the case, and the fourth is due in court for pre-trial proceedings in early January.
-- Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.: A physician and social conservative, DesJarlais was dogged in the waning days of the 2012 campaign by the publication of a transcript of a phone call in which he urged a former patient with whom he had an affair to obtain an abortion. DesJarlais won the general election, but following the election, trial transcripts from DesJarlais’ 2001 divorce revealed affairs with eight women and the "mutual decision" for his former wife to terminate two pregnancies. While unlike Jackson and McCotter he remains in office, he is certain to face a strong primary challenge (or perhaps multiple challengers, in his heavily Republican district) in 2014.
-- CIA Director David Petraeus: Petraeus resigned just days after the general election, after a stunning admission of an extramarital affair with his biographer. The scandal only grew in the following days, with revelations of threatening emails from the biographer, Paula Broadwell, to a perceived romantic rival, Florida socialite Jill Kelley, and thousands of pages of correspondence between Kelley and Petraeus’s successor in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.
-- Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.: Despite winning reelection easily, it was a rough year for the New Jersey Democrat. He faced allegations from a conservative publication that he patronized prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic, where the profession is legal. A month earlier, a former intern was arrested in a drug sting, and the assistant to his chief of staff, on leave to aid a local campaign, was arrested for stealing an opposing candidate’s signs. Finally, in December, federal immigration officials arrested an intern from Menendez’s Newark office, revealing that the teenager was an illegal immigrant and a registered sex offender. Reports of a Homeland Security directive to delay the arrest until after the election invited additional scrutiny, though the department denied any such delay.
-- D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray: Federal prosecutors investigating the 2010 campaign of Gray in March raided the offices of former city Medicaid contractor and Democratic donor Jeffrey Thompson, who is suspected of having funded a “shadow campaign” to elect Gray. Thompson associate Eugenia Harris in July pleaded guilty to funneling money from straw donors to Gray’s campaign. Former Gray aide Thomas Gore and Howard Brooks in May pleaded guilty to campaign finance and obstruction charges, and are reportedly cooperating with prosecutors, leading to speculation that Gray is still the ultimate target of the investigation.