article

03.29.10

In Sex Scandals, GOP Trumps Democrats

With Rep. Anthony Weiner’s admission of “inappropriate” electronic relationships, another pol is embroiled in scandal. The Daily Beast crunched the numbers to determine whether Democrats or Republicans have bigger problems with impropriety.

It’s still unclear whether Anthony Weiner’s political (or marital) future will be hampered by his tear-filled admission to sending semi-racy texts and Twitter messages to women. While Weiner’s staff pulled the now-standard tactic of announcing the flash was the mark of a hacker, he admitted that the explanation was designed to mask his embarrassment. “The picture was of me and I sent it,” confessed Weiner.

Gallery: Ranking the Worst Political Sex Scandals

Two things about the Weinergate make today’s scandal a bit different than the majority of political fallouts: He’s a Democrat and he’s not resigning.

But Weiner joins a long list of politicians who have recently revealed improprieties and extramarital flirtations. Of course, The Governator’s love child comes to mind, but former Republican New York Representative Chris Lee resigned less than three months ago after Craigslist “mistakes” went mainstream, last May Rep. Mark Souder, an eight-term Republican from Indiana, resigned after having an affair with a female staffer, and “Tickle Me Eric” Massa burst onto the public stage last March—only to be shuffled out of the House of Representatives.

With every other issue devolving into partisan finger-pointing, The Daily Beast thought it would use two decades of cold, hard data and rational methodology to answer the question everyone in Washington wants to know: Which party has more problems with sex scandals?

After studying more than 60 scandals over the past 20 years involving all politicians or major candidates for city mayor and above—many involved crimes, others just allegations, but all wound up as tabloid fodder—some conclusions can be reached.

• The number of sex scandals has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to technology, new press standards, and a post-Clinton belief that everything is fair game.

• Republicans have more scandals (35 to 28), but Democrats have bigger ones, based on our methodology (13 out of the top 20).

• Democrats tend to have more problems with harassment, staffers, and underage girls; Republicans tend to have more problems with prostitutes, hypocrisy, and underage boys.

To offer some clarity, we’ve broken the scandals into categories, and graded them Cook Report-style. We also ranked all sex scandals overall, using a methodology that accounted for whether a crime was committed, versus inappropriate behavior; whether the charges were proven, versus alleged; the level of office held; and whether the incident involved children, staff, a cover-up or hypocrisy.

Prostitution

This category combines both those who solicited a prostitute but for whatever reason did not accept—think former Idaho Senator Larry Craig—and those who went ahead and became johns. Republicans by a count of six-to-one have been involved in prostitution scandals. For our rankings, soliciting prostitution without accepting it was weighted slightly lower than becoming a john.

Solid Republican (6-1)

Staffer

There’s a clear abuse of power when a politician and his employee is involved in a sex scandal. Democrats, by a count of 16 to six, have seemingly leveraged that power imbalance more.

Solid Democrat (16-6)

Hypocrisy

Almost half the sex scandals we turned up involved someone saying one thing while doing another. The earliest example was womens’ rights champion Robert Packwood, who in 1992 was infamously slapped with several sexual-harassment and abuse charges from former female staffers.

Solid Republican (17-9)

Sexual harassment

Whether threats or phone calls, it’s mostly been Democrats.

Solid Democrat (9-2)

Adultery

Bipartisanship? More of a personal ethical issue rather than a legal one, the adultery category is the most populated, with Republicans and Democrats nearly even, with the Schwarzenegger scandal tipping the category to the Republicans.

Lean Republican (21-20)

Inappropriate conduct with a minor

This type of scandal indicates at the least a serious flaw or lapse in judgment. The most infamous example is former Representative Mark Foley, who exchanged sexually charged emails and instant messages with underage pages. Two Republicans and one Democrat have been involved in this type of scandal.

Lean Republican (2-1)

Sexual relations with a minor

Far more serious than above: the most serious charge, in fact, among all recent political sex scandals. Conviction carries more than a decade in jail, based on federal sentencing guidelines.

Toss up (3-3)

Out-of-wedlock child

Three Republicans have confirmed having children as a result of extramarital affairs, compared to one Democrat. Of course, Schwarzenegger is the latest.

Solid Republican (3-1)

Sexual assault

Six Democrats have faced allegations of sexual assault, compared to four for Republicans.

Lean Democrat (6-4)

Cuckolding

Republicans have had four scandals involving an affair with a married woman—compared to one for Democrats. The only woman on this list, Helen Chenoweth, created a cuckquean (who knew?) out of her lover’s wife.

Solid Republican (4-1)

Coverup

Either with money or behind-the-scenes wrangling or just weak denial lies, six Republicans have been caught covering up a sex scandal, compared with three Democrats, with payoffs ranging from $150,000 or a job for a spouse to, allegedly, $20.

Lean Republican (6-3)

Clark Merrefield was the lead reporter on this project.