10 Worst Political Scandals

Alan Grayson called a Fed lobbyist a shocking slur—the latest outrage in a year packed with sex and wackos. Mark McKinnon savors Sanford’s steamy emails, Bachmann’s battiness and more.

Mary Ann Chastain / AP Photo

2009 isn’t even over yet, but has already gone down as an epic year for political misbehavior.

Just this week, the Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, the Democrats’ version of Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, was forced to apologize for calling a K Street lobbyist a “whore”; Grayson had become so radioactive in his own party that even Anthony Weiner, no shrinking violet he, suggested that his colleague was “one fry short of a Happy Meal.”

Peter Beinart: Why the Democrats Should Lose Who else joins Grayson as nominees for this year’s Political Hall of Shame awards? We’re not yet closing the nominations, but we feel confident the following have already secured their place on the ballot:

1. Do I hear $100,000? $100,000 going once...Democrat Rod R. Blagojevich, former governor of IllinoisBlagojevich served Illinois in the capacity of governor from 2003 until he was impeached January 29, 2009, by the Illinois House of Representatives following his arrest for federal corruption charges in which he tried to “auction off” Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. He was charged with bribery and attempted conspiracy of wiretapping and mail fraud. Blagojevich has proclaimed his innocence, written a book—and had his lawyers lobby to let him appear on a reality TV show.

2. “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” will never be the sameRepublican Mark Sanford, governor of South CarolinaGovernor Sanford used taxpayers' money to fund trips to South America to see his mistress. Meanwhile, a record of his very purple prose with his mistress, with whom he sought “the sparking thing,” was captured on the government’s email service and later circulated to the world. In the weirdest press conference of the year, Sanford admitted he had been unfaithful to his wife. Since then, Sanford responded to claims he used state funds to help finance his amorous adventures by reimbursing taxpayers for expenses he racked up during a visit to Argentina. Democrats and Republicans alike have sponsored impeachment measures.

3. All in the Family RepublicanJohn Ensign, U.S. senator from NevadaEnsign admitted to having an eight-month affair with campaign aide Cynthia Hampton, the wife of his Senate aide Doug Hampton, whom Ensign helped to set up a lobby practice and secure clients. Once a GOP presidential hopeful, Ensign went to great lengths to hide his affair.

4. Liar, Liar, Your Rep Is on FireRepublican Joe Wilson, U.S. representative from South CarolinaWilson received a formal rebuke from the House of Representatives for yelling out “You lie” during President Obama’s speech before both houses of Congress on September 14, 2009. Wilson subsequently apologized.

5. Bringing Back the Loyalty OathRepublican Michele Bachmann, U.S. representative from MinnesotaIt would be no surprise if Bachmann is connected somewhere on her family tree to Joseph McCarthy. She’s demanded an investigation of “anti-American” members of Congress and suggested that Obama was creating “re-education” camps through the AmeriCorps program. She has said she would consider running for president “If I felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do.” If she answers the call, we will indeed know the Lord works in mysterious ways.

6. Cold, Hard Cash. LiterallyDemocrat William Jefferson, former U.S. congressman, LouisianaJefferson was convicted this year for bribery and corruption. The FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. He was convicted on 11 counts, but surprisingly was found not guilty for the 90k. The freezer debacle did, however, forever stamp him with the moniker “Dollar Bill” Jefferson.

7. And You Are Such a Bad BoyRepublican Mike Duvall, assemblyman, CaliforniaResigned after inappropriate sex comments were broadcast over a microphone during an assembly meeting in September 2009. A couple of comments below:

• “She wears little eye-patch underwear, so I can see her eye patches. So, the other day she came here with her underwear”

• “So I am getting into spanking her… Yeah, I like it… I like spanking her. She goes, I know you like spanking me, I said yeah, that's 'cause you're such a bad girl.”

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8. Are We Clear?Elizabeth Becton, office manager for U.S. Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of WashingtonOn May 22, 2009, Becton sent a snarky email to an executive assistant at McBee Strategic in response to the individual calling her “Liz” in an email instead of Elizabeth. The emails became sensational on the blogosphere and on The Hill. Time magazine posted one particularly ironic one:

• “In the future, you should be very careful about such things. People like to brag about their connections in D.C. It's a pastime for some. It's also dangerous to eavesdrop, as you have just found out. Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth. Are we clear on this? Like I said, it's a hot button for me. And please don't call the office and do not leave a message. My colleague told me you called while I was away. ... I do sometimes leave my desk.” — Becton

9. No Country for Old MenDemocrat Alan Grayson, U.S. representative, FloridaGrayson is quickly becoming the Michele Bachmann of the Democratic Party with his outrageous and colorful comments. Among the highlights:

• During a House floor speech, Grayson stated that “Republicans want sick people to die quickly.”

• On Hardball recently, Grayson said …"I have trouble listening to what [Cheney] says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he's talking, but my response is this: He's just angry because the president doesn't shoot old men in the face. But by the way, when he was done speaking, did he just turn into a bat and fly away?"

• Recently on a radio show, Grayson called Linda Robertson, a Federal Reserve adviser, a “K Street whore. (Faced with mounting disapproval from his own colleagues, Grayson apologized for that one.)

Dishonorable Mention

Tony Soprano Alive and Well in New Jersey

New Jersey—The entire state deserves recognition. More than 44 people were arrested in July, including several political officials and rabbis charged with money laundering, sale of counterfeit goods, and corruption. Among those who have pleaded not guilty:

* Mayor Peter Cammarano, III, Hoboken, charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness.

* Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, charged with taking a $10,000 bribe.

* Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, charged with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in his failed Jersey City mayoral campaign.

* Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, charged with taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

* Edmund Nahum, the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering.

* Mordechai Fish, a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. His brother Albert Schwartz, also a rabbi, was charged as well.

Who have we missed? Who else deserves a place on this years’ ballot for the Political Hall of Shame awards?

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.