David Wu Scandal: Which Party Has the Most Sex Scandals?

The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine if the GOP or the Dems have bigger problems with impropriety.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

It’s unclear if Herman Cain’s presidential campaign can withstand reports of sexual harassment, but his camp has acknowledged that something happened. There’s little in the way of definitive, historical precedent. President Clinton’s managed to get elected and stay in office through two sex scandals, while countless other political careers have been irreparably decimated.

Cain joins a long list of politicians whose improprieties—alleged and admitted—have aired in the last couple of years. Anthony Weiner’s weinergate comes to mind, as does The Governator’s love child, former Republican New York Representative Chris Lee’s Craigslist-laced resignation , Rep. Mark Souder’s office-ousting affair with a female staffer, and “Tickle Me Eric” Massa’s career-ending transgressions.

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 (34 to 29), 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.


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)


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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)


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)


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

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

Lean Democrat (7-4)


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)


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 (6-4)