Political Scandals In The Spotlight

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The scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley's contacts with teenage male pages isn't the first to hit Capitol Hill. Here are a few other Congressional scandals that have made news since the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s:


Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into a creek on Chappaquiddick Island on July 19, 1969. His passenger, a campaign worker named Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in the crash.

Kennedy created a storm of controversy because he left the scene of the accident and did not report it to the police until many hours later. Kennedy said in the police report that the reason for his delay in reporting the accident was because he was "confused and in shock." However, rumors spread that Kennedy was not being honest about what happened on that night. He was never officially accused of wrongdoing, however.


The media uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal in November 1986. The complicated affair consisted of three parts: The Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, which was seeking out materials for a lengthy war against Iraq. In exchange for the arms, Iran was to use its influence to help negotiate the release of American hostages held in Lebanon. The third element involved the funds raised by the selling of the arms, which were channeled to Nicaraguan rebels ("Contras") fighting against the Sandinista government.

These actions by the Reagan administration violated a number of American laws and policies: Arms sales to Iran were prohibited; the U.S. government had forbidden ransom for hostages; and it was illegal to fund the Contras above Congressional limits.

There were three investigations into the Iran-Contra scandal. The first was by a commission appointed by President Reagan, the second by Congress (which was televised in 1987) and a final inquiry by a special federal prosecutor.

Several members of the Reagan administration were convicted on charges brought by the prosecutor, including Mr. Reagan's national security adviser, Adm. John Poindexter, and his deputy, Lt. Col. Oliver North, whose conviction was later set aside on appeal.

Bob Packwood

Bob Packwood was first elected to the Senate in 1968 as a Republican from Oregon. He was re-elected four consecutive times and became chair of the powerful Finance Committee — but he resigned his seat in September 1995, after the Senate's Ethics Committee recommended that he be expelled.

Twenty-nine women, many of them congressional aides and interns, accused the senator of sexual misconduct — including charges of groping, forced kissing and propositioning sex. The Ethics Committee found evidence supporting 17 of those claims. They also held Packwood accountable for other charges, including using his influence to get a job for his wife and altering his personal diary to help hide his misconduct.

The Ethics Committee released 10,000 documents and diary excerpts to illustrate the depth of Packwood's violations. However, despite the lengthy list of allegations against Packwood, the Justice Department refused to pursue prosecution.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham

Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for taking $2.4 million in homes, yachts and other bribes in a corruption scheme unmatched in the annals of Congress. Cunningham, a Republican, represented San Diego-area districts for 15 years.

Cunningham's sentence, handed down March 3, 2006, was described by attorneys for both sides as the longest prison sentence ever given to a member of Congress. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns spared him the 10-year maximum after the defense asked for six years.

Cunningham also was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for back taxes. He also must forfeit an additional $1.85 million for cash bribes he received, plus the proceeds from the sale of his mansion.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors and others in exchange for steering government contracts their way. They included a Rolls-Royce, a yacht, homes, travel, meals, Persian rugs valued at $40,000 each and various antique furnishings.

James Traficant

James Traficant was an Ohio Democrat who served nine terms in the House of Representatives. He was expelled from the House in July 2002 after being found guilty of accepting cash bribes and other kickbacks.

Traficant also was found guilty of requiring his staff members to do chores for him. The vote to expel him was 420-1. After Traficant was kicked out of the House, he faced sentencing for the 10 counts of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering he was found guilty of. Even though he had no legal training, he defended himself throughout the trial, but finally hired lawyers for the sentencing. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, which was more then prosecutors had been pursuing.

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