25 Biggest Political Scandals in History


Politics, as many people know, can be quite a dirty business. Because of the many perks that are included with public service, such as fame, power, money, and honor, there are certain politicians that cannot control themselves and give in to the temptations of corruption and greed. Some of the more common scandals that are mentioned in the news have to do with extramarital affairs, excessive use of funds, improper utilization of taxes, and more. But of the many crimes that have been seen in the field of politics, these are the 25 biggest political scandals in history that truly stand out.

Iran–Contra Affair

Also referred to as Irangate, the scandal involved US President Ronald Reagan’s senior administration officials secretly facilitating the sale of arms to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo. They had hoped that the arms sales would secure the release of hostages and allow U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. Unfortunately for them the plan was uncovered and led to a huge international mess.

William Jefferson Scandal

Suspecting Louisiana congressman William Jefferson of bribery, the FBI raided his congressional offices in May 2006, but he was re-elected later that year. On June 4, 2007, however, a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on sixteen felony charges related to corruption which led to a 13 year prison sentence.

North Dakota Governor William Langer

When North Dakota Governor William Langer took office in 1932, he and five co-conspirators required all state employees to donate part of their annual salaries to his political party. Collecting this money was not prohibited by state law and was a common, traditional practice. However, when donations were made by highway department employees, who were paid through federal relief programs, the US attorney charged that the donations constituted a conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He and his colleagues were eventually brought to court. Although he was convicted of a felony and told to resign as governor he ended up declaring North Dakota independent, instituting martial law, and barricading himself in the governor’s mansion until the Supreme Court would meet with him. Eventually a settlement was reached and a new governor was chosen.

The Plame Affair

On July 14, 2003, Washington Post journalist Robert Novak, from information obtained from Richard Armitage at the US State Department, effectively ended Valerie Plame’s career with the CIA (from which she later resigned in December 2005) by revealing in his column her identity as a CIA operative. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, adviser to then Vice President Dick Cheney, was eventually determined to the be source of the leak and subsequently charged.

The Appalachian Trail Lie

From June 18 until June 24, 2009, the whereabouts of politician Mark Sanford were unknown to the public, as well as to his wife and the State Law Enforcement Division, which provided security for him, garnering nationwide news coverage. He had told his staff that he would be hiking the Appalachian Trial but failed to answer any phone calls. Not long afterwards, however, reporter Gina Smith ran into him at the airport in Atlanta returning from Argentina. Apparently he had a mistress and had decided to go pay her a visit.