113th Congress members behaving badly

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Thomas Jefferson had an affair with his slave Sally Hemings, Nixon covered up the bugging and burglary of the Watergate Hotel, John F. Kennedy had affairs with multiple women, including starlet Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton made intern Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress famous, and in 1982 Rep. Frederick Richmond, (D-NY) was convicted of tax evasion and possession of marijuana, the last congressman to be charged with a drug offense prior to Trey Radel (R-FL). “Since 1974 there have been at least 39 sex scandals involving sitting congressmen, senators, or presidents,” according to The Washington Post.[1] Clearly, crimes, scandals and indiscretions are not new to political culture, but members of the 113th Congress have been particularly busy in their scandalous, after hours activities. During the last two years, two congressmen have been arrested, and three have been at the center of campaign finance scandals. As Americans get ready to head to the polls this November, Ballotpedia reviews the high crimes and misdemeanors of the 113th Congress.

Members behaving badly



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Trey Radel (R-FL)

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Name: Former Rep. Trey Radel (R), Florida's 19th Congressional District
First elected: He was first elected in 2012.[2]
Accusation: Possession of cocaine.
Incriminating evidence: According to court reports, Radel bought $260 worth of cocaine from an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent in October 2013.[3]

Radel was arrested in the District of Columbia on October 29, 2013, for possession of cocaine. He was then charged on November 19, 2013, in D.C. Superior Court with misdemeanor possession of cocaine. He appeared in court on November 20, 2013.[4][5]
Excuse: Radel said that he struggles with the "disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. Believe me I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions...However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side: It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling," he went on, requesting prayers for his family. "As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them," Radel added.[6]
Consequences: Radel pleaded guilty on November 20, 2013, to misdemeanor cocaine possession.[3] He was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and fined $250.[3] Radel also entered an in-patient rehabiliation program in Florida.[3] On January 27, 2014, Radel announced his resignation from Congress.[7][8] A special election was held for Radel's seat following his resignation.[9][10]

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Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)

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Name: Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), Illinois' 2nd Congressional District
First elected: Jesse Jackson Jr. was first elected to fill the vacancy left by Mel Reynolds in 1995.[11]
Accusation: The FBI first initiated a probe in 2012 regarding suspicious activities involving Jackson's finances related to his seat in Illinois' 2nd Congressional District, including inappropriate expenditures. The investigation, along with Jackson's continued absence from campaigning in 2012, caused rumors to fly.[12]
Incriminating evidence: According to court documents, Jackson used the campaign money to buy memorabilia related to Bruce Lee, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimi Hendrix, a mink parka, and a Michael Jackson fedora and cashmere capes.[13][14]
Excuse: Jackson said in a statement at his sentencing, “I misled the American people, I misled the House of Representatives. I was wrong and I do not fault anyone.[15]

Consequences: The Justice Department filed fraud and conspiracy charges on February 15, 2013 against Jackson, saying that he used about $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses.[13] He agreed to plead guilty to the charges.[13][14] Jackson’s wife, Sandra Stevens, was also charged with one count of filing false tax returns.

Jackson reported to Butner Correctional Center on October 29, 2013, to serve a 30 month prison sentence. He will serve the sentence in the minimum security facility.[16]

A special election was held for Jackson's seat after he was forced to resign.[14][17]

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Vance McAllister (R-LA)

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Name: Rep. Vance McAllister (R), Louisiana's 5th Congressional District
First elected: Special election in 2013.
Accusation: Kissing a staffer, who was also a close family friend, at McAllister's district office headquarters.[18][19]
Incriminating evidence: Caught on security footage.
Excuse: No excuse, but threatened to involve the FBI to determine who stole the security tape from the office.[20]
Consequences: Refused to resign (despite calls from Republican leadership), but decided not to run for re-election in 2014.[21]

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Michael Grimm (R-NY)

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Name: Rep. Michael Grimm (R), New York's 11th Congressional District
First elected: Grimm was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010 from District 13. After redistricting, he ran for District 11 in 2012.[22]
Accusation: Shortly after the filing deadline for New York's 2014 Congressional election, Grimm was indicted on 20 counts for violations involving his health food restaurant, "Healthalicious." The charges included under-reporting income to evade taxes, "conspiracy, obstruction, mail fraud, perjury and the unlawful employment of illegal immigrants."[23] Grimm is also under investigation for campaign finance law violations involving Israeli rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto.
Incriminating evidence: A complete list of the evidence can be found on the indictment.[24]
Excuse: Grimm's attorney, William McGinley, stated, "the government has pursued a politically driven vendetta against Congressman Grimm" and "when the dust settles, he will be vindicated."[25] Some Republicans believe that the indictment was planned by Democrats in order to harm Grimm's chances at re-election. The indictment occurred immediately after the filing deadline, which effectively prohibited any other Republicans for running in the election.
Consequences: Grimm says that he will not resign, and that he will continue campaigning for re-election.[26]

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C.W. Bill Young (R-FL)

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Name: Former Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R), Florida's 13th Congressional District
First elected: Young was first elected in 1970. At the time of his death, he was the longest serving House Republican.
Accusation: Young's first family was excluded from mention in his obituary and from participating at his funeral.[27]
Incriminating evidence: Young was married to the former Marian Ford, and had three children from that marriage before fathering a child with Beverly Angello, his 26 year old secretary, while still married to Ford.[28] Young married Beverly Young just eight days after divorcing Ford. Most obituaries did not mention Young's first family.[28]
Excuse: At the funeral, Young's son Robert briefly mentioned his father's first family, "I would also like to say that he also has three other children who are adults." He gave their names — Pam, Terry, Kimber — and said that they are "not really speakers" and that he "didn't want to put them on the spot."[28]

Dishonorable mentions

Steve Stockman

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  • Incriminating evidence:
  • Excuse: Stockman released a statement saying, "My office is aware of and is cooperating fully with the Ethics Committee’s preliminary inquiry into an FEC reporting error." He blamed the error on an accountant and said he removed the person from that position and shut down the campaign committee.[29]
  • Consequences: Stockman unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2014. Therefore, he was not re-elected to the U.S. House. Due to the slow nature of these types of ethics investigations, Stockman will likely be out of office by the time the investigation concludes.[29]

Vern Buchanan

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  • Name: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R), Florida's 16th Congressional District
  • First elected: He was first elected to the U.S. House in 2006 from District 13.[30]
  • Accusation: Since his first campaign in 2006, Buchanan has been fighting allegations of illegal fundraising.[31] In 2012, Buchanan was at the center of an investigation regarding illegal campaign contributions.[32][33]
  • Incriminating evidence: A report from the Federal Election Commission found "reason to believe" that Buchanan "knowingly and willfully violated" federal election laws.[34] The Office of Congressional Ethics also found "substantial reason to believe" that Buchanan failed to disclose unearned income on his financial disclosure forms from 2007 to 2010.[34]
  • Excuse: Buchanan has repeatedly denied involvement in the campaign contribution schemes.[31]
  • Consequences: On July 10, 2012, Buchanan was cleared by a U.S. House Ethics Committee on allegations that he made mistakes on his financial disclosure statements.[35] However, in May 2013 three men and two companies were fined for making illegal contributions to Buchanan's campaign.[32] Buchanan's campaign also refunded refunded $90,000 in contributions tied to the investigation.[31]

Luis Gutierrez

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  • Accusation: He broke House rules by keeping a staffer-turned-lobbyist on payroll.[37]
  • Incriminating evidence: The investigation related to a "long-standing contract" involving payments to a lobbyist, Doug Scofield, who stepped down as the congressman's chief of staff in 2002, to continue advisory work with Gutierrez's staff. Gutierrez cancelled the contract in 2013 after published accounts began raising questions about the payments.

In all, between 2003 and 2012 Scofield's firm was paid more than $590,000 for services described as "training" or other "non-legislative" assistance to the Gutierrez's office.[37]

  • Excuse: Gutierrez's office claimed the contract for services was consistently and properly reported.[37] In a statement, Gutierrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin said, "As the committee points out, its review does not indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee."[37]
  • Consequences: On May 5, 2014, The House Ethics Committee decided not to move forward with a full-scale investigation into whether Gutierrez improperly paid a lobbying firm.[38] The Ethics Committee will continue to review the Gutierrez case, although there is no timetable for action. There is little chance that Gutierrez will face any kind of sanction by the Ethics Committee, although there still is a possibility that could occur.[38]

See also


  1. Washington Post, "How Republican and Democratic sex scandals differ," April 10
  2. ABC News, "2012 General Election Results," accessed November 6, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 NPR.org, "Florida Congressman Pleads Guilty To Cocaine Possession," accessed November 20, 2013
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cocaine
  5. Yahoo.com, "Fla. congressman facing cocaine possession charge," accessed November 20, 2013
  6. Lawyer Herald, "Rep. Trey Radel: Florida Congressman Speaks Out After October Arrest For Cocaine Possession Misdemeanor," accessed November 20, 2013
  7. Politico, "Trey Radel to resign House seat," accessed January 27, 2014
  8. NY Daily News, "Trey Radel to resign from Congress after cocaine scandal," accessed January 27, 2014
  9. Politico, "Trey Radel to resign House seat," accessed January 27, 2014
  10. NY Daily News, "Trey Radel to resign from Congress after cocaine scandal," accessed January 27, 2014
  11. BioGuide, "Jesse Jackson Jr.," accessed June 2, 2014
  12. Chicago Sun-Times, "Feds probe ‘suspicious activity’ in Jesse Jackson Jr.’s finances: sources," October 12, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 New York Times, "Jesse Jackson Jr. Charged in Misuse of Campaign Money," accessed February 15, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Politico, "Feds: 4 years in prison for ex-Rep. Jackson Jr.," accessed June 7, 2013
  15. Washington Post, "Jesse L. Jackson Jr. sentenced to 30 months in prison," accessed August 14, 2013
  16. WRAL, "Ex-congressman reports to North Carolina prison," accessed October 29, 2013
  17. CBS Chicago, "Former U.S. Prosecutor Negotiating Plea Deal For Jackson Jr.," November 9, 2012
  18. Politico, "Report: Video shows Vance McAllister kissing staffer," accessed April 7, 2014
  19. The Ouachita Citizen, "VIDEO: Rep. Vance McAllister in extramarital embrace," accessed April 8, 2014
  20. The News Star, "McAllister to ask for FBI probe on leaked video," accessed April 9, 2014
  21. NY Daily News, "Smooching Congressman Vance McAllister won't run for re-election," accessed April 28, 2014
  22. GovTrack, "Rep. Michael Grimm," accessed May 28, 2014
  23. USA Today, "N.Y. Rep. Grimm indicted on tax fraud charges," accessed May 28, 2014
  24. Amazon S3, "Indictment Against Michael Grimm," accessed May 28, 2014
  25. Politico, "Michael Grimm expected to be indicted," accessed May 28, 2014
  26. BuzzFeed Politics, "Michael Grimm Says He’s Not Resigning After Indictment, Vows To Win Reelection," accessed April 29, 2014
  27. FCIR, "Bill Young Obituaries Leave Out His First Family," accessed June 10, 2014
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Tampa Bay Times, "Bill Young's first family emerges to tell their story," accessed January 6, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 CNN Politics, "Ethics Committee investigating Rep. Steve Stockman," April 25, 2014
  30. Project Vote Smart, "Vern Buchanan" accessed June 12, 2013
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Tampa Bay Times, " Friend of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan evades prison time for illegal fundraising," accessed June 2, 2014
  32. 32.0 32.1 Tampa Bay Times, " FEC fines 3 men, 2 Tampa companies for illegal contributions to Rep. Vern Buchanan" accessed June 12, 2013
  33. CREWs most corrupt, "Vern Buchanan," accessed June 2, 2014
  34. 34.0 34.1 CNN.com, "Powerful congressman accused of campaign finance violations," accessed June 2, 2014
  35. Washington Post, "Vern Buchanan cleared of some ethics allegations" accessed July 10, 2012
  36. Luis V. Gutierrez Representing Illinois' 4th Congressional District, "Biography," accessed October 30, 2011
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 National Journal, "Rep. Luis Gutierrez's House Ethics Investigation Will Continue," accessed June 2, 2014
  38. 38.0 38.1 Politico, "Ethics panel won’t move forward on Luis Gutierrez," accessed May 6, 2014