WASHINGTON — Despite a string of strange political stories that have drawn national attention over the last year, South Carolina owns no patent on eccentric behavior by officeholders. A sampling from recent years:
The Democratic Illinois governor was impeached and expelled from office by the state legislature in January 2009 on charges of having plotted to sell the U.S. Senate seat of President Barack Obama. Blago, as late night comics tag him, says he's a victim of injustice in the proud tradition of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. Judges in subsequent corruption trials block him from appearing on the "I'm a Celebrity" TV reality show or tweeting from the courtroom.
The Republican senator from Idaho pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in June 2007 after he was arrested at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in a men's room sting operation. Police accused him of soliciting sex from an undercover officer in the next stall by sliding his foot under the divider. Craig said he uses "a wide stance." Craig reneged on his initial promise to resign, then didn't seek re-election in 2008.
The one-time Democratic White House aspirant from North Carolina admitted in January, after months of denial, that he'd fathered a daughter with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer. A former aide says in a new book that Edwards asked him to fake paternity. The affair, begun while Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, fought breast cancer, ended their marriage and his political career.
The Democratic New York governor resigned in March 2008 after published reports that he'd frequented the Emperors Club VIP, a high-end prostitute ring. Spitzer, often cited as a future presidential candidate, had cracked down on prostitution and other vice as part of his broad anti-crime initiatives.
The Louisiana Democrat in November was sentenced to 13 years in prison, the stiffest punishment ever dealt to a congressman convicted of bribery. Prosecutors obtained key evidence in August 2005 when FBI agents raided his Washington home and "found $90,000 of the (payoff) cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers," according to an affidavit filed to support a later raid on his congressional office. A long-shot Republican defeated him in November 2008. He's appealed his conviction.
The Ohio Democrat, known for his tacky suits and bad haircuts, became just the second lawmaker to be expelled from Congress in July 2002 when the House of Representatives voted 420-1 to boot him over ethics violations. Before his expulsion, he begged fellow lawmakers to let him call witnesses to testify on his behalf. "Otherwise, I will break out of prison and I'll make a neck tie out of some of these bureaucrats," he warned. Traficant later served seven years in prison after he was convicted of taking bribes, filing false tax returns and compelling aides to do chores on his farm and houseboat.
The Washington Democrat's 2004 election to the District of Columbia Council is the latest chapter in a long and turbulent career. Barry's 12-year run as mayor came to an abrupt end in 1990 when an FBI sting operation videotaped him smoking crack cocaine with a woman at the Vista Hotel. Barry went to jail for six months. He emerged to be voted onto the D.C. Council in 1992 and elected mayor again in 1994. Following a chaotic tenure dogged by allegations of financial shenanigans, the self-proclaimed "mayor for life" didn't run in 1998.
The former Reform Party Minnesota governor, called "The Body" in his pro wrestling days, burst back into the limelight last year when he called former Vice President Dick Cheney a "chicken hawk" and explained why making terror detainees think they're drowning produces phony intelligence: "You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders." For the five years following his unlikely 1998 victory, the one-time Navy underwater demolition man's outlandish comments drew as much attention as when he'd entered the fight ring wearing pink tights.
The New York Democrat blamed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for his March resignation from the House. Massa said Emanuel launched an ethics probe of him because he opposed the Obama administration's health care overhaul. In a TV interview a day after he resigned, Massa denied that he sexually harassed male aides: "Now they're saying I groped a male staffer. Yeah, I did. Not that I groped him; I tickled him until he couldn't breathe, then four guys jumped on top of me." Explaining that it was his 50th birthday, he says the game was called "kill the old guy."
The Detroit Democrat resigned as mayor in September 2008 over a scandal that began with an alleged sex party six years earlier at the city-owned Manoogian Mansion. A whistleblower lawsuit, filed by his ex-bodyguard and a former Detroit deputy police chief, led to the release of text messages in which Kilpatrick and his female chief of staff described their sexual relationship in graphic detail and plotted how to cover it up.
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