17 Democrats Who Weren’t Held Accountable for Scandals by Their Constituents
I recently noted that Democrats have a tendency to not be held accountable despite incontrovertible evidence of their guilt. That got me thinking about how often it’s happened in my lifetime when a Democrat was caught or accused of something horrific, yet survived politically. It turns out, it’s pretty common. It’s a sad reflection of the lack of standards and ethics of the Democrat Party and the people who vote for them that so many of their elected leaders survive scandals in ways that Republicans typically don’t. That’s not to say all Democrats get by unscathed. Senator Al Franken, for example, did ultimately resign from the U.S. Senate following multiple allegations of sexual harassment, including one incident with photographic evidence. But, when you fast forward to today, Franken regrets his resignation, and many Democrats who joined in on calls for him to leave office have expressed regret as well. Bill Clinton is another example of someone who clearly broke multiple laws, and, while he was impeached, was not convicted by the U.S. Senate, and is generally still viewed upon favorably.
I have compiled a list of 17 Democrats who have defied commonsense, decency, and justice to survive scandals to prove that there is something horribly wrong in their party. This list, which is by no means comprehensive, demonstrates a longstanding pattern of Democrats willing to ignore depravity in their elected leaders when they reach the ballot box.
17. (Dishonorable Mention) Joe Biden (D-DE)
Between his inappropriate touching and sniffing of women and girls, and the video evidence of him bragging about a quid pro quo with Ukrainian leaders it stands to reason that Biden’s status as frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination would have been long gone. Nope. Instead, none of his rivals dared to mention the former, and have even come to his defense over the latter. If his rivals had decided to make his quid pro quo an issue, it would leave Democrat voters no excuse not to see the scandal for what it really is, and dump Biden before the general election, where he will have to answer for it. But, hammering Biden on the Ukraine issue would give credence to Trump’s attacks, which they were unwilling to do. Democrats don't seem to care one bit, despite the evidence against him.
16. (Dishonorable Mention) Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA)
When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook was unearthed and showed him and another individual dressed in blackface and a KKK uniform, there were bipartisan calls for his resignation. He didn’t, and he remains in office. He gets a dishonorable mention on this list because he hasn’t yet faced the voters in his state since the scandal, but his approval ratings have been recovering steadily since. Simply put, Northam’s gamble to ride out the storm appears to have worked.
15. (Dishonorable Mention) Justin Fairfax (D-VA)
Northam’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax also gets a dishonorable mention on this list because he hasn’t yet faced the voters of his state since facing credible allegations of sexual assault by multiple women. The allegations came on top of Northam’s scandal and things were looking pretty rough for Virginia Democrats. Fairfax faced calls for resignation and threats of impeachment, but alas, he too, has ridden out the storm, it seems.
14. Gerry Studds (D-MA)
There were two Congressmen censured by the House of Representatives in 1983 for having sexual relationships with underage congressional pages—but only one's career wasn’t ended because of it. Republican Dan Crane was rightfully defeated, while Democrat Gerry Studds was reelected six more times by his constituents before retiring in 1997.
13. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL)
The disgraced former chairwoman of the DNC may have been forced to resign that post when it was revealed under her leadership the DNC improperly favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders for their party’s nomination in 2016, but she remains in Congress today despite another scandal involving one of her IT staffers. Imran Awan remained under her employ despite being under federal investigation for equipment and data theft in the House IT network. In fact, she also stonewalled the investigation and tried to get it shut down.
12. Mel Reynolds (D-IL)
In 1994, a year and a half after taking office, congressman Mel Reynolds was indicted for sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse after having a sexual relationship with an underage campaign volunteer, whom he also solicited child pornography from. He also faced charges of obstruction of justice. Despite the charges, he continued to campaign and was reelected in 1994 after having no challenger. He only resigned from Congress after his conviction.
11. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)
During the trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich, it was revealed that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was involved in the scandal involving the selling of Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. In 2011, the House Ethics Committee was investigating Jackson’s role in the scandal. Despite the scandal, Jackson won reelection in a landslide in 2012, without even campaigning. Months earlier he had checked into the Mayo Clinic for treatment for bipolar disorder and was absent from the campaign trail ever since. Despite overwhelming approval from his district, he resigned a few weeks later and was found guilty in February 2013.
10.William J. Jefferson (D-LA)
In 2005, Congressman William Jefferson got caught up in a corruption scandal that resulted in the FBI raiding his congressional offices and his home. $90,000 in cash was discovered in his home freezer. Despite the ongoing investigation and evidence of accepting bribes, Jefferson was reelected in 2006—the same year Democrats won back Congress on an anti-corruption platform. In 2007, he was indicted on sixteen felony corruption charges, including bribery, racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. While the voters of his district turned a blind eye to his corruption in 2006, this story does have a somewhat happy ending because he did narrowly lose reelection in 2008, and was later convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
9. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Alcee Hastings is a former federal judge who accepted a $150,000 bribe, was impeached for bribery and perjury and went on to become a Democrat congressman. While in congress, Hastings was notorious for nepotism and was accused of sexual harassment, costing taxpayers $220,000 in a 2014 settlement that was kept under wraps until 2017. He made the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust’s (FACT) “Top 5 Worst Ethics Violators” that year. Hastings is still a sitting member of Congress, and despite his ethical failures, his endorsement of Kamala Harris for president was well received by her campaign.
8. Jack Murtha (D-PA)
The late Jack Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the infamous Abscam scandal. He was caught on FBI video considering taking a $50,000 bribe from who he believed to be representatives from Arab sheiks wanting to get into America. The full-length video of the damning exchange was made public in 2006. Murtha was also suspected for years of funneling earmarks to sham companies and nonprofits of his friends and allies. Despite the huge dark cloud of scandal over Murtha, he was repeatedly reelected before dying while in office in 2010.
7. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Charlie Rangel was one of those Democrats who was so corrupt but came from such a deep blue district he would never face the wrath of his constituents. He’s won his elections to Congress never less than with 80 percent of the vote, and often with over 95 percent. Not once did the voters of his districts (his represented several due to reapportionment over the years) ever give him the boot. Rangel accepted donations from companies with interests before Congress for a center to be named after himself. He repeatedly failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, including income from a beachfront villa in the Dominican Republican he owned for 20 years. He also owned four rent-controlled apartments in Harlem and was improperly using one as a campaign office. In November 2010, the House Ethics Committee found him guilty on 11 counts of violating House ethics rules, was later censured, but remained in office until January 2017, not because he was defeated at the ballot box, but because he decided not to run for reelection.
6. Barney Frank (D-MA)
In the mid-1980s, Congressman Barney Frank hired a male prostitute, named Steve Gobie, who stayed at his home and ran a prostitution service from Frank’s home. Frank claimed he didn’t know what was going on in his own home, but he still illegally paid for sex, and used his position to fix parking tickets for Gobie and for attempting to influence the terms of Gobie’s probation. Attempts to censure and expel Frank from Congress failed, but he was officially reprimanded in 1990. He was repeatedly reelected by his district until his retirement from Congress in 2013.
5. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
In 2018, Congressman Keith Ellison, who was also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, was elected state attorney general despite multiple allegations of domestic violence from his ex-girlfriend. There were medical records to support her allegation, and a corroborating witness—her son, who initially publicized the allegation on Facebook. Despite the scandal, Ellison remained Deputy Chair of the DNC until his resignation after winning his election as Attorney General of Minnesota.
4. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Multiple scandals have cast a dark cloud over Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and yet he managed to survive. In 2012, he was accused of having sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. While the media has sought to discredit these claims, federal prosecutors still believe that Menendez may be guilty. In 2015, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. Though he resigned as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he did not resign from the U.S. Senate. His trial ended in a mistrial, and he was re-elected to another six-year term in 2018.
3. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Hillary Clinton may have lost the 2016 election, but things could have been worse for her if the Justice Department under Barack Obama hadn’t been so politicized. Thanks to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, Hillary was never going to be held accountable for her illegal private server and mishandling of classified and top secret information that would have had anyone else indicted. In fact, FBI Director James Comey had drafted her exoneration letter before Hillary had even been interviewed by the FBI.
2. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Ted Kennedy pulled off the shocking feat of causing the death of a woman and leaving the scene of an accident and coming out unscathed. Sure, it ended his hopes of ever becoming president, but since the 1969 accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, he remained in the U.S. Senate until his death in 2009, having become one of its most prominent and influential members.
1. Barack Obama (D-IL)
Obama was easily the most scandal-plagued president in history, but with the help of the media you’d never know it. From the beginning of his presidency, it was clear Obama was getting a free pass to abuse power. He broke the law when he discussed the selling of his Senate seat with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, when he fired an Inspector General, and when he bribed Joe Sestak not to run for the U.S. Senate. His administration routinely obstructed investigations, gave green energy companies that donated to his campaign millions of taxpayer dollars, covered up the extent of the damage of the BP oil spill and the truth about the Benghazi attack. And that’s just a few things from his first term. Despite these scandals and the fact he failed to get the economy back on track, he was reelected in 2012. His rampant corruption continued through his second term, culminating in, perhaps, the most egregious scandal of them all, the illegal spying on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Despite his rampant corruption and lousy record as president, he’s still revered by most in the Democratic Party.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama's Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis