By all accounts, 2013 was a pretty frustrating year in politics. A do-nothing Congress plagued media coverage of Washington D.C., and was spiced up only by the decently frequent scandals that punctuated an otherwise slow-moving year. With that in mind, and so that these unfortunate events can fuel the hate-fire of voters in 2014, here are the 11 biggest political scandals that showed up this year.
Here’s one that had all the makings of a scandal, but then wasn’t. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — who is still in office — is a straight-laced Mormon who had previously said he didn’t drink because of his religion, but was caught drunk-driving by Alexandria Va. police at the tail-end of 2012. While the start of this scandal started last year, it bled significantly into 2013. Crapo took responsibility for the incident and launched an apology tour around Idaho at the start of the year, which is probably the only reason he was able to come out of this semi-unscathed. He’s planning on running for reelection in 2016.
Imagine this scandal: The adult daughter of a New Mexico senator discovers she is pregnant out of wedlock — and the father is a rising star in New Mexico politics. Someone stop the presses – this is a big deal. Too bad it didn’t come to light until 30 years later. The secret father, Pete Domenici, managed to keep his son a secret while serving six terms in the senate and only let it slip five years after he retired. So, while the scandal could have been much higher up the list 30 years ago, it’s getting ranked 10th today.
Anthony Weiner rocketed to scandal infamy in 2011 when a sexting and semi-explicit Twitter message scandal led to his resignation from Congress. He decided to try his luck in politics again this year when he launched a surprise campaign for mayor in New York. For a fleeting few weeks, he was topping polls and taking names. Then it emerged that he never actually stopped sending pictures of his appropriately named body part to ladies of the internet. This later prompted his telling GQ he was “just an empty, soulless vessel.” Perhaps he’s more in touch with reality than we thought.
Bob Filner, the former mayor of San Diego, was forced to resign in late August after 17 women brought horrifying sexual harassment allegations against him. He pleaded guilty in October to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery involving three women. The first woman to come forward was his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who claimed Filner asked her to work without panties, told her he wanted to see her naked, demanded kisses and pulled her into a headlock while whispering in her ear. Yikes.
When he resigned, he had been mayor for less than nine months of a four-year term, and was the city’s first Democratic mayor in more than 20 years. Filner now spends his time being a lonely old man and jogging by himself in the park.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s troubles began when Gawker reported in May that unnamed individuals had a video of him smoking crack, and that it was for sale. And while media outlets began offering six figures for the video and Gawker started crowd-sourcing funds to pay for it, Ford repeatedly denied the existence of the video. The police then found the video in question in October. In November, Ford finally admitted to using crack-cocaine while in office saying he wasn’t an addict and “probably” tried it in one of his “drunken stupors, approximately about a year ago.” Because, using crack while drunk makes it better. Despite this shenanigan, Ford still has a higher approval rating than president Obama.
In late August of 2012, President Obama said “A red line for us” would be when we “start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized” in Syria. Well, in May of 2013 we saw a whole bunch of chemical weapons but the Obama Administration did almost nothing about it. Later, Obama would backtrack and attempt to strike Syria — only for Congress and the international community to buck his efforts.
In response to leaks reported by the Associated Press in May, the Obama Administration took the unprecedented step of seizing two months of the AP’s phone records. Attorney General Eric Holder said the seizure was in response to the “most serious” leaks he’d ever seen, and were done to determine responsibility for the leak he said put Americans at risk. In similar form, the administration carried out intense surveillance of Fox News journalist James Rosen over leaks he had reported on, going so far as to seize the phone records of his parents.
Technical failures ran rampant when Obamacare launched on Oct. 1 of this year, rendering the site almost useless. It was a huge embarrassment for the Obama Administration, which had maintained that the stunning disapproval rate for Obamacare would begin to decrease once it was rolled out to the public. While the site is now up and running, approval for Obamacare is now at an all time low of 35 percent.
Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service revealed it had targeted conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names. An investigation by the FBI ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder revealed initially that the IRS had targeted conservative groups with terms such as “Tea Party” in their names. Though further investigation did reveal that left-leaning groups were also targeted, they were scrutinized at a drastically lower rate. The use of these targeted lists continued through May of this year, and has created an ongoing headache for the administration with coverage of the scandal coming out even today.
When the National Security Agency scandal first broke in June, it was just about tapping personal phone calls. Since that time, it has snowballed. A huge records leak by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – who is still seeking asylum abroad – has revealed the NSA is tracking millions of innocent Americans over the phone and online without warrants, calling constitutionality into question. The NSA has also been tapping the phones and emails of 35 different heads of state including several American allies, most notably Germany’s Angela Merkel. The reveal has been a huge embarrassment for the Obama Administration, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged the move caused “tension” with several countries, which he said the administration was dealing with “through diplomatic channels.”
Following weeks of the most annoying debates to ever hit the floor of Congress, the United States federal government shutdown from Oct. 1 through 13 of this year, curtailing most routine government operations, because Congress couldn’t get it’s shit together long enough to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014. The shutdown followed a game of chicken by the most hardline of Republicans who wanted any budget legislation to include at least a partial defunding of Obamacare, and Democrats who refused to comply with that request. Congressional approval fell to an all-time low following the shutdown with only 12 percent approving of the job Congress was doing. Similarly, approval for the Tea Party has now fallen to an all-time low. Only one-third of Americans now approve of the far-right group, largely due to the hyper-partisanship they have created on Capitol Hill. While this may not be a true “scandal” in the understood sense of the word, the shut down was indicative of how far extreme factions of both parties have fallen since Obama’s election in 2008, and pushes the unfortunate incident to the to the top of this list.