The Biggest Political Scandals of All Time That Rocked the World

Biggest Political Scandals of All Time
Political scandals have existed since the birth of this field. Is it the power, money, or fame that drives these elected candidates to get into some dirty business? When the secrets are revealed, the "other" side of the politicians comes to light.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Did You Know?
In the history of the United States, the first President to resign from office was Richard M. Nixon. He was the main accused in the Watergate scandal, who stepped down in 1974 after the scandal broke out. Till date, he is the only President to do so.
Politicians are the people on whom the citizens entrust the responsibility to take their country forward. However, with this responsibility, comes great power and money. Maybe, it is the influence of power that drives politicians to perform morally wrong acts. Being public figures, even the smallest of mistakes get highlighted. Due to these scandals, many promising careers have been wrecked. Buzzle has put together some of the biggest political scandals that shook the entire world.

10 Largest Political Scandals

* Note: The scandals are mentioned in no particular order.
Teapot Dome Scandal
Accused: Albert B. Fall
Charges: Bribery
Year: 1920-1923
This scandal took place during the tenure of former American President, Warren Harding. The then-Interior Secretary, Albert B. Fall was arrested on charges of bribery in 1929. Teapot Dome is an emergency oil field that was used by the U.S. Navy in times of shortages. However, many politicians, at that time, believed that the oil companies were capable of supplying oil in emergency situations. Thus, the decision of leasing the oil field was taken. In 1921, the President issued an order to transfer the control of the Teapot Dome oil field to the Department of Interior from the Navy Department. In 1922, Fall leased the oil production rights to Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil. Instead of having competitive bids for leasing the field, Fall directly leased the rights. Such an arrangement was legal under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. But, Fall accepted gifts and interest-free loans in return for the leasing rights that he had issued. The money exchange was the illegal part of the entire leasing scandal. During the same time, another Navy's oil field, Elk Hills, was leased in a similar manner to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum. In exchange for the leasing rights, Fall received a $100,000 interest-free loan from Doheny. When the sudden change in Fall's lifestyle was observed, speculations of an alleged scandal started to surface. It was the letter from a small Wyoming oil company operator to the Senator that instigated the investigations. Later on, the Doheny loan evidence was put forth in the court, and Fall was found guilty of bribery. Both the reserves were returned to the Navy.

» Fall was charged a fine of $100,000 and was sentenced to a one-year imprisonment.
The Profumo Affair
Accused: John Profumo
Charges: Extramarital affair
Year: 1963
One of the biggest political scandals in Britain, the Profumo Affair is named after the accused, John Profumo. He was the Secretary of State for War during Prime Minister Harold McMillan's tenure. When the Cold War was at its height, Profumo was accused of having an affair with London "party girl" Christine Keeler. He was already married to actress Valerie Hobson. Profumo met Keeler in 1961 at a house party at the Buckingham-shire mansion. However, the relationship lasted for only a few weeks, but the circumstances at that time made the scandal popular. It was only in 1962 that the scandal became public alongside the rumors of Keeler already having an affair with Yevgeny "Eugene" Ivanov, a senior naval attach at the Soviet embassy in London. However, it was Keeler's non-appearance at the Court in another case that led to her affair with Profumo becoming public. When Profumo was initially questioned, he refused to accept the charges. But, when Peter Wright was assigned to question Keeler over security matters, the scandal came to light. Keeler, during the questioning, used the term "nuclear payload", which was unknown to the public. This made Wright realize that Profumo, during his adulterous relationship, may have revealed many secrets, which may have been passed on to the Soviet attach by Keeler. Following this, Profumo was again questioned, and this time, he accepted to have lied in the House of Commons.

» He was forced to resign from his position in 1963.
Watergate
Accused: Richard Nixon*
Charges: Misuse of power, Contempt of Congress
Year: 1970s
The political scandal exposed the government of President Richard Nixon when he was in power. On June 17, 1972, a break-in took place at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The men, who broke in, wiretapped phones, stole documents, and photographed others. When the men were arrested, the FBI connected the money that the burglars had to a slush fund that was used by Nixon's campaign. This was the triggering point of the scandal. When the investigations began, the staff at the President's office revealed evidence that were against the President. Upon further questioning, it was found that the President had tape recordings of many conversations that had taken place in his office. The recordings revealed that Nixon had tried to cover up his illegal activities that occurred after the break-in. During the proceedings, the Court asked Nixon to hand over the tapes. Even after several questionings, the actual purpose for the break-in is still unknown.

*48 government officials were also found guilty out of the 69 officials who were charged.

» He resigned from office after facing a near-impeachment situation, making him the only President to resign from his office. However, he wasn't tried, as his successor, Gerald Ford issued a pardon to him.
The Chappaquiddick Incident
Accused: Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy
Charges: Fleeing the accident scene
Year: 1969
The incident occurred in 1969 when Ted Kennedy hosted a party on Chappaquiddick island as a reunion for his six "boiler-room girls". There were a few other close friends and family of Kennedy, who were present in the party. Kennedy left the party and was accompanied by Mary Jo Kopechne, one of the six women at the party. It was found during the trial that Kopechne did not inform anyone about her leaving the party with Kennedy and even left the hotel keys behind. He decided to drive her to the hotel himself instead of asking the chauffeur to do so. But Kennedy's car fell off a bridge into a tidal channel in Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. He justified that he had taken a wrong turn onto Dike Road, and due to the unfamiliarity with the road, the accident occurred. However, after the accident, Kennedy escaped alive and fled the scene without even reporting the crime, leaving Kopechne behind. It was only nine hours later that Kopechne's body was found by two amateur fishermen. Seven days later, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the accident spot due to injuries. Nothing was proved in the trials, but it was speculated that he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Reports suggested that the cause of Kopechne's death was not drowning but suffocation! And the fact that she might have been alive for at least three to four hours after the accident, before she died was a shocking revelation. However, due to lack of evidence, no one was convicted.

» Kennedy was sentenced to two months imprisonment, and his driver's license was suspended for six months.
Abu Ghraib Torture
People Involved: U.S. Army Soldiers
Charges: Torture, Rape
Year: 2003-04
During the Iraq war in 2003-04, the United States army along with additional US government agencies were involved in physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of the prisoners in the Baghdad facility. These acts were made public by the Department of Defense announcements in 2004. In the same year, the New Yorker magazine reported the story along with the photographs depicting abuse of the prisoners. These photographs were leaked online, which revealed the atrocities of the Army. There were many homicides that took place in the prison. However, it was later revealed that a memo was issued in March 2003 that authorized certain interrogation techniques for dealing with enemy combatants.

» Seventeen soldiers were removed from duty, and eleven others were charged with maltreatment and assault. Two main accused, Specialist Charles Graner and his former fiance, Specialist Lynndie England were sentenced to ten years imprisonment for their involvement in the torture.
Keating Five
Accused: Charles Keating
Charges: Corruption
Year: 1989
In 1989, a major political scandal was exposed that involved five US Senators - Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, John McCain, and Donald W. Riegle, Jr. The senators were accused of intervening in the investigation of Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The Lincoln Savings and Loan Association collapsed in 1989, and about 23,000 bondholders were defrauded. These five Senators had prevented Charles Keating, Chairman of the Association, from being audited for the funds he received for his campaigning. In return for their favors, the senators collectively received $1.3 million from Charles Keating. After the trials, it was concluded that Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle had improperly interfered in the earlier FHLBB investigations. Cranston was severely reprimanded.

» Charles Keating was sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
Chen Shui-bian Scandal
Accused: Chen Shui-bian
Charges: Misuse of authority
Year: 2008
The political career of the Taiwanese politician was over after this scandal was exposed. Chen Shui-bian was reelected in 2004 as the President of Republic China. In the years to follow, he faced many a charge, the first one being the charges of insider trading on his son-in-law in 2006. Later that year, his wife was accused of forgery and corruption when it was proved that she had wired $21 million in Singapore banks. In 2008, he was forced to step down. Later, he faced charges on account of abuse of authority and for being a suspect in a fraud case.

» He was arrested in the same year for a fraud of $3.15 million public funds and taking bribes of $9 million. He and his wife were sentenced for life, but their sentence has been reduced to 20 years.
Moshe Katsav Rape Scandal
Accused: Moshe Katsav
Charges: Rape
Year: 2006
This scandal started in a very interesting manner in 2006. The former President of Israel complained to the Attorney General that he was being blackmailed by a female employee. However, the case turned on its head when the employee accused the politician of sexual offenses. This was the beginning of a series of accusations. The said employee charged the politician of raping her twice and sexually harassing her. Nearly 10 women accused the President of rape and sexual assault. His office was raided, and his computers and documents were seized.

» Kastav resigned from office in July 2007 after a failed impeachment attempt in March 2007. After a trial in 2010, he faced a maximum sentence of 49 years.
Iran-Contra Affair
People Involved: Oliver North, President Reagan, John Poindexter
Year: 1985-1987
The scandal, also known as Irangate or Contragate, had many participants, so it is difficult to single out an accused. There were about seven Americans who were held hostage in Iran. The scandal began when it was decided to ship weapons to Iran in exchange for these seven hostages. The arrangement was such that Israel would ship the weapons to Iran, while the US would resupply the arms to Israel and receive payments for it. Eventually, the arrangement was an arms-for-hostages exchange program where arms were sold to free the hostages. However, the plan was deviated by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in 1985. The new plan that the Colonel devised had the provision of diverting the funds to the Contrast in Nicaragua. Though it still not clear whether President Reagan was aware of this deviation or not, but the fact that he was a pro for the Contrary cause had raised many questions. However, a few handwritten notes taken by the Defense Secretary Weinberger indicated that Reagan was aware of the arms exchange deal. In a television statement, President Reagan announced that the arms exchange did take place but not for the hostages. The scandal intensified when important investigation documents were destroyed. Probes revealed that Oliver North had destroyed many official documents, thus jamming the shredder. John Poindexter, the National Security Adviser, proposed to the President to deal with Iranian government officials regarding the exchange plan instead of members of a political group, and his plan was approved. However, even after arms were supplied for the entire of February 1986, no hostages were released.

» The accused, Oliver North was fired from the office while John Poindexter resigned.
Lewinsky Scandal
People Involved: Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky
Year: 1998
This scandal had the maximum glam quotient. Former American President, Bill Clinton was accused of having an extramarital affair with his White House Intern, Monica Lewinsky. Though Clinton denied any affair, Lewinsky claimed to have sex encounters with Clinton on nine occasions from November 1995 to March 1997. Lewinsky revealed her affair to her friend, Linda Tripp. Linda suggested Lewinsky to keep all the evidences intact and not to dry the infamous "blue dress", which allegedly had the President's semen on it. Linda also recorded all the conversations with Lewinsky and then handed these to the Independent Counsel, Kenneth Star. These tapes were then used by the Counsel who started a probe against Clinton. President Clinton denied all the allegations and gave a press statement about the same. However, in 1998, the grand jury claimed that Clinton had an improper physical relationship with Lewinsky but Clinton denied having any "physical relationship" with her. The blue dress, after examination, didn't prove the allegations, and Clinton was acquitted of all charges.

» Bill Clinton had to face impeachment on charges of perjury and abuse of power in 1998. But in 1999, he was acquitted of all the charges.

One such absurd scandal that costed a South Carolina governor his career, was the Appalachian trail scandal. Mark Sanford went missing for six days in 2009. During this period, his staff offered excuses of him hiking the Appalachian trail. But eventually it was found that he was having an affair with an Argentine journalist! As the political career of a politician grows, so do the chances of another political scandal. These acts by the politicians not only hamper their personal image, but also the image of the entire nation. We can only hope not to witness any more scandals in the future.