1. Rod Blagojevich
Prior to ascending to the Illinois governor’s mansion in 2003, Rod Blagojevich painted a picture of himself as an honest, ethical reformer, insisting, “I think the most important thing is [to] restore a sense of idealism and end the cynicism in state government. Bring to the job a desire to really make things happen and help people and give confidence back to the public.” Blagojevich was eventually convicted for trying to auction off the 2008 vacant U.S. Senate seat of then-President-Elect Barack Obama.
2. John Edwards
During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, then-VP candidate John Edwards declared, “We choose hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what’s right even when those around us say, ‘You can’t do that.’” Edwards’ small-town-family-man image was shattered in 2007 when the National Inquirer revealed that he had fathered a child with Rielle Hunter, a campaign worker, while his wife was battling cancer.
3. Newt Gingrich
In 1998, when news of President Bill Clinton’s affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky surfaced, House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich lambasted Clinton for committing adultery and pushed for impeachment. At the time, though, Gingrich was also cheating on his second wife, Marianne Ginther, with a woman 23 years his junior, who became his third wife.
4. Larry Craig
In June 2007, Republican Larry Craig of Idaho, a strident social conservative with a wife and very strong anti-gay record, was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom stall at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Later that year, several gay men alleged to the Idaho Statesman that they had either had sexual affairs with Craig or that he had made sexual advances to them.
5. David Vitter
Infamous for his social conservatism, Republican congressman David Vitter of Louisiana joined five other congressmen in 2003 and introduced a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But in 2007, it was revealed that Vitter had been a client of the Washington, DC escort service operated by the DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. No criminal charges were filed because of the statute of limitations, and Vitter was re-elected to the Senate in 2010.
6. Eliot Spitzer
As New York’s attorney general and later its governor, Eliot Spitzer built a reputation as a crusader for ethics in business and in government. In his 2007 gubernatorial inaugural address, he declared, “We must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York.” The following year, his career came crashing down when it was revealed that he was a client of Emperors Club VIP, where he paid as much as $3,100 per hour for prostitutes.
By John M. Baker, inspired by Zac Bissonnette’s Good Advice from Bad People.