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Chronology of Congressional Sex Scandals

Compiled by JOHN W. DEAN


Summary of Scandal

1850 Famed lawyer and orator, Secretary of State, and Senator Daniel Webster (D. MA), the father of four legitimate children, was accused by Washington, DC correspondent Jane Grey Swisshelm of fathering two illegitimate “mulatto” children. While Swisshelm’s boss, Horace Greeley, fired her over story, the charge stuck and is believed to be true.
1857 Teresa Sickles, the wife of Rep. Daniel Sickles (D. NY), had an affair with Phillip Barton Key (son of the writer of "The Star Spangled Banner.") Key was the U.S. attorney in D.C. When Sickles discovered the affair, he forced his wife to sign a lurid confession. Then Sickles shot and killed Key, when Key came by their house to signal for a tryst. Teresa's confession was published in the newspapers, producing many front-page stories. At Sickles’s trial for murder, his lawyer argued Teresa had driven him insane with her hideous betrayal. Dan Sickles enjoyed less than a pure reputation. He was said to have seduced his own mother-in-law, and was censured by the NY Assembly for bringing his mistress, a prostitute by the name of Fanny White, onto the Assembly floor. He married the beautiful Teresa when she was 16 years old. None of Sickles’s many infidelities were mentioned at the trial, however; rather, the Washington establishment lined up to support him, including President Buchanan himself, who convinced a major prosecution witness to leave town. Sickles was acquitted, and introduced the concept of temporary insanity into American criminal law. When the verdict came down Sickles's lawyer danced a jig in the courtroom. After the acquittal, Sickles said, "Of course I intended to kill him. He deserved it."
1883 U.S. Senator William Sharon (R. NV) was sued by a woman he had purportedly married without a proper ceremony. The case raged on for years in various courts, culminating in the brief and bizarre arrest of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field, following the murder of the woman's attorney, for reasons unrelated to Senator Sharon's conduct.
1892 The often cantankerous Rep. Tom Watson (Populist GA) caused a fury in Washington -- and accompanying headlines -- by attacking his colleagues in the House of Representatives for their need to “gratify sensual pleasures” and their disgraceful drunkenness.
1893 Rep. William C. P. Breckinridge (D. KY) was sued by his long-time mistress and the mother of his illegitimate children, revealing his hypocrisy in advising young women that “chastity is the foundation, the corner-stone of human society.” Suffrage champion Susan B. Anthony correctly predicted Breckinridge would be defeated when running for reelection.
1906 Senator Arthur Brown (R. UT), one of the first men to represent Utah in the Senate, died in a Washington, DC hospital of a gunshot wound from a jealous mistress, Anne Maddison Bradley. No one in Salt Lake City was surprised. The affair with Anne Bradley had been going on for years. She testified at her murder trial that, after leaving her husband, she met and fell in love with Brown in 1898. Brown said he wanted to live his life with her, and have a son. They soon did. But Brown never got around to divorcing his wife, despite many promises to do so. Brown's wife had her husband and Anne Bradley arrested for adultery, but agreed to withdraw the charge if Brown agreed to stop seeing Bradley. When Brown's wife died of cancer (in 1905), Anne Bradley believed the matter had been resolved. She was pregnant with their second child when she went to Washington to force this issue of their marriage, only to discover Brown was having another affair with Annie Adams Kiskadden, a starlet and daughter of the famous actress Maude Adams. After discovering love letters that indicated Brown was planning to marry his new flame, she went to his hotel room, confronted him, and shot him. At her trial she pled "temporary insanity," and the jury acquitted her. When it was publicly learned that Brown had renounced his mistress and their children in his will, public opinion turned against him. Anne Bradley later opened a antique store in Salt Lake City, and lived to 77 years of age (1950).
1969 On the night of July 18, 1969 Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D. MA) offered an attractive 28- year-old secretary, Mary Jo Kopechne, a ride home from a barbecue party. Details of what they were doing and the accident that followed have never been fully explained. What is known is that Senator Kennedy's car went off the Dike Bridge at Chappaquiddick. The Senator got out of the submerged car, and claimed he tried to get Ms. Kopechne out, but failed. However, he did not report the drowning incident until the next morning. He was charged with leaving the scene of the accident, and went on national television and described his failure to report as “indefensible.” He said he would not run for president in 1972, but has been consistently reelected to the U.S. Senate. The media largely ignored the sexual implications of the story at the time, and only years later did Kennedy's womanizing get reported.
1974 Rep. Wilbur Mills (D. AK), one of the most powerful men in Congress as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was discovered having a spat with a woman near the Potomac River's tidal basin by the Jefferson Memorial on October 9, 1974, and when police approached the couple, the woman jumped into the water. The woman, Mrs. Annabel Battistella, was better known as Fanne Fox, a stripper at Washington's Silver Slipper club. Soon the public learned that Mills had been having a relationship with the stripper since 1973, and he was so taken with her that he wanted to buy the Silver Slipper. Mills was reelected in 1974, and a few weeks later appeared on a Boston stage in pursuit of Mrs. Battistella, whose earnings had jumped from $600 a week to $3000 a week as "The Tidal Basin Bombshell." Mills quickly became the brunt of jokes, and was hospitalized to deal with his alcoholism. House Democrats caucused and took away his chairmanship. In 1976, Mills announced he would not seek another term, and retired, after 38 years in Congress. In retirement, Mills explained that he had thought he had a brain tumor, and was trying to kill himself with liquor. Mrs. Battistella penned an autobiography, The Congressman and the Stripper, which alleged that when she discovered she was pregnant with Mills's child, she had an abortion, fearing the baby would be malformed because of Mills's alcoholism.
1976 Rep. Wayne Hays (D. OH), a veteran and powerful Member of the House of Representatives, unexpectedly married his long-time Ohio office assistant, Pat Peak, in 1976. Hays's former mistress Elizabeth Ray, an attractive blonde and would-be starlet, went to the Washington Post with her story of working for Hays, reporting: "I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone.” Her only responsibility, for which she was paid the going rate for a Congressional secretary, was to have sex with Hays (and his friends). Within a few months, Hays was forced to resign from Congress, which ended both Congressional and Justice Department investigations. Ray fictionalized her experiences with Hays in a book, the story of a blonde bombshell who became the Washington Fringe Benefit. She named no names. The book went through four printings, while several men in Washington held their breath and spent much more time with their wives.
1976 Rep. Robert L. Leggett (D. CA) acknowledged that he fathered two illegitimate children by a Congressional secretary, whom he supported financially; then he had an affair with another woman, who was an aide to Speaker Carl Albert. At one point he had even forged his wife's name to document transferring title of their home. Leggett resigned, and became a successful lobbyist. In 1981 he married the woman, who had worked for Speaker Albert, and they moved back to California, where he purchased a deli, which became his passion until his death in 1997.
1976 Rep. John Young (D. TX) was accused by his former secretary, Colleen Gardner, of giving her a pay raise when she finally acceded to his sexual demands. Although the Congressman denied the charges, the scandal defeated him in 1978. His wife had stood by him when the scandal broke, only to commit suicide during the summer before his unsuccessful reelection bid.
1976 Rep. Allan Howe (D. UT) was arrested on June 13, 1976 in Salt Lake City's red-light district for soliciting sex from two undercover policewomen posing as prostitutes. Howe was convicted of the charges but claimed he had been set up by political opponents; voters did not buy it, however, and he was easily defeated by his Republican opponent.
1978 Rep. Fred Richmond (D. NY) was arrested in April, 1978 for soliciting sex from a 16-year- old African-American delivery boy and an undercover police officer. Richmond apologized for his actions, and acknowledged his bad judgment. He agreed to undergo psychiatric treatment in exchange for the dropping of charges. Notwithstanding efforts by his opponent to make the most of the negative stories, he won reelection. But his career ended four years later after he pled guilty to possession of marijuana and tax evasion. Then he resigned, and the investigation into using his staff to procure cocaine was dropped. Later, when a dead body was found in his apartment, of a man who had overdosed on drugs, Richmond ended up serving nine months behind bars.
1980 Rep. Jon Hinson (R. Miss) stunned his constituents on August 8, 1980 by announcing that he had been accused of committing an obscene act in a gay bar in Virginia in 1976, and that in 1980 he had survived a fire in a gay movie theater in Washington. He said he was making these disclosures to clear his conscience. But he denied he was gay and refused to resign. Three months later, Hinson was arrested in a restroom of a House office building for engaging in oral sodomy with a male employee of the Library of Congress. Hinson, a married man and "family values" conservative, resigned his seat on April 13, 1981. In July 1995, he died from AIDS.
1980 Rep. Robert Bauman (R. MD) was accused of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy, who in turn tried to extort the Congressman to keep him silent. Bauman tried but failed to use his alcoholism as the explanation for his homosexual behavior, and his conservative colleagues disowned him. He was defeated in his reelection bid -- not for being gay, but rather for his hypocrisy, for he had promoted family values and attacked gays. In 1986 he published an autobiography: The Gentlemen from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative.
1980 the Washington Post Magazine first published the "Diary of a Mad Congresswife" by Rita Jenrette, the 31-year-old wife of Rep. John Jenrette (D. SC). The account drew instant national attention for it detailed the infidelities and extramarital affairs of her husband. Rita next took her story to Playboy, which ran expanded editions of her diary in two issues, with accompanying nude photos of the comely blonde. In her 1981 book, My Capitol Secrets, Jenrette reported that, after marrying a congressman, she learned that women in Washington gain status by the power of their paramours. She noted that illicit trysts occurred "in borrowed apartments" and several senators she knew had rented houses near the Capitol for "nooners." Quickies also took place in the hideaway meeting rooms scattered about the bowels of the Capitol. Rita and her husband distinguished themselves by having sex on the steps of the Capitol, albeit behind a pillar. But extramarital affairs proved the least of Congressman John Jenrette's problems. He got caught in the FBI's ABSCAM sting accepting a $50,000 bribe and ended up in jail, and Rita got a divorce.
1980 & 1981 The relationship between Rep. Thomas Evans (R. Del) and Washington lobbyist Paula Parkinson was revealed by a newspaper following a "golfing" weekend in Florida. The lovely lobbyist soon became known as "Parkinson's disease" – because mere mention of her name could make many members of the House start shaking. Paula, a former Bunny at the New York Playboy Club, found her good looks gave her easy access to lobby Members of Congress, both their offices and bedrooms. During one of her one-night stands with a Congressman she videotaped their lovemaking with his excited permission. Many thought Paula had also taped without permission, which caused no end of panic in Washington. In May 1980, Paula answered a newspaper ad placed by Playboy, seeking women in Washington for a pictorial spread. This did not prove a good career move, for it terrified members of Congress away from dealing with her. By March 1981, the Department of Justice was investigating whether any members of the House had traded votes for sex. The Paula Parkinson sex scandal sent tremors through the Congress. Paula’s husband (20 years her senior) apologized for creating a "sexual Frankenstein." When she tried to sell her story of sex in Washington, she found few takers because she refused to name names, other than Tom Evans’s; she said she had a love affair with Evans. Evans publicly apologized, saying he regretted his association with her, and asked God and his family for forgiveness. His family apparently forgave. His constituents didn't, and he was defeated in 1982 when running for reelection.
1983 Rep. Dan Crane (R. Il) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D. Mass) were the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into sexual relationships with Congressional pages, the young students selected to work for a year in Washington running Congressional errands while attending high school at the Library of Congress. Both Congressmen admitted having sex with teenage pages: Crane with a 17-year-old female (in 1980) and Studds with a 17-year-old male (in 1973). The House censured both men. A tearful Crane apologized to his family and colleagues, but his constituents voted him out of office in 1984. Studds refused to apologize, and was reelected repeatedly, retiring from Congress in 1996. These activities resulted in a restructuring of the page program to protect youngsters from such relationships with Members of Congress.
1987 First term Rep. Ernis Konnyu (R. CA) was subject to charges of sexual harassment by female aides and a female lobbyist. One aide said the Congressman had been unhappy with her placement of a name tag for an event, because "she wasn't exactly stacked" and he didn't want attention drawn to that fact; another aide said he requested she turn around so he could check her out; and the lobbyist complained that this married Congressman had touch her knee suggestively at a lunch. He was defeated in 1988, by a candidate his own Republican party fielded against him.
1988 Shortly before his 1988 reelection effort, Rep. Jim Bates (D. CA) was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward two female members of his staff. He apologized for anything he had done to offend the women, while claiming it was a GOP smear effort. He was reelected but the House Ethics Committee investigated it, and gave him a mild reprimand. One of the complaining women was outraged that Bates escaped with no real punishment. "He took my leg between his in full view of the staff and did a bump and grind on my leg," she said. "There were lots of comments on my breasts."
1988-92 Senator Brock Adams (D. WA) was accused in 1989 of sexually molesting Kari Tupper, the daughter of a long-time friend. Tupper, 24 years old at the time, said the Senator fixed her a drink, and the next thing she knew, when she awoke, was that he had removed all her clothing, and was pawing her. When the U.S. Attorney in Washington dallied for 18 months, Tupper went to the Seattle Times with the story. After they published the story, eight other women came forward to the Times with similar stories, the most serious being a charge of rape. All the women signed affidavits, agreeing, if necessary, to testify to verify the Times story that Senator Adams had been drugging and molesting women during the last two decades, and the Times ran the story (without naming the women) in 1992. Senator Adams withdrew from his reelection bid and returned to private life. To this day, the Senator denies the charges. But the women's statements are a horror story.
1989 Ohio authorities spent three months investigating the sexual relationship between Rep. Donald "Buz" Lukens (R. OH), who was divorced, and Rosie Coffman, an African-American girl he first had sex with when she was 13 (1985), and again at 16 (1988). Lukens was indicted and convicted in 1989 by an Ohio court on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency and unruliness of a child, and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Lukens claimed he did not know the girl was a teenager. At trial the girl testified that she and a 19-year-old girl friend went to Lukens’s home unsolicited, and all three got in bed and had sex. The House Ethics Committee started, then stopped, an investigation, deciding that such matters should be resolved by the congressman's constituents. In the May 1990 primary for reelection his constituents tossed Lukens from office. And he was forced to resign before the end of his term when a female elevator operator at the Capitol complained that he had fondled her. Lukens was later indicted, convicted and sent to federal prison for accepting a bribe from an Ohio businessman while serving in Congress.
1989 Five-term Rep. Gus Savage (D. IL) was investigated by the House Ethics Committee for charges by a Peace Corps worker that he molested her during a visit to Kinshasa, Zaire. The unnamed Peace Corps volunteer said that Savage had repeatedly fondled her in a U.S. Embassy limousine, ignoring her demands that he stop; she felt the two-hour series of incidents amounted to a sexual assault. Savage denied the charges, asserting that they were a racially-motivated political attack. While the House Ethics Committee found the incident had occurred, it dropped the matter when Savage wrote a letter to the woman apologizing and stating he did not intend to offend her. Savage was reelected in 1990, but defeated in a 1992 primary by Mel Reynolds (who would later have his own sex scandal problems)
1989 Rep. Barney Frank (D. MA) was (and is) single. He became involved with a male prostitute, Stephen Gobie, whom Frank had hired as a personal assistant. Frank learned that Gobie was using Frank's Washington apartment for his male prostitution actives. When Frank dismissed Gobie, the young man went public, trying to profit from the affair. the Washington Post refused to buy his story, so he gave it to the Washington Times for free, hoping it would lead to a book deal. It didn't. Frank apologized to his colleagues, and constituents, admitting he was a homosexual. While the House Ethics Committee, and the House, reprimanded him when it was learned he had fixed some 33 parking tickets accumulated by Gobie when using Frank’s car, there was no evidence of any other wrongdoing. Barney Frank was reelected, and remains an active and respected member of the House of Representatives.
1990 Rep. Arlan Stangeland (R. MN), who represented a very conservative rural district, got in trouble because he made several hundred telephone calls to or from the phone of a Virginia woman who was a lobbyist. While he claimed it was all business, his constituents thought he was playing around. "Stangeland's a strong family man," went the refrain in the coffee shops where farmers and shopkeepers gathered, according to one news account, in fact, these voters noted, "He likes families so much that he wants to have two of them." He was defeated for reelection.
1991 Senator Charles Robb (D. VA) made a preemptive move by granting an exclusive television report about his extramarital affair with former Miss Virginia Tai Collins. Robb admitted that he had shared a bottle of wine, and Ms. Collins gave him a massage, in a New York hotel room. End of story. But the Virginia beauty gave an interview to Playboy and explained that they had been having an affair since 1983. Robb survived politically because his wife, Lynda Byrd, the daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson, rallied to his defense, and the Republicans nominated conservative Oliver North, a man with his own credibility problems, to run against him.
1992 The Republican opponent of Senator Daniel Inouye (D. HI) ran an ad during the 1992 Senate race that contained a secretly-taped conversation with Lenore Kwock, who was Inouye's long-time hairdresser. Kwock said that, in 1975, Inouye had sexually forced himself on her, and continued to sexually harass her whenever she cut his hair. When Kwock said that the campaign ads were causing her more hurt than Senator Inouye ever had, they were pulled. But a female Democratic state legislator soon reported she had received calls from nine other women who claimed that Inouye had sexually harassed them. In a move that looked like it might have been dictated by higher Democratic state officials, the state legislator withdrew her charge, saying that it had been wrong to make the charge with anonymous women complaining. She did not say the complaints were not true. However, the Senate Ethics Committee dropped the matter when none of the accusers were willing to assist with their inquiry, and the matter died.
1992 Shortly after Senator Robert Packwood (R. OR) was reelected to his fifth term in the Senate, the Washington Post published a story it had been sitting on since before the election, but did not run because Packwood denied the charges. The story was based on allegations by a female lobbyist and 10 former female staff members who had worked for Packwood, all claiming they had been repeatedly sexually harassed by the Senator. One woman, Julie Williamson, said he had tried to pull her clothing off her when she worked for him in 1969. Others, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed he would grope them, kiss them on the lips, or force his tongue into their mouths. Packwood's denials only resulted in additional complaining women coming forward, until there were 26 complainants filed, with complaints spanning two decades of behavior. When it was learned that Packwood had kept an oral diary, in which every morning he recounted the events of the previous day, the Senate Ethics Committee wanted to see what had become of this 8200-page document, dating from the 1960s. Packwood said it included accounts of consensual sexual relationships with members of his staff and lobbyists, and of the sexual activities of other members of the Senate and House, which he was entitled to keep private. Packwood fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for his right not to turn over the diary, but lost. One mystery woman, a well-known person, pleaded through an attorney that her privacy be protected, lest her name be revealed in Packwood's diary. With the diary in the hands of the Senate Ethics Committee, Packwood was in trouble for more than his sexual activity. The diary showed him trading political favors with powerful businessmen, and other members of the Senate. The Senate Ethics Committee, to the surprise of Packwood and others in the Senate, not to mention the public, recommended he be expelled from the Senate. Before that happened, he resigned. When last reported, the former senator was earning close to a seven-figure annual income as a Washington lobbyist.
1993 Rep. Ken Calvert (R. CA) was discovered by the police, in his home town of Corna, naked in his car and in the company of a local prostitute performing a sex act on him. He tried to flee when police confronted him, but was caught. For months he stonewalled, insisting that "nothing happened." When a court order forced police to release their report of the episode, Calvert acknowledged the incident, but claimed he was not aware the woman was a prostitute. He said he had not paid her. He explained his behavior was triggered by the fact that his father had recently committed suicide, and his wife had left him. It worked. Congressman Calvert squeaked through his primary. Nothing more became of the matter, and he remained in Congress.
1994 Freshman Rep. Mel Reynolds (D. IL) was indicted in 1994, shortly before the election, for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker, Beverly Heard, and then pressuring her to lie about it. Reynolds, who is African-American, denied the charges, claiming they were racially motivated, and he was elected. A year later, he was convicted on 12 counts of sexual assault, soliciting child pornography, and obstruction of justice. After being sentenced to five years in prison, he resigned his Congressional seat. In 1997, Reynolds was again convicted on 15 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the Federal Elections Commission, and his wife, Marisol, pleaded guilty to related fraud charges. Reynolds was sentenced to another six-and-a-half years of imprisonment, and Marisol was given three years on probation,. She left her husband, explaining that he beat her during their marriage and had forced her to commit the fraud. At last report, she was living in Boston with their child, destitute. On January 20, 2001, President Clinton, at the request of Chicago political leaders, pardoned Mel Reynolds.
1998 Placing himself ahead of a story that was about to break in the media, Rep. Dan Burton (R. IN), one of President Clinton's harshest critics about Monica Lewinsky and other perceived problems, confessed that in the 1980s, he had caused three marital separations and a near-divorce, with one of his affairs producing an illegitimate child whom Burton had supported for years. Notwithstanding his hypocrisy, voters returned him to Congress with an overwhelming vote of confidence.
1998 "I believe that personal conduct and integrity does matter," Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R. ID) said in calling for President Clinton's resignation following the revelation of his affair with Monica. Chenoweth’s home state newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, quickly called her on her hypocrisy, revealing that she had earlier had an adulterous affair. This right-wing, family values advocate, was forced to admit that she "was involved in a relationship that I came to regret, that I'm not proud of." The relationship had occurred some 14 years earlier, and voters merely chuckled as they returned her to Congress.
1998 House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R. IL), as he was leading the impeachment drive against President Clinton, was forced to offer his resignation from heading up the impeachment effort, when reported that he'd had an extended extramarital affair. Salon editor David Talbot received a call from a 72-year-old retiree, Norman Sommer, who said that Hyde had been a home-wrecker in his affair with Cherie Snodgrass, an attractive young woman with three children, which lasted five years, 1965-69. It caused a divorce. When confronted, Hyde admitted that he and Cherie were "good friends" but claimed the statute of limitations had passed on his "youthful indiscretions." Speaker Gingrich advised Hyde not to resign, and the matter blew over. Hyde, a widower, was unaffected politically, other than by the tarnish of his hypocrisy.
1998 Speaker Newt Gingrich (R. GA), who lost support of his colleagues for his behind-the- scenes mishandling of the efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton, had long been rumored to be involved in an extramarital affair. Shortly after Gingrich announced his resignation from Congress, he told his second wife he was resigning from their marriage as well. He married the woman with whom he was having an affair.
1998 In November 1998, Rep. Robert Livingston (R. LA) was the overwhelming choice of his House colleagues to succeed Speaker Gingrich. But the Speaker-designate stunned his congressional peers and official Washington by admitting that he had "strayed" during his marriage, and not only would he stand down as Speaker, he was resigning from Congress. Livingston's departure was forced by publisher Larry Flynt's announcement that four women had admitted to having sexual liaisons with Livingston during the past 10 years, these women having come forward in response to Flynt's full page advertisement in the Washington Post to pay $1,000,000 for such information. After talking with Mrs. Livingston, however, Flynt agreed not to reveal the names of the women.
2001 Rep. Gary Condit (D. CA) found his extramarital affairs public information following the disappearance of his "good friend" Chandra Levy, whose aunt reported the two were having a sexual affair. Soon other women surfaced claiming affairs with Condit, not to mention detailing his elaborate procedures to not get caught. Condit decided to stonewall, and left Congress.



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