Ten Best: Political Sex Scandals

by Brian Clarey

Neil Goldschmidt (D); governor of Oregon, 1987-1991

In the wake of Eliot Spitzer’s revelation that he was a frequent flyer on the pay-for-play express, we present 10 of the greatest political sex scandals of all time, starting with Goldschmidt. Fifteen years after leaving elected office, under pressure from alt-weekly Willamette Week, he admitted to carrying on an affair with a 16-year-old girl while mayor of Portland. His crime, a felony in Oregon, wasn’t revealed until after the statute of limitations had passed, so Goldschmidt walked on this one

Thomas Jefferson (D-R), US president, 1801-1809

Rumors of Jefferson’s affair with the slave Sally Hemings date back to 1802, and recently revealed DNA evidence shows a genetic link between the two families. In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation admitted that the alleged affair, and its subsequent offspring, were likely substantiated by fact. But in 2001 the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society declared the evidence “not persuasive.”

James Buchanan (D); US president, 1857-1861

As president during the days just before the Civil War, James Buchanan held that secession was illegal, but that going to war over it was also illegal. Subsequently he spent his presidency pondering this quagmire and doing nothing. Rumor had it, though that he wasn’t so shy about pulling the trigger with Sen. Rufus King (D-NC), a Tar Heel (Class of ’03 – 1803, that is) from Sampson County when the two were roommates for 15 years in Washington DC. Because relatives destroyed their correspondence, there is no hard evidence to support that Buchanan was the first homosexual president.

Grover Cleveland (D); US president, 1885-1889, 1893-1897

Cleveland is the only president to have served two non-consecutive terms. He was in office to dedicate the Statue of Liberty, and he was one of the last presidents to personally answer the White House phone. And during his campaign, when a store clerk named Maria Halpin produced his illegitimate son, Cleveland didn’t deny it, resulting in chants of, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Off to the White House, ha ha ha.” Cleveland was also a former governor of New York (1883-1885), giving him something else in common with Spitzer, who many thought could become this nation’s first Jewish president.

Bill Clinton (D); US president, 1993-2001

Clinton, another former governor (Arkansas, 1979-1981, 1983-1992) and poster child for the dalliances of the ruling class, was a busy man during his time in politics. In no particular order – confirmed, unsubstantiated and wildly speculative: Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Sharon Stone, Barbra Streisand, the waitress at the Stuckey’s in Little Rock, that chick with the mohawk from Bow Wow Wow and every big-legged woman who got pulled over on Interstate 40 coming in from Memphis during the ’80s.

Bob Packwood (R-Ore.); US senator, 1969-1995

Bob “Pants” Packwood managed to stifle the Washington Post story about his alleged affairs until after his last reelection in 1992, which he won. Packwood stood accused of sexual misconduct with former staffers and lobbyists, and apparently he documented the whole sordid mess in his diaries, the excerpts of which were pretty hot reading, if I remember correctly.

Chuck Robb (D-Va.); US senator, 1989-2001

In this thoroughly modern – for its time – sex scandal, Chuck Robb (another former governor – WTF?) was linked to actress Tai Collins in 1991 amid rumors of cocaine-fueled sex parties going back to 1983. After the revelation Robb quietly went on to serve another 10 years, while Collins posed nude for Playboy magazine and went on to a moderately successful acting career.

The Kennedy family (D)

These guys get their own chapter, from old Joe’s shenanigans, to JFK’s rumored presidential dalliances with Hollywood stars, to Bobby’s alleged tryst with Candace Bergen, to Teddy’s big mistake on the lake, to the antics of all the assorted nephews and cousins. Noteworthy: rumors of an affair that ended the marriage of Kerry Kennedy Cuomo to Andrew Cuomo, son of former NY Gov. (!) Mario (D, 1983-1994).

Gary Condit (D-Calif.); US congressman, 1989-2003

This one is kind of sad and scary. After 23-year-old DC intern Chandra Levy disappeared in April 2001, an affair between her and 53-year-old Condit became apparent. Condit denied, denied, denied until evidence to the contrary became insurmountable; even then Condit refused to directly answer some questions about the relationship, though he was never officially a suspect. Levy’s body was found in a Washington DC park about a year later.

Fred Richmond (D-NY); US congressman, 1975-1982

There are so many more to choose from – dozens, really – but for the last let’s go with another Democrat from New York. In 1978, Richmond was arrested for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy. He went on to serve five more years, during which he was charged with income tax evasion and possession of marijuana. After his time in office he moved to New York City and started a swing band.