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Tags: Presidential History | lewinsky | reagan | watergate

Newsmax's List of Notable Presidential Scandals

the watergate complex in washington dc

View of facade, sky, and interior courtyard of the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. (David Tulchinsky/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 29 December 2021 03:04 PM

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," as Baron Acton (1834–1902) once said.

And as journalists like New York Post columnist Miranda Devine delve deeper into the business dealings of Hunter Biden and reveal their connection to his father, President Joe Biden, the truth of that statement is further affirmed.

Although presidential power is tempered by the checks and balances of two co-equal branches of government — Congress and the federal courts — it hasn’t stopped presidents and their aides and appointees from engaging in scandalous activities.

Here is Newsmax’s list of ten examples — listed in chronological order.

Thomas Jefferson — The Sally Hemmings Affair

Although America’s third U.S. president became a widower in 1782 — long before he entered the White House — it didn’t mean he was celibate.

He had an affair with one of his indentured servants, Sally Hemings, who was a bi-racial half-sister of Jefferson's late wife, Martha. This scandal’s details were revealed years later when a journalist broke the story in 1802. It turned out that Jefferson and Hemings were together for more than 30 years and had six children. The story was not confirmed until 1998 when DNA analysis of their descendants showed a very high likelihood of kinship.

John Quincy Adams — The "Corrupt Bargain"

Five candidates, all running as Democratic-Republicans, campaigned to become the sixth president in 1824. They included John Quincy Adams, the son of the second President, John Adams; John C. Calhoun, former secretary of war; Henry Clay, speaker of the House; William H. Crawford, a Georgia slaveholder; and Andrew Jackson, the "hero of the Battle of New Orleans."

Without surprise, no one candidate acquired a majority of the votes due to the crowded field, so the election came down to the top two vote-getters — Adams and Jackson. And it was decided by the House of Representatives — Clay’s territory.

When the powerful and popular Clay announced, before the formal vote, that he favored Adams, most of the rest of the body concurred.

Shortly after that, Adams appointed Clay to be his secretary of state — a position he coveted, making it the "corrupt bargain."

Andrew Jackson — The Swartwout Scandal

President Jackson appointed Samuel Swartwout as the Collector of the Port of New York during a government recess, knowing that many senators wouldn’t confirm the less-than-honorable man’s installation in such an important post.

Swartwout held the position from 1830 to 1838.

And during his 8-year tenure as the Collector of the Port, Swartwout allegedly embezzled more than $1.2 million (more than $30 million today). Then he fled to England to escape prosecution, though he later returned after paying back a lesser amount.

Ironically, President Martin Van Buren. Jackson’s successor, appointed Jesse Hoyt to replace Swartwout, who immediately began embezzling funds himself. This turned the Swartwout scandal into the Swartwout–Hoyt scandal.

Ulysses S. Grant — The Whiskey Ring

The cast of characters in this scandal included a diversion of tax revenue agents, politicians, whiskey distillers, and distributors during Grant’s presidency. Although the president wasn’t directly involved, it nonetheless damaged his image. Gen. John McDonald, Grant’s appointee as Revenue Collector of Missouri District in 1869, was the scandal’s ringleader. Tax officials collected millions of dollars of bribes in return for agreeing to collect only a fraction of the taxes due.

The conspiracy even implicated Grant’s private secretary, Orville Babcock, who was acquitted after Grant testified in his defense. Others weren’t so lucky. McDonald was indicted, tried, found guilty, fined $5,000, and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

James A. Garfield — The Star Route Scandal

This is one Garfield wasn’t personally involved in, but one he nonetheless had to deal with during his brief 6-month tenure as president before his assassination. This scandal involved corruption within the postal service. Private companies handled postal routes in the western and southern United States, which became known as the Star Route. As these areas became more populated, they also became more lucrative, and U.S. Postal employees and top officials began accepting bribes in return for granting delivery contracts within the Star Route. Public distaste over the scandal prompted civil service reform and the approval of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in 1883.

Grover Cleveland — "Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?" 

During Cleveland’s first presidential campaign in 1884, a story broke that he had fathered an illegitimate son, then-10 years old. After a major newspaper released the story, soon other papers picked it up, claiming that the boy was the product of a lengthy affair he’d had with a widow. To his credit, Cleveland made no attempt to deny it and immediately accepted responsibility. This admission prompted a chant heard on the campaign trail, "Ma Ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!" Cleveland’s honesty not only won him the 1884 election, but it gave him subsequent win in 1892, making him the only president in U.S. history who served two non-consecutive terms.

Warren G. Harding — The Teapot Dome Scandal

Although Harding wasn’t directly involved in the Teapot Dome scandal, it tarnished his administration. His interior secretary, Albert Fall, acquired full control of oil reserves in Wyoming and California on behalf of the department, including Wyoming’s Teapot Dome Oil Field. Fall leased three no-bid Navy petroleum reserves to private oil companies at lower-than-market rates. including Teapot Dome and two fields in California. Sen. Thomas J. Walsh, D-Montana, launched a congressional investigation when smaller oil companies complained about the award of leases without competitive bidding. Fall was eventually convicted of accepting bribes from the oil companies and became the first White House cabinet member to be imprisoned.

Richard Nixon — Watergate

In this one, although there’s no evidence to suggest that the president had any direct involvement, or even knowledge of illegal activity, his subsequent attempts to cover it up led to his downfall. This came about as the result of the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. The burglary was committed by low-level employees of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. It was both amateurish and stupid — Nixon’s re-election was all but assured. The coverup by White House personnel resulted in the conviction and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon’s top administration officials. It also resulted in Nixon’s resignation — the only presidential resignation in U.S. history.

Ronald Reagan — The Iran-Contra Affair

The adminstration of Ronald Reagan was faced with two unrelated foreign policy issues in 1981: The seizure of seven American hostages who were being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with strong Iranian ties; and the seizure of power in Nicaragua by socialist Sandinistas through a revolution 1979. Also in 1979, the U.S.-backed government in Iran was overthrown by radical Islamists. Senior White House officials hatched a scheme to address both issues. They secretly sold arms to Iran, which was (and is) subject to an arms embargo with the goal of securing the release of hostages. The profits were then secretly handed over to the Contras in Nicaragua, with the goal of overthrowing the socialist Sandinista government. The scandal resulted in major televised congressional hearings and more than a dozen indictments.

Bill Clinton — Monica Lewinsky

This scandal came to light in 1998 and involved a sexual relationship between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, who was then a 22-year-old White House intern. As often happens, what got him in trouble more than the affair itself was the coverup. Clinton denied the affair with his young staffer during a deposition in an unrelated case. His perjury resulted in a 1998 decision to impeach him in the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, failed to muster the two-thirds vote to convict, so Clinton remained in office.

Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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Although presidential power is tempered by the checks and balances of two co-equal branches of government, Congress and the federal courts, it hasn’t stopped presidents from engaging in scandalous activities.
lewinsky, reagan, watergate
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2021-04-29
Wednesday, 29 December 2021 03:04 PM
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