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Hilary Krieger: Why some politicians survive scandals

Published March 26, 2014 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Hilary Krieger

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — For elected leaders, when does the good outweigh the bad? Cast your vote on whether three real politicians should have been reelected despite their misdeeds while in office.

• Referendum Item A:

This politician shot his wife's lover dead in broad daylight across from the White House. But he was a Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient who led troops at Gettysburg and was instrumental in preserving the battlefield as a national monument.

Result: In 1859, Rep. Daniel Sickles (N.Y.) killed his wife's lover, Francis Scott Key's son Philip. Sickles, acquitted by the first successful use of the "temporary insanity" defense, then served in the Union Army. In 1893 he returned to Congress.

• Referendum Item B:

This politician was arrested for driving under the influence, was fined by the Federal Election Commission for campaign finance infractions and wrote bad checks. But he helped bring down the Soviet Union by championing U.S. aid to Afghan fighters, supported projects important to his district and was loved by his constituents.

Result: From 1973 to 1997, Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas, served 12 terms in Congress. He earned the nickname "Good Time Charlie" for his exploits and was played by Tom Hanks in "Charlie Wilson's War."

• Referendum Item C:

This politician was charged with mail fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery for a $2 million payoff from companies seeking permits to build state hospitals. But his opponent was a former KKK grand wizard and neo-Nazi.

Result: In 1991, Edwin Edwards (D) beat David Duke to return to the governorship of Louisiana, aided by the bumper sticker "Vote for the crook. It's important." Edwards beat the charges brought against him while in office but later spent eight years in prison for racketeering, extortion and fraud. He just announced another run for Congress, where he served before the governor post.




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