8 Politicians Who Survived Huge Scandals And Kept Their Jobs

Getty Images/Drew AngererSenator Robert Menendez, D-N.J.Where there are politicians, there are political scandals to go with them.

From local politics to the West Wing, no office is immune from impropriety. Whether it’s an embarrassing sexting incident or a major ethics violation, these scandals have forced a number of politicians to resign from their post in shame — or even handcuffs. 

But in some cases, scandal-plagued politicians manage to ride out the media firestorm, and remain in office, their careers relatively unscathed. 

Here’s a look back at the most memorable survivors of political scandal.  

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was caught up in a gay prostitution scandal.

Not too long into his political career in 1989, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank became involved with a male prostitute named Steve Gobie, and a scandal developed from there.

From the Washington Post:

Frank, one of two openly gay members of Congress, confirmed Friday that he paid Gobie for sex, hired him with personal funds as an aide and wrote letters on congressional stationery on his behalf to Virginia probation officials, but Frank said he fired Gobie when he learned that clients were visiting the apartment.

Frank ended up hiring him to run errands and live in his home, with the hopes that Gobie would reform. Instead, Gobie continued to work as a prostitute -- out of the Congressman's residence.

A 10-month probe by the House Ethics Committee found that Frank was unaware of Gobie's activities in his home, but he was reprimanded for using his office to help Gobie get out of parking tickets and probation.

Frank survived the scandal and continued to represent Massachussetts in the House, becoming the head of the Banking Committee before retiring from politics in 2012 with his reputation intact.

Justice Clarence Thomas endured a bitter confirmation battle after allegations of sexual harassment.

When Justice Thurgood Marshall decided to retire in 1991, President George H.W. Bush tapped Clarence Thomas to take his place on the high court.

The conservative Thomas faced stiff opposition from a number of organisations. Despite dissent, most observers believed he ultimately would be confirmed.

But once his nomination reached the Senate, it took a dramatic turn with allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill, a former staffer who served under him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Thomas vehemently denied the charges, calling the entire line of questioning a 'high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.'

The D.C. soap opera pitted Thomas' word against Hill's, and he was later confirmed by the Senate 52-48.

Thomas still serves on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was a client of a prostitution service run by the 'D.C. Madam.'

The prosecution of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, better known as the D.C. Madam, didn't end with her conviction. The scandal hit Louisiana Senator David Vitter in July 2007, when his phone number was found on billing records for the escort service.

After the news broke, Vitter denied relationships with New Orleans prostitutes, and refused to answer questions, before finally emerging to apologise for actions in the past, without detailing specifics.

'I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past,' Vitter told The Times-Picayune.

The released phone records found calls between 1999 and 2001 when Vitter was a member of the House of Representatives, but no criminal charges were filed due to statute of limitation restrictions.

Vitter still holds his seat in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) was found guilty of 11 ethics violations.

President Bush's senior advisor Karl Rove leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent to a journalist.

Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson published an op-ed in The New York Times detailing dubious links between nuclear materials sales from Niger to Iraq that had bolstered the case for war.

On July 8, 2003, Karl Rove took a phone call from Robert Novak, who referred to Valerie Plame as a CIA officer who was married to Wilson. Rove then told the columnist, 'I heard that, too.' Novak later published a syndicated column that revealed the undercover agent's identity, with Richard Armitage and Rove as his inside sources.

From The New York Times:

The column provoked angry demands for an investigation into who disclosed Ms. Wilson's name to Mr. Novak. The Justice Department appointed Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a top federal prosecutor in Chicago, to lead the inquiry. Mr. Rove said in an interview with CNN last year that he did not know the C.I.A. officer's name and did not leak it.

The grand jury investigation did not result in an indictment or conviction stemming from the leak, but the Vice President's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was indicted on counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements.

Rove survived the scandal and resigned his post on Aug. 31, 2007. Since then, he's written for a number of publications (along with his own memoir), become an analyst for Fox News, and advises a number of political action committees.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) allegedly helped her husband's bank get federal aid.

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown and the implementation of the massive $700 billion bank bailout, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters helped set up a meeting between Treasury officials and OneUnited bank.

But there was a serious conflict-of-interest: Her husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank's board and had owned at least $250,000 of its stock.

Eventually, the TARP bill that passed Congress in October 2008 included a provision to aid small, minority-owned banks like OneUnited, and the bank received $12 million two months later, according to the Washington Post.

After a lengthy investigation, the House Ethics Committee cleared Waters of the charges on Sep. 21, 2012, concluding that she believed she was intervening on behalf of all minority-owned banks, and not only on behalf of OneUnited.

She still serves in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) allegedly helped advance business interests of one of his biggest donors

Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress.

The 2010 murder of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent in Arizona, with guns connected to an ATF operation known as 'Fast and Furious' set off a heated scandal that reached the highest echelons of the Justice Department.

In the operation, ATF agents allowed illegal buyers to purchase weapons in Arizona gun shops and hoped to later track them to Mexican cartels. Unfortunately, the ATF lost track of most of the firearms.

Republican lawmakers blasted the Justice Department's handling of the case, and particularly the involvement of President Barack Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, who was called to testify about the operation on numerous occasions. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested documents related to the case, but Holder refused to turn them over, claiming executive privilege.

On Jun. 28, 2012, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to hold Holder in contempt of Congress, the first time in U.S. history such action had been taken against a member of the President's cabinet.

For the time being, Holder remains at his post. The House and the Justice Department are now in mediation to resolve the issue, but if they don't come up with a solution before Apr. 24, the case goes before a federal judge.

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