2014's top scandals

2014's top scandals
© Greg Nash

It seems as if no year on Capitol Hill is complete without a full slate of scandals. From the silly to the serious, The Hill compiled a list of the top dastardly deeds, political snafus and outrageous actions that rocked Washington and the country in 2014.

 

Grimm readies his exit

It began with a 20-count indictment earlier this year and ended with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) announcing late Monday night his plans to resign from office.

The embattled 44-year-old congressman and former FBI agent was charged with filing false tax returns, mail fraud and perjury, among other offenses, in an April indictment related to his health food restaurant, Healthalicious. Grimm pleaded guilty to a felony tax evasion charge last week.

It’s not the only time this year that Grimm made headlines. Cameras were rolling in January when Grimm threatened to throw a journalist who was inquiring about campaign finance allegations off a balcony at the Capitol and break him in half “like a boy.”

 

Secret Service flubs

The law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the commander in chief became a national punchline this year, as a series of high-profile security lapses threatened to harm more than just its reputation.

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After an intruder with a knife jumped the White House fence in September and made it into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. by entering through an unlocked door, questions about security vulnerabilities came into sharp focus.

The incident, and a report just weeks later that President Obama unknowingly shared an elevator ride with an armed man who had an arrest record, obliged Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to testify at a House Oversight Committee hearing in late September. She resigned the next day.

 

The “kissing congressman”

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) earned his dubious title as the “kissing congressman” after the married father of five was caught on surveillance video last December puckering up to a staffer in his district office.

“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” McAllister said, after a local newspaper posted video of the rendezvous with the married employee in April.

The House freshman — who had won his seat in a special election and received the endorsement of “Duck Dynasty” stars Willie and Phil Robertson along the way — placed fourth in his November reelection bid. But memories of Smoochgate still linger.

 

Veterans Affairs in turmoil

Patient deaths, hospital mismanagement, and a mess of red tape plagued the Veterans Affairs administration this year, leading to congressional hearings and the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric ShinsekiEric ShinsekiDem demands Trump provide potential death toll for war with North Korea House approves VA bill, sending it to Trump Senate backs bill making it easier to fire VA employees MORE.

The treatment of American military veterans and the disclosure of hospital administrators’ secret lists of wait times for medical appointments elicited a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Now-Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, who started on the job in July, told “60 Minutes” last month that he was “incensed” after reading a report detailing the agency’s failings under his predecessor: “Our veterans have earned these benefits. They earn them with their lives in danger.”

 

Cliven Bundy

In April, the saga of a rancher’s fight against the federal government lasted almost three weeks and drew national attention. But many lawmakers who had supported Cliven Bundy swiftly condemned him following his racist remarks.

Several Republicans came to the defense of the previously unknown Nevada rancher in his dispute against the Bureau of Land Management. The agency had accused Bundy of using federal land to graze his cattle for years without paying fees.

But after Bundy was quoted questioning whether African-Americans were better off as slaves, many of his high-profile defenders quickly withdrew their support and rebuked him.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a statement, “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.” A spokesman for Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said the lawmaker condemned the comments “in the most strenuous way.”

Bundy is reportedly still running his cattle on the disputed land.

 

Radel resigns

He was a fresh face and colorful personality known, among other things, for his sometimes-quirky Twitter feed and his fervent love of hip-hop music. But this year, Rep. Trey Radel also became known for something else: his resignation from Congress following a drug bust.

The Florida Republican and former television anchor, 38, was arrested late last year for cocaine possession. He pleaded guilty and entered drug treatment, asking constituents and colleagues for forgiveness. But facing mounting pressure from members of both parties, he resigned in January. “Unfortunately, some of my struggles had serious consequences,” Radel wrote in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

After a nearly yearlong absence on Twitter, Radel recently returned to the social media site where as a congressman he tweeted his thoughts on an album by rapper Jay-Z. He thanked followers in a Christmas Day message for their “love and support.”