ABC News will present awards to the worst-behaved newsmakers of 2009 in the first annual presentation of the "Bernies," named after convicted conman Bernard Madoff.
The "Bernies" will be presented in four categories -- politicians, money men, the sick and twisted and celebrities and wannabes -- based on an on-line ballot on ABCNews.com that opened for voting this morning.
The awards will be presented during a special year-end broadcast of Nightline on Wednesday, Dec. 30, featuring co-anchor Martin Bashir and ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross.
"Barbara Walters has the most fascinating, we have the most scandalous and worst behaved," said Ross.
"We decided to name our awards the "Bernies" because Madoff's world class financial scam and lack of remorse for his victims sets a new standard for scandalous behavior widely recognized by all investigative reporters," added Ross.
The nominations were determined by the ABC News investigative team and Nightline staff.
In the political category, the nominations for worst behaved are disgraced former Senator John Edwards, convicted former Congressman William "Cold Cash" Jefferson, philandering Nevada Senator John Ensign and Argentine Romeo Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
"Our viewers are going to have make some difficult choices given the political scandals of 2009," said Nightline executive producer James Goldston.
In the category of celebrities and those seeking celebrity, the wannabes, the nominations went to extramaritally adventurous golfer Tiger Woods, the Colorado parents of "Balloon Boy" Falcon Heene, girlfriend beater Chris Brown, "creepy sex" TV host and alleged extortion victim David Letterman and the White House gate-crashing couple, the Salahis.
"Several very deserving and badly behaved celebrities did not make the final cut, and we offer them our apologies," explained investigative producer Avni Patel. "This is a highly competitive category."
Among money men, the nominations for worst behaved in 2009 are award namesake Bernard Madoff, Bank of America President Ken Lewis, indicted financier Sir Allen Robert Stanford, accused insider trader shark Raj Rajaratnam and well-paid AIG executive Joseph Cassano.
"Our investigative team has been closely tracking all five of the men nominated for the Bernie in the money category and each has a strong and unique case to make for being the worst behaved," said Rhonda Schwartz, the senior producer of the Brian Ross ABC News investigative unit.
The fourth category covers individuals deemed to be sick and twisted, based on alleged behavior that goes far beyond any of the other categories.
The nominees are the United Arab Emirates royal sheikh who ordered aides to videotape the fiendish torture he administered to employees, the Texas state employees who forced residents at a home for the mentally disabled to join a "fight club," the CIA station chief in Algeria accused of using a date-rape drug on visitors to the American embassy, the Russian spies who created a sex tape to smear the American diplomat in Moscow in charge of working with human rights groups there, and the American contractors who engaged in lewd sex parties while being paid to guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"The people in this final category have been accused or convicted of truly evil acts and they deserve all the attention we can give them," said Ross.