Scandal on the Congressional Campaign Trail: Who Survived?

Sex scandals and investigations had some fighting for their political lives.

November 5, 2008, 1:38 PM

November 5, 2008— -- Scandal took its toll on members across both sides of the aisle in the 2008 election.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.)

Florida Democrat Mahoney, 52, lost his seat to the Republican challenger, attorney Tom Rooney, 37.

The loss followed a report by The Blotter on last month that the congressman had secretly paid a former mistress $120,000 to prevent a sexual harassment lawsuit and helped another county official with whom he was having an affair win a federal grant for her agency. He is now under investigation by the FBI and though Mahoney admitted to having "multiple affairs," he said he has broken no laws.

(Click here to watch Rep. Mahoney's admission.)

Though Mahoney dropped out of the long-planned debate with Rooney, he stayed in the race until the end. Then, around 10pm last night, Mahoney released a statement congratulating Rooney, who won by a landslide 60 percent.

"It has been an honor to represent Florida's 16th District," the statement read. "I am proud of all that we have accomplished together...I can only hope that what we have achieved over the past two years leaves a lasting impact on this wonderful community."

Mahoney's ascension to the 16th congressional district -- which spans from West Palm Beach across to the west coast of Florida -- was an unlikely victory to begin with. The former businessman, who campaign on a platform of "faith, family and personal responsibility," won narrowly and only after Republican incumbent Mark Foley resigned following revelations that he had sent lewd instant messages to teenage congressional pages.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

Alaskans appeared ready to send the Republican Stevens back to the Senate, despite his fresh criminal record. A jury convicted Stevens in late October on seven felony counts stemming from a probe of gifts from an oil services firm which he received but did not report. He is appealing the verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens, the longest-serving member of the Senate, enjoyed strong poll numbers up to his guilty verdict. But as the votes came in last night, it appeared he had a winning edge.

If Stevens wins, he will be the first convicted felon to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

Alaskans also look poised to return Young, also Republican, to Congress, heedless of two reported FBI probes into his dealings . Young has spent over $1 million from his campaign contributions on lawyers, while he fights investigations into unreimbursed campaign expenses paid for by oil services firm VECO, and into an earmark he championed which benefited a Florida supporter. Young has denied wrongdoing in both matters.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

Embattled Rep. Rangel will serve a 20th term after winning the 15th district of New York with a resounding 87 percent of the vote.

The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman has been dogged by scandal after scandal this election cycle. In September, the House of Representatives' Committee on Standards of Official Conduct began investigating whether Rangel violated any laws or standards of conduct with regards to allegations that he:

In July, Rangel formally asked the ethics committee to investigate his use of congressional letterhead saying, "none of these letters made any reference to or in any way solicited financial contributions to the Center." He has said that he did not violate any ethics rules and that he would give up the rent-controlled apartment that he used as a campaign office. In regards to his apartment in the Dominican Republic, Rangel blamed "cultural and language barriers" for his failure to report $75,000 in rental income. When the New York Post confronted Rangel with the parking allegations, he said, "I told you I am not discussing that. I want to be kind and gentle -- please let me be."

Rep. William "Cold Cash" Jefferson (D-La.)

He may be facing a 16-count indictment, but Rep. Jefferson won a primary run-off election against Democratic challenger Helena Moreno. He is heavily favored to win the December general election, which was delayed due to Hurricane Gustav.

Jefferson was indicted last year as part of a corruption probe on 16 charges, including racketeering, solicitation of bribes, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Jefferson pleaded not guilty and is expected to go to trial late this year. If convicted on all charges, he could face 235 years in prison.

In court papers, FBI agents say Jefferson was videotaped accepting marked money supposedly to pay a bribe to a Nigerian official. The FBI says $90,000 in marked money was found in Jefferson's freezer during a raid.

Jefferson represents New Orleans and in 2005 ABC News reported that amid the chaos after Hurricane Katrina struck, Jefferson used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)

Rep. Feeney will not serve a 4th term in Congress after losing his seat to Democrat Suzanne Kosmas. With almost all precincts in his Florida district reporting, Feeney only managed to capture 41 percent of the vote, compared with Kosmas' 57 percent.

His constituents were apparently unwilling to forgive the "rookie mistake" that Feeney admitted to making when he made a trip overseas in 2003 that was paid for convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The two other politicians trip on the trip, Bob Ney of Ohio and former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, have faced troubles of their own because of connections to Abramoff. Ney pled guilty to federal charges and served 17 months in prison, while Delay has been indicted in Texas on unrelated charges for allegedly violating election fundraising laws.

In a campaign video released this fall, Feeney said: "Five years ago, when I was first elected to Congress, I was invited on a trip to Scotland. I found out later it was paid for by a corrupt lobbyist. It was a rookie mistake, and I did everything I could to make it right. I reported it to the Ethics Committee, and I paid the money back. I embarrassed myself, embarrassed you, and for that, I'm very sorry."

By Tuesday morning, Feeney's campaign website, along with the video, was already taken down. A call to his office was not returned.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

Despite being under federal investigation for his relationship with disgraced former Congressman Duke Cunningham and being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Rep. Jerry Lewis appears to have won a 16th consecutive term in office. With 60 percent of the precincts in his California district reporting, he has won with 62 percent of the vote.

CREW expressed concern about Lewis' efforts to pass earmarks which they said appeared as if the Congressman "traded legislative assistance for campaign contributions." Lewis has strenuously denied those allegations saying that the earmarks benefited his district.

Lewis is alleged to have accepted thousands of dollars from the same corporation that was involved in the Cunningham scandal. He has denied any wrongdoing. Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, was sentenced to over eight years in prison for tax evasion and conspiracy. Federal prosecutors began probing the relationship between the two in 2006, and Lewis has reportedly spent over $1 million in attorney fees stemming from the investigation.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV)

While there have not been any recent developments, Mollohan has been under investigation by the Justice Department following media reports in 2006 into his activities. He ran unopposed and will begin his 14th term in Congress in January.

The FBI is investigating whether Mollohan financially benefited from steering millions in federal funds to non-profit groups connected to him. Mollohan has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

Vacated Seats Up for Grabs

Scandal also took its toll on Republicans whose members had resigned instead of facing a tough reelection bid. In Arizona, where Republican Rep. Rick Renzi resigned after being indicted on federal corruption charges though he denies wrongdoing, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, a state representative, was victorious.

Similarly, the district of Republican Rep. Vito Fossella went to a Democrat. The Staten Island Republican announced he would not seek reelection after a drunk driving arrest in Virginia led to the revelation he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Now city councilman Michael Mahon will take the slot.

One seat vacated by members under a cloud of scandal remains a toss up – that of Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who is under investigation in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Republican Tom McClintock, a former state assemblyman, is in a dead heat with Democrat Charlie Brown, a retired Air Force officer who nearly beat Doolittle in 2006.

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