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Posted at 10:47 AM ET, 12/06/2011

Political scandals of 2011: Which was the worst? (VOTE)

Sure, 2011 brought us the blink-and-you’ll miss it Kardashian wedded bliss and Charlie Sheen gone wild. But celebrities didn’t have the lock on gossip this year — plenty of politicians found themselves in the news for some not-so-nice reasons.

Here are the top political scandals of 2011. But which was the very most scandalous? Help us pick, using the tool below. Feel free to let us know which ones we missed, and stay posted for when we reveal 2011’s top (or is it bottom?) scandal.

Former Rep. David Wu

The Oregon Democrat survived the Year of the Tiger (in 2010, a picture of him dressed in a tiger costume went viral, and he later admitted to taking prescription painkillers). But 2011 felled him, when the teenage daughter of one of his political donors accused him of an “aggressive, unwanted” sexual encounter.

Fast and Furious

A sting operation aimed at cracking down on illegal gun-running operated by the Justice Department wound up stinging the administration instead. When guns originally owned by the government started showing up at the scenes of violent crimes in Mexico — including the murder of a U.S. border agent — congressional Republicans pounced.

With subpoenas flying, even Attorney General Eric Holder says the operation should never have happened.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner

The New York Democrat became the cautionary tale of the Twitter age after racy pictures (including one of his clothed crotch) surfaced. Weiner at first claimed his Twitter account had been hacked, but later admitted sending the suggestive images to various young women and that he’d had inappropriate online relationships.

Many scandal-watchers agreed that Weiner’s troubles were compounded by a few factors, including the fact that he initially lied about the Twit-pics and the circus-like press conference in which he partly fessed up (his made-for-headline-puns last name didn’t help, either).

Former Rep. Chris Lee

Even though he resigned, Lee will forever be “the Craigslist Congressman.” In February, news broke that the (very married) New York Republican had been trolling Craigslist for dates. Worse was the photographic evidence: shirtless photos of Lee flexing his muscles in front of a mirror that he had sent to women.

Herman Cain

From the start, the former head of Godfather’s Pizza chain was an unconventional candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But his campaign took an even weirder turn when a parade of women came forward alleging sexual harassment, and in one case, a 13-year affair.

Cain called the accusations “baseless,” but the drip-drip-drip nature of the stories and his cringey handling has dented his campaign.

Solyndra

The White House once touted the company as one of the shining examples of green-energy job creators, and awarded it a $535 million loan. But by earlier this year, the company had filed for bankruptcy, defaulted on the loan, and the FBI had raided its headquarters.

The collapse of the company has led to scrutiny of the ties between the company’s investors and the White House — and left plenty of egg (however green) on administration faces.

Former Sen. John Ensign

The year 2011 marked the end rather than the beginning of the scandal surrounding the Nevada Republican. He finally pulled the plug on his congressional career in April, amid a Senate ethics probe launched after it was revealed that he had an affair with a staffer (who was also, coincidentally, a close friend of his family and married to another Ensign staffer) and found work for the woman’s husband.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Oh Ah-nold! The ex-GOP governor and his wife, Maria Shriver, of the Kennedy clan, separated this year after it came to light that the former action star had fathered a love child with a member of the couple’s household staff.

By  |  10:47 AM ET, 12/06/2011

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