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Congressional Sex Scandals in History


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By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com

As the House prepares for a possible investigation of sex-related allegations concerning President Clinton, it's worth taking a look back at how Congress has dealt with the frequent charges of sexual misconduct by its own members.

Here are 21 case studies. In most, Congress took little or no official action, leaving the fate of the accused to the voters.

This history begins in 1974, but not because episodes of sexual impropriety only go back a quarter-century. In the old days, they simply weren't reported. In 1903, for example, the Speaker of the House, David Henderson (R-Iowa), was forced to resign over his sexual relationship with the daughter of a senator. Henderson never said why he was quitting, and neither did the press. But that was then, and this is now.

Mills | Hays | Young | Howe | Richmond | Hinson
Bauman | Evans | Crane | Studds | Konnyu | Adams | Bates | Lukens
Savage | Frank | Stangeland | Robb | Inouye | Packwood | Reynolds

1974

Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.)
On Oct. 9, 1974, Mills, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and perhaps the most powerful member of the House, was stopped for speeding near the Jefferson Memorial at 2 a.m. Shortly after, Annabella Battistella – a stripper who went by the stage-name of Fanne Foxe, Mills campaign button the "Argentine Firecracker" – jumped out of his car and into the Potomac River tidal basin. The incident did not immediately threaten Mills, whose district was solidly Democratic. But Mills won reelection with only 59 percent of the vote, his lowest total ever. Within weeks, Mills appeared on a Boston stage carousing with Foxe, apparently intoxicated. Faced with an uprising among House Democrats, Mills was forced to resign as Ways and Means chairman, and in 1976 he announced he would not seek another term, ending his 38-year House career. He was succeeded by Jim Guy Tucker, whose own ethics got the attention of Kenneth Starr some two decades later.

1976

Rep. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio)
In its May 23, 1976, editions, The Washington Post quoted Elizabeth Ray as saying that she was a secretary for the House Administration Committee, headed by Hays, despite the fact that "I can't type, I can't file, I can't Hays campaign button even answer the phone." She said the main responsibility of her $14,000-a-year job was to have sex with Hays. The fall of Hays, an arrogant bully who was one of the most powerful – and disliked – members of Congress, was rapid. The House ethics committee opened its investigation on June 2. He resigned as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on June 3. In the Democratic primary five days later, a car-wash manager/bartender who had run against Hays four previous times and never received more than 20 percent of the vote got 39 percent. Hays later resigned his committee chairmanship, dropped his reelection bid, and finally resigned on September 1.

   


Rep. John Young (D-Tex.)
On June 11, 1976, Colleen Gardner, a former staff secretary to Young, told the New York Times that Young increased her salary after she gave in to his sexual advances. In November, Young, who had run unopposed in the safe Democratic district five consecutive times, was reelected with just 61 percent of the vote. The scandal wouldn't go away, and in 1978 Young was defeated in a Democratic primary runoff.

Rep. Allan Howe (D-Utah)
On June 13, 1976, Howe was arrested in Salt Lake City on charges of soliciting two policewomen posing as prostitutes. Howe insisted he was set up and refused to resign. But the Democratic Party distanced itself from his candidacy and he was trounced by his Republican opponent in the November election.

Rep. Fred Richmond (D-N.Y.)
In April 1978, Richmond was arrested in Washington for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy. Richmond apologized for his actions, conceding he "made bad judgments involving my private life." In spite of a Democratic primary opponent's attempts to cash in on the headlines, Richmond easily won renomination and reelection. But his career came to an end four years later when, after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana and tax evasion – and amid allegations that he had his staff procure cocaine for him – he resigned his seat.

1980

Rep. Jon Hinson (R-Miss.)
On Aug. 8, 1980, during his first reelection bid, Hinson stunned everyone by announcing that in 1976 he had been accused of committing an obscene act at a gay haunt in Virginia. Hinson, married and a strong conservative, added that in 1977 he had survived a fire in a gay D.C. movie theater. He was making the disclosure, he said, because he needed to clear his conscience. But he denied he was a homosexual and refused GOP demands that he resign. Hinson won reelection in a three-way race, with 39 percent of the vote. But three months later, he was arrested on charges of attempted oral sodomy in the restroom of a House office building. He resigned his seat on April 13, 1981.

   


Bauman campaign button Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.)
On Oct. 3, 1980, Bauman, a leading "pro-family" conservative, pleaded innocent to a charge that he committed oral sodomy on a teenage boy in Washington. Married and the father of four, Bauman conceded that he had been an alcoholic but had been seeking treatment. The news came as a shock to voters of the rural, conservative district, and he lost to a Democrat in November.

1981

Rep. Thomas Evans (R-Del.)
The Wilmington News-Journal reported on March 6, 1981, that three House members – Evans, Tom Railsback (R-Ill.) and Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) – shared a cottage during a 1980 vacation in Florida with Paula Parkinson, a lobbyist who later posed for Playboy magazine. All three proceeded to vote against federal crop-insurance legislation that Parkinson had been lobbying against, and questions were raised whether votes were exchanged for sex. Railsback and Quayle denied having sex with her. Evans said he regretted his "association" with Parkinson and asked his family and God to forgive him. But he forgot to include the voters, who in 1982 threw him out of office.

1983

Reps. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.)
The House ethics committee on July 14, 1983, announced that Crane and Studds had sexual relationships with teenage congressional pages – Crane with a 17-year-old female in 1980, Studds with a 17-year-old male in 1973. Both admitted the charges that same day, and Studds acknowledged he was gay. The committee voted to reprimand the two, but a back-bench Georgia Republican named Newt Gingrich argued that they should be expelled. The full House voted on July 20 instead to censure the two, the first time that ever happened for sexual misconduct. Crane, married and the father of six, was tearful in his apology to the House, while Studds refused to apologize. Crane's conservative district voted him out in 1984, while the voters in Studds's more liberal district were more forgiving. Studds won reelection in 1984 with 56 percent of the vote, and continued to win until he retired in 1996.

1987

Rep. Ernie Konnyu (R-Calif.)
In August 1987, two former Konnyu aides complained to the San Jose Mercury News that the freshman Republican had sexually harassed them. GOP leaders were unhappy with Konnyu's temperament to begin with, so it took little effort to find candidates who would take him on in the primary. Stanford professor Tom Campbell ousted Konnyu the following June.

1988

Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.)
On Sept. 27, 1988, Seattle newspapers reported that Kari Tupper, the daughter of Adams's longtime friends, filed a complaint against the Washington Democrat in July of 1987, charging sexual assault. She claimed she went to Adams's house in March 1987 to get him to end a pattern of harassment, but that he drugged her and assaulted her. Adams denied any sexual assault, saying they only talked about her employment opportunities. Adams continued raising campaign funds and declared for a second term in February of 1992. But two weeks later the Seattle Times reported that eight other women were accusing Adams of sexual molestation over the past 20 years, describing a history of drugging and subsequent rape. Later that day, while still proclaiming his innocence, Adams ended his campaign.

Rep. Jim Bates (D-Calif.)
Roll Call quoted former Bates aides in October 1988 saying that the San Diego Democrat made sexual advances toward female staffers. Bates called it a GOP-inspired smear campaign, but also apologized for anything he did that might have seemed inappropriate. The story came too close to Election Day to damage Bates, who won easily. However, the following October the ethics committee sent Bates a "letter of reproval" directing him to make a formal apology to the women who filed the complaint. Although the district was not thought to be hospitable to the GOP, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former Navy pilot who was once shot down over North Vietnam, ousted Bates in 1990 by fewer than 2,000 votes.

   


1989

Rep. Donald "Buz" Lukens (R-Ohio)
On Feb. 1, 1989, an Ohio TV station aired a videotape of a confrontation between Lukens, a conservative activist, and the mother of a Columbus teenager. The mother charged that Lukens had been paying to have sex with her daughter since she was 13. On May 26, Lukens was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sentenced to one month in jail. Infuriating his fellow Republicans, Lukens refused to resign. But he finished a distant third in the May 1990 primary. Instead of spending the remaining months of his term in obscurity, Lukens was accused of fondling a Capitol elevator operator and he resigned on October 24, 1990.

Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.)
The Washington Post reported on July 19, 1989, that Savage had fondled a Peace Corps volunteer while on an official visit to Zaire. Savage called the story a lie and blamed it on his political enemies and a racist media. (Savage is black.) In January 1990, the House ethics committee decided that the events did occur, but decided against any disciplinary action because Savage wrote a letter to the woman saying he "never intended to offend" her. Savage was reelected in 1990, but finally ousted in the 1992 primary by
Mel Reynolds.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
In response to a story in the Aug. 25, 1989, Washington Times, Frank confirmed that he hired Steve Gobie, a male prostitute, in 1985 to live with and work for him in his D.C. apartment. But Frank, who is gay, said Frank campaign button he fired Gobie in 1987 when he learned he was using the apartment to run a prostitution service. The Boston Globe, among others, called on Frank to resign, but he refused. On July 19, 1990, the ethics committee recommended Frank be reprimanded because he "reflected discredit upon the House" by using his congressional office to fix 33 of Gobie's parking tickets. Attempts to expel or censure Frank failed; instead the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him. The fury in Washington was not shared in Frank's district, where he won reelection in 1990 with 66 percent of the vote, and has won by larger margins ever since.

1990

Rep. Arlan Stangeland (R-Minn.)
It was reported in January 1990 that Stangeland, married with seven children, had made several hundred long-distance phone calls in 1986 and 1987 on his House credit card to or from the residences of a female lobbyist. Stangeland acknowledged the calls and conceded some of them may have been personal. But he insisted the relationship was not romantic. Voters of his rural district were not buying, choosing a Democrat in November.

1991

Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.)
On April 25, 1991, with NBC News about to go on the air with allegations he had an extramarital affair with Tai Collins, a former Miss Virginia, Robb made a preemptive strike. The Virginia Democrat, married to Lyndon Johnson's daughter, said he was with Collins in a hotel room, but all that took place was a massage over a bottle of wine. Collins, in a subsequent interview with Playboy, said they had been having an affair since 1983. It was thought that these charges, along with long-circulated but unproven allegations that Robb had attended Virginia Beach parties where cocaine was present, would jeopardize Robb's 1994 bid for re-election. But the GOP nominated Oliver North, the Iran-Contra figure who had his own credibility problems. Robb squeaked by with 46 percent in a three-way race.

1992

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)
In October 1992, Republican Senate nominee Rick Reed began running a campaign commercial that included a surreptitiously taped interview with Lenore Kwock, Inouye's hairdresser. Kwock said Inouye had sexually forced himself on her in 1975 and continued a pattern of sexual harassment, even as Kwock continued to cut his hair over the years. Inouye, seeking a sixth term, denied the charges. And Kwock said that by running the commercial, Reed had caused her more pain than Inouye had. Reed was forced to pull the ad, and while many voters took out their anger on the Republican, Inouye was held to 57 percent of the vote – the lowest total of his career. A week later, a female Democratic state legislator announced that she had heard from nine other women who claimed Inouye had sexually harassed them over the past decade. But the women didn't go public with their claims, the local press didn't pursue the story, and the Senate Ethics Committee decided to drop the investigation because the accusers wouldn't participate in an inquiry.

Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.)
Less than three weeks after Packwood narrowly won a fifth term, the Washington Post on Nov. 22, 1992, reported allegations from 10 female ex-staffers that Packwood had sexually harassed them. The Post had the story before the election, but didn't run it as Packwood had denied the charges. With the story now out in the open, Packwood said that if any of his actions were "unwelcome," he was "sincerely sorry." He then sought alcohol counseling. But his longtime feminist allies were outraged, and with more women coming forward with horror stories, there were calls for his resignation. It wasn't until September of 1995 when, faced with the prospect of public Senate hearings and a vote to expel, Packwood announced his resignation.

1994

Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.)
Freshman Reynolds was indicted on Aug. 19, 1994, on charges of having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker and then pressuring her to lie about it. Reynolds, who is black, denied the charges and said the investigation was racially motivated. The GOP belatedly put up a write-in candidate for November, but Reynolds dispatched him in the overwhelmingly Democratic district with little effort. Reynolds was convicted on Aug. 22, 1995 of 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography, was sentenced to five years in prison, and resigned his seat on October 1.

Ken Rudin, a former editor at NPR and the Hotline, produces the ScuttleButton contest for washingtonpost.com and writes a column for The Hill. He can be reached at rudin@erols.com.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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