2014 was a banner year for politicians behaving badly: 6 rich examples

Of course, there are political missteps, stupid statements and flat-out corruption every year. But 2014 was a banner year for bad behavior by elected officials, particularly in California. This list includes politicians-turned-defendants, a few allegations and more than one faux pas that made us cringe.

Money can’t buy love

Steve Helber / Associated Press

The public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, was probably the most tawdry display of the year. The couple were accused of using the office and their influence to help a Florida health-supplement manufacturer, who gave them $177,000 in cash, loans and gifts, including vacations, the use of a boat and a Ferrari, and $25,000 in wedding presents for two of their daughters. Even worse, McDonnell tried to put the blame on Maureen, using the Crazy Wife defense and outlining her emotional problems. It didn’t work. They were convicted in September.

Gun trafficking for campaign cash?

Ben Margot / Associated Press

We all know it takes a lot of money to run for public office, but federal prosecutors say California state Sen. Leland Yee was so desperate for campaign cash that he offered to help undercover agents procure military-style rifles and rocket launchers. "Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money," Yee told the agent, according to the indictment. "Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods." Yee pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

A mayoral F-bomb

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

There was nothing criminal about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to drop the F-word on live television during the King’s Stanley Cup victory celebration, but it was definitely cringe-worthy. The mayor, clutching a Bud Light, told the crowd: "They say never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand and never swear. But this is a big [obscenity] day." 

Nobody here but us tumbleweeds

Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

With one off-the-cuff remark to columnist George Skelton, state Sen. Kevin De Leon (now Senate president pro tem) managed to alienate a vast swath of California. De Leon was questioning the decision to start construction of high-speed rail in the Central Valley -- home to 6.5 million people and three major cities  -- which he described as “the middle of nowhere” and just “tumbleweeds.” The local newspapers took him to task and De Leon, wisely, sought to make amends with an apology tour through the valley, complete with a “humble pie” (actually peach) that he took and ate with the Fresno Bee editorial board.

Just keep cool

Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

In what may have been one of the weirdest gubernatorial debates ever televised, Florida Gov. Rick Scott initially refused to go on stage and debate his challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, because Crist had a fan beneath his podium. Scott eventually came out – seven minutes after the debate went live. But “fangate” didn’t hurt Scott too much. He was reelected.

Note to politicians: Never threaten when the camera is rolling

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Sure, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd in Congress. But Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and other parts of New York City, managed to make a name for himself in the worst way possible. When a reporter from the NY1 channel, who was interviewing Grimm after the State of the Union speech, asked about allegations of campaign finance violations, the congressman initially stormed off. Then, with the camera still rolling, Grimm returned to threaten the reporter.

"If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this … balcony," Grimm said, while standing next to a railing. After an exchange of words, Grimm added: "You're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

Grimm was indicted a few months later on federal fraud and tax charges. Despite it all, he managed to win the begrudging endorsements of New York City newspapers including the Daily News, which wrote, “The Democrats have fielded a candidate so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense.”

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