Policy

The Bad Boys of Congress

10 Republicans and Democrats who faced criminal charges

Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison in a hush-money case that prosecutors say involved payments he made to prevent an alleged sex abuse victim from speaking up about acts that occurred when the Illinois Republican was a high school teacher and wrestling coach decades ago.  

Hastert pleaded guilty in October to evading bank reporting requirements when he withdrew cash from multiple accounts to pay someone he said was extorting him. Investigators found no evidence of extortion. The alleged sex abuse occurred too long ago for any prosecution. Still, Hastert will spend time in prison and two years of supervised released in the case.  

Hastert is hardly the first member of Congress to wind up in court. Here are 10 former politicians, Republicans and Democrats, convicted of criminal charges.  

Rep. Michael G. Grimm resigned after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Michael G. Grimm resigned after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

8 MONTHS Michael G. Grimm Rep. New York  (R) Sentenced: July 17, 2015  

The Charges: Tax evasion, fraud  

The Lowdown: Grimm was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for tax evasion. A 20-count indictment charged him with mail, wire and health care fraud related to a restaurant he owned and operated before taking public office.  

Where is he now?  Grimm resigned after pleading guilty to one charge involving filing inaccurate tax returns.  

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to two and a half years for misuse of campaign funds. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to two and a half years for misuse of campaign funds. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

2.5 YEARS Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. Rep. Illinois (D) Sentenced: August 14, 2013  

The Charge: Misuse of campaign funds  

The Lowdown: Jackson was sentenced to a 30-month prison term after he was convicted of illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items that included a $43,000 Rolex watch and $28,000 worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia.  

Where is he now?  Jackson finished serving time, which included home confinement and a stay at a halfway house in September, half a year ahead due to good behavior.  

Rep. Rick Renzi was denied a new trial.
Rep. Rick Renzi was denied a new trial.

3 YEARS Rick Renzi Rep. Arizona (R) Sentenced: October 28, 2013  

The Charges: Wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion  

The Lowdown: A jury convicted Rep. Rick Renzi on 17 out of 32 counts in his federal corruption trial that involved charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and extortion during his time in office.  

Where is he now?  An appeals court rejected Renzi’s request for a new trial in late 2014. He began serving his prison sentence in February 2015.  

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's convictions were later overturned. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's convictions were later overturned. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OVERTURNED Tom DeLay Rep. Texas (R) Sentenced: January 10, 2011  

The Charge: Money laundering  

The Lowdown: DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a scheme that funneled $190,000 of corporate money into the campaign accounts of candidates running for office in Texas.  

Where is he now? DeLay’s conviction was overturned in 2013 due to insufficient evidence.  

Rep. William J. Jefferson's sentence is believed to be the longest prison term for a member of Congress. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. William J. Jefferson's sentence is believed to be the longest prison term for a member of Congress. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

13 YEARS William J. Jefferson Rep. Louisiana (D) Sentenced: November 13, 2009  

The Charge: Money laundering  

The Lowdown: Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. The investigation included the seizure by the FBI of $90,000 in cash from his home freezer. His sentence is believed to be the longest prison term handed to any member of Congress.  

Where is he now? Jefferson’s release date from a Louisiana prison is set for 2023, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.  

All seven of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' convictions were overturned. (Photo/Roll Call)
All seven of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' convictions were overturned. (Photo/Roll Call)

OVERTURNED Ted Stevens Sen. Alaska (R) Convicted: October 27, 2008, but overturned before sentencing  

The Charge: Money laundering  

The Lowdown: Stevens was convicted on seven counts for not reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his home, according to the Senate Historical Office.  

Where is he now? Months later, Steven’s case was overturned citing prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010.  

Ohio Rep. Bob Ney sought alcohol abuse treatment. (Photo/Roll Call)
Ohio Rep. Bob Ney sought alcohol abuse treatment. (Photo/Roll Call)

2.5 YEARS Bob Ney Rep. Ohio (R) Sentenced: January 19, 2007  

The Charge: Corruption  

The Lowdown: Ney was the first elected official to go to jail because of dealings related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ney admitted to performing official acts in exchange for campaign contributions.  

Where is he now?  Ney served 17 months of his sentence following substance abuse treatment for alcohol.  

Rep. Randy Cunningham pleaded guilty to tax evasion. (Photo/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Randy Cunningham pleaded guilty to tax evasion. (Photo/CQ Roll Call)

8 YEARS Randy “Duke” Cunningham Rep. California (R) Sentenced: March 3, 2006  

The Charge: Bribery  

The Lowdown: Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months for taking $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors in exchange for government contracts. He resigned from office after pleading guilty to tax evasion.  

Where is he now?  Cunningham was released in 2013. A judge freed him from post-prison monitoring early. He reportedly lives in a scenic gated community in Arkansas.  

Rep. Frank Ballance was charged with diverting taxpayer money to his law firm.
Rep. Frank Ballance was charged with diverting taxpayer money to his law firm.

4 YEARS Frank Ballance Rep. North Carolina (D) Sentenced: October 12, 2005  

The Charge:  Money laundering  

The Lowdown: Ballance was sentenced to a four-year prison term for conspiring to divert taxpayer money to his law firm through a charitable organization he helped start.  

Where is he now? Ballance was released in 2009, and supporters held a rally honoring his commitment to community service shortly after.  

traficant5/071802 - Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, testifies at a hearing of the House Ethics Committee. The Committee found Traficant guilty of 9 counts violating House rules and recommended expulsion from Congress.
Traficant served seven years behind bars.

8 YEARS James Traficant Rep. Ohio (D) Sentenced: July 30, 2002  

The Charge: Bribery, racketeering  

The Lowdown: Traficant spent seven years of his sentence behind bars on bribery charges after being convicted of 10 felonies, including accepting bribes and taking kickbacks. Prosecutors said he filed false tax returns and accepted free work from Ohio farm contractors in exchange for congressional favors. He was booted from the House for unethical behavior.  

Where is he now? Traficant died in 2014 after a tractor tipped over on him at his daughter’s farm.  

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.