Most of the media oxygen in 2015 was consumed by the presidential primary, and that'll most certainly be the case in 2016 as well. While there haven't yet been any huge scandals in the presidential race — Hillary Clinton's email flap notwithstanding — examine the political landscape more broadly, and you'll find this was a scandalous year indeed. Specifically, a whole lot of politicians were indicted in 2015, including several state attorneys general, one sitting Congressman, and a former speaker of the House.
The juiciness of these scandals varies. Some of them are related to investment fraud and other relatively boring matters; others, like the one currently embroiling Pennsylvania's attorney general, revolve around things like bigoted emails between high-level government officials. Regardless of the nature of the alleged misdoings, the flurry of indictments against politicians this year underscores something that really, everyone already knows: Politics is a dirty, dirty business.
By the way, this isn't a definitive list of political wrongdoings in 2015. For example, former Rep. Michael Grimm resigned from Congress in January in light of an earlier indictment — but that indictment was served in 2014. Similarly, Rep. Aaron Schock was forced to resign after being accused of using taxpayer money for his own purposes, but that didn't result in an actual indictment.
That said, there was no shortage of indictments served against high-level officials in 2015. Let's have a look.
Dennis Hastert, former speaker of the House and creator of the "Hastert Rule," was indicted in May for violating banking laws and making false statements to investigators. He allegedly tried to avoid currency transaction reporting laws in order to pay $3.5 million in hush money to an unnamed person to cover-up "past misconduct," the nature of which was unstated. In October, Hastert pleaded guilty to the banking laws violation and could serve a maximum of six months in prison.
In a dramatic and messy case that's been unfolding for almost a year, Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was indicted on two counts of felony perjury and other lesser charges in 2015. The full story here is very complicated, but in short, Kane is accused of leaking confidential grand jury information to the press in an attempt to discredit an in-state rival.
The "confidential information" that Kane allegedly leaked was a collection of racist, misogynistic, and pornographic emails sent by senior state officials to one another. As a result of these leaks, six state employees have been fired, and one state Supreme Court justice has resigned. Kane has had her law license revoked, although, awkwardly, she's still the state's attorney general.
Dianna Duran, the secretary of state of New Mexico, has been hit with a whopping 65 charges in 2015. The first 64 indictments came in August, when a state district court charged Duran with funneling campaign contributions to a personal account and withdrawing that money — allegedly around $430,000 — at casinos in the state. Then, in October, Duran was charged with identity theft for incorrectly claiming that a former colleague was acting as her campaign treasurer. As part of a plea deal, Duran resigned from office and pleaded guilty to six of the charges in exchange for five years' probation and a 30-day jail sentence.
The Justice Department indicted Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah in July. The list of charges against Fattah is pretty sweeping: He's accused of money laundering, racketeering, bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and filing false statements. Most of the charges are related to alleged misdeeds by Fattah during his 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, and if convicted, he could serve up to 30 years in prison.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted and booked in county jail in August on charges of securities fraud. Paxton is alleged to have courted investors in 2011 for a friend's business without disclosing that he himself would receive a commission off of their investment; the indictment also accuses Paxton of falsely claiming to be an investor in said business.