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Politicians have never been immune to scandals. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were a part of the famous sex scandal, and Richard Nixon had to resign following the Watergate affair. Even if you go further back, you’ll discover presidents and leaders of countries worldwide often participated in scandals.
This post focuses on the biggest political scandals in the 21st century. Here are the largest controversies of the people’s representatives in the last couple of decades!
1. Hillary Clinton’s Email Controversy
The email saga regarding Hillary Clinton’s private account use to exchange messages could easily be the biggest political scandal of the 21st century. It raised huge controversies and could have been the reason why she lost the presidential race in the US.
According to the ABC News timeline, there are videos from 2000 where Clinton speaks about avoiding email use to ensure there’s no paper trail. It’s familiar that all US government officials need to hand over any private emails used for business purposes to ensure they are in the country’s recordkeeping.
But a week before Clinton became the secretary of state, Justin Cooper registered a clintonemail.com domain. Cooper was an assistant to Bill Clinton for a long time, so it wasn’t hard to connect him to Mrs. Clinton.
In 2014, Barack Obama signed the Federal Records Act. Clinton soon handed over 55,000 pages containing emails during her time as the secretary of state. A year later, Clinton handed over another 300 emails related to the consulate attack in Libya. The FBI review officially concluded nothing criminal was found in the emails, but the presidential candidate’s public image suffered.
2. Russia Interfering in the US Elections
The 2016 US presidential campaign was filled with controversies. The US Intelligence claims that Russians launched Project Lakhta with the goal of helping Donald Trump’s candidacy against Hillary Clinton.
Russians allegedly created a troll farm with thousands of false internet profiles. The profiles supported Trump and his events while campaigning against Clinton. Apart from fabricating misinformation, Russian hackers attacked the computers of Clinton’s campaign officials, the Democratic National Committee, and others.
Special Counsel investigated the issue, focusing on many contacts of Russian officials and Trump’s campaign. However, the report indicated there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges against Trump or his associates.
3. Congressman Sexting a Teenager
Anthony Weiner was a Democratic Congressman in the United States in 2011. His political career seemed to be going forward when the public found out about a sex scandal. It all began with a leak that revealed Weiner sent suggestive photos of himself to women over Twitter. Further information revealed the Congressman was sexting and sending provocative photos to a huge list of women before and after he got married.
Weiner resigned from his position but returned to politics in 2013. His idea was to run for the Mayor of New York City. But the press revealed he continued sexting women, which compromised his bid, and he ended up fifth.
The biggest problem came in 2016 when Weiner was under the radar of the FBI. It was then revealed Weiner sent obscene photos to a 15-year-old girl. He pled guilty and served 18 months in prison in Massachusetts, effectively ending his political career.
4. Gambling Affair in Austria
In 2021, the public prosecutor’s office for anti-corruption (WKStA) in Austria started an investigation focused on Gernot Bluemel, the government’s Finance Minister. According to WKStA, Bluemel and his People’s Party issued gambling licenses to Novomatic, creator of casino games known in local and online Novomatic casinos, and at that time also a major stakeholder in gambling operator Casinos Austria AG, in exchange for generous donations.
The investigation prompted the reaction of Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor. As a People’s Party member, Kurz criticized WKStA and revealed they should be closed for leaking damaging info. WKStA’s investigation started after revealing Novomatic’s calendar entries that mention many names, including “Kurz.” But the Austrian Chancellor firmly denied he is the “Kurz” in those entries, explaining that Novomatic has a supervisory board member called Martina Kurz.
Even the Council of Europe reacted to the problems of the Austrian government. In 2021, it issued a report mentioning an inadequate response to corruption. The EC claimed only two out of 19 matters it wanted to be addressed were considered by the government.
5. Stealing Millions from Ukraine
According to Transparency International, the former Ukraine government stole over $40 billion in state assets. Headed by Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s president at the time, the government officials made huge amounts of money disappear via a network of shell companies.
Yanukovych lived a luxurious life at the expense of Ukrainian citizens. He had an estate spreading around 137 hectares, with a private zoo, ostrich farm, and a golf course. In 2014, there was civil unrest in Ukraine. Shortly after that, Yanukovych fled to Russia with his family. The court found him guilty of treason.
6. 1MDB Development Fund in Malaysia Turned Out to Be a Huge Scam
Malaysian government established a development fund called 1MDB – 1Malaysia Development Berhad. Najib Razak took the fund’s helm as the prime minister at the time. The idea was to use strategic investments to improve the Malaysian economy. But 1MDB seems to have served Razak and few others more than the citizens.
Razak used a web of shell companies to transfer billions from the development fund. The reports indicate over $700 million were found in his private account. Razak claimed it was a gift from a Saudi prince, but that didn’t save him from a lawsuit regarding mishandling the public funds.
To make things worse, a portion of money from the 1MDB fund was spent in the USA. Razak and his associates used it to buy paintings, real estate, as well as gifts for celebrities.
With so many examples of politicians and leaders susceptible to corruption and affairs, it’s hard to obtain citizens’ trust. Political scandals occur across different countries, and the ones mentioned above are those that have attracted the most attention in the 21stcentury. It’s another reminder of why people should choose their representatives wisely instead of giving trust to those likely to abuse it.