As my former Senator, John Ensign (R-Nev.) was a proponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned states from recognizing same-sex marriage. "Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded," he argued on the Senate floor in 2004. He also called on President Bill Clinton to resign over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying it had destroyed the president's credibility. Yet in 2009, Ensign admitted that he had had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer who was also the wife of one of his top aides. An ethics investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI followed, and Ensign resigned in 2011.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has a long and rich history of hypocrisy, including receiving a reported $1.6 million in consulting fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before blaming the mortgage giants for the country's housing crisis and endorsing President Barack Obama's health care plan before the 2012 presidential primary campaign, during which he hammered Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan for being similar to Obamacare. But his crowning hypocrisy was probably leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s over the Monica Lewinsky scandal while Gingrich himself was having an extramarital affair. His ex-wife Marianne recently claimed that while they were married, Newt requested an "open marriage" so that he could continue the affair with his now-wife, Callista.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after he was congressionally censured for failing to pay income taxes and filing misleading financial statements, among other misdeeds. But that didn't stop him from hammering Mitt Romney for his lack of transparency on tax returns. "Before he judges other people about paying federal income taxes, Governor Romney should come clean about the tax returns he's hiding from voters," Rangel said.
The failed vice presidential candidate has been an outspoken opponent of earmark spending, but that didn't stop Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) from arranging a $735,000 earmark to construct a transit center in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. Likewise, after slamming President Barack Obama's stimulus package, Ryan sought stimulus funds for several projects in his district.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the original sponsor of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but her war against "socialized medicine" hasn't stopped husband Marcus from applying for public funds for his "pray away the gay" counseling practice. Bachmann, an outspoken opponent of big government, has also personally benefited from federal farm subsidies. She recently described the Internal Revenue Service, which earlier in her career employed her to sue people in tax collection cases, as the most heartless organization anyone knows of."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has loudly congratulated himself for the GOP House jobs package -- even though economists say the package's 32 bills will do little to create jobs -- while working hard to block President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan. A longtime critic of wasteful government spending, Boehner (along with other House Republican leaders) spent $1.5 million defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
He won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, but Al Gore's own carbon footprint was once an inconvenient issue. His 20-room Nashville mansion and pool house in 2006 racked up $30,000 in utility bills, consuming more than 20 times the national home average, according to a report by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. A Gore spokesperson disputed the conservative think tank's report and said that renovations on the home will cut its electricity and natural gas consumption about 40 percent by the next year.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), a famed segregationist, spent many of his 48 years in the U.S. Senate fighting racial integration and equality, punctuated by his 24-hour filibuster in a failed attempt to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Six months after Thurmond's death in 2003, a bi-racial woman named Essie Mae Washington-Williams revealed that the late senator was her father. Her mother was 16 and working for Thurmond’s parents when she became pregnant.
From his opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform, which was patterned after his own plan in Massachusetts, to his politically expedient shifts in positions on immigration, climate change and abortion, Mitt Romney has a record of hypocrisy too expansive and well documented for any Etch A Sketch to erase.
During his time in office, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) introduced a bill against child pornography, fought to expand federal sex offender laws, supported anti-gay legislation and chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Then he was caught sending graphic sex messages to underage males working as congressional pages. He quickly resigned in 2006.
When Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) admitted his involvement in the "D.C. Madam" scandal in 2007, it didn’t end his career or lead to any criminal charges. It also didn't end his attempts to narrow prosecutorial discretion for others in vulnerable positions. At a hearing last year on the HALT Act which would have suspended discretionary immigration protections, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) accused Vitter of "hypocrisy to seek to limit the use of discretion when one has enjoyed the benefit himself." Vitter has also advocated for abstinence-only sex education and in 2004 ran on a "family values" platform that included opposition to same-sex marriage.
Sarah Palin has been an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama's health care plan, but a more socialized system wasn't always so problematic for her. In 2010, she admitted to having taken trips across the Canadian border to receive single-payer health care long before she brought "death panels" into the war against the Affordable Care Act.
Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) is best known for his 2007 airport bathroom trip that ended in a same-sex-sting arrest for lewd conduct after he allegedly solicited sex from an undercover officer. Craig blamed his wandering foot on his "wide stance" but soon announced his resignation, then decided to serve out the rest of his term. While in office, he had supported the anti-gay marriage Federal Marriage Amendment and voted against a measure to include anti-gay bias in hate crimes legislation. He received a rating of zero from the Human Rights Campaign for his votes on LGBT issues.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) just won a second term despite recent revelations that he had sex with a patient while working as a physician and later urged her to get an abortion. Yet DesJarlais' campaign platform opposed abortion. "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life," his website stated. There’s more. According to transcripts from his 2001 divorce proceedings, released after the election, the congressman and his then-wife made a "mutual" decision for her to have two abortions while they were married.
While serving as the Democratic governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer was brought down by a federal wiretap that revealed he patronized a $1,000-an-hour prostitute named Ashley Dupre at a Washington, D.C., hotel. Further investigation uncovered the prostitution ring Emperors Club VIP, and numerous money transfers to the club were traced back to Client 9 -- the governor. As New York state attorney general, Spitzer prosecuted at least two prostitution rings, and as governor he forced state comptroller Alan Hevesi out of office for the comparatively minor offense of using a state car and chauffeur for his sick wife. But if I love to have Eliot Spitzer head our Department of Justice to prosecute the big banks and the federal regulators overseeing them.
* This very short and very incomplete list of political hypocrites (both Republican and Democrat) is the courtesy of the Huffington Post, from an article about the hypocrisy of Senators who voted to cut food stamps in the farm bill, but who themselves received taxpayer farm subsidies.