The 2016 Presidential Candidates and Their Scandals (Infographic)

As more presidential candidates begin to campaign for 2016, the gloves are starting to come off. New scandals are being unearthed or created, and old controversies are undoubtedly going to be pulled out of the closet time and time again.

In an effort to organize the obloquy, we’ve put together a simple info graphic outlining the major scandals attached to each candidate in each party, starting with the Democrats. In both parties, those most likely to run are on the left. For example, Hillary Clinton is furthest to the left on the first infographic, because she is the only Democratic candidate who has confirmed her decision to run.

Those included are based on a combination of announced intentions — whether those be to run or start an exploratory committee — and polling rankings from Real Clear Politics. There are a couple of candidates who polled very well — like Elizabeth Warren — but who are not included because they’ve said they aren’t running. Others have indicated an interest in running, but aren’t included because the polling information on them is, on average, underwhelming. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest mistakes across the candidates, and examine where the bad press leads.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton

First let’s look at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s biggest problems in the public eye. One of the most recent has been Clinton’s use of her personal email rather than a government email during her time as secretary of state. The concern is that opponents do not trust her to have turned over all relevant records to the government, saying her own email account with storage on her own server makes for a more easily hidden backlog of communications, and shows a failure to recognize that the rules apply to her. She says that she did not break any rules at the time, and that she has made all work emails public, erring on the side of disclosure.

Clinton also faced a great deal of backlash over describing her family as “dead broke” coming out of the White House, leading many to point to multiple properties and to call her out of touch with middle-class America. There was also the issue of donations accepted from foreign countries like Saudi Arabia to the Clinton Foundation, which does work on behalf of women’s rights and gives aid to women in need internationally. Critics, mostly political opponents, argued that the money accepted from countries with a bad track record on women’s rights and treatment of women should be returned, but Clinton argued it was used for the same purpose regardless of where it came from.

Finally, during her time as secretary of state, the tragedy in Benghazi brought a great deal of attention and criticism to her management of security for diplomats and U.S. personnel in the area. Later, she underwent questioning before Congress, expressing regret and sadness at events, but refusing to take the blame for failures of management there. To this day, some critics consider the events, and her response after the fact, a major failure.

Martin O'Malley, Source: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Martin O’Malley

In a 2005 fight for the gubernatorial election, then Mayor of Maryland Martin O’Malley accused Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich of attacking he and his wife with rumor about their marriage, using emails obtained from his sister’s husband about his wife. The fight between the two candidates grew to be very volatile, with Ehrlich calling O’Malley a “whiner,” according to the Baltimore Sun, and O’Malley saying, “there’s a big difference between public wonderings about a young couple thrust into the spotlight of being the city’s first family, and a premeditated, orchestrated, and relentless campaign run by dirty trick operatives close to the governor, funded on state taxpayer dollars.”

That same year, O’Malley took heat for his choice of words. He was attacking budget cuts proposed by President George W. Bush, and compared the result of September 11, 2001 to what the effects of the budget cuts would look like. “With a budget ax, he is attacking America’s cities,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “He is attacking our metropolitan core.”

Finally, in 2008, when O’Malley had become governor of Maryland, he was accused of showing favoritism to one of his biggest campaign financier by building a highway for the cost of $28 million to a commercial area that would benefit the contributor, Edward St. John. O’Malley claimed no exchange had taken place in the decision to build the highway.

Jim Webb, Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Jim Webb

Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is considered something of an unlikely contender for the 2016 election, but he’s still a potential opponent we may see at the primaries. In what ultimately was a rather humorous turn of events, Webb was strongly criticized back in 2006 for his creative writing in various published books. What people took issue with? The amount of graphic sexually explicit content, including scenes of rape and incest. Webb defends the works, historic novels about wartime in Vietnam, where he served as a Marine, saying, “It is an observation about how the human species lives,” according to the Washington Post, and pointing to Lynne Cheney’s books which he stated included lesbian sex scenes and rape.

According to the Washington Post, in 2014 Jim Webb’s spending from The Born Fighting PAC was examined as it gave over $90,000 to his wife and daughter. The money was explained as payment for work on the PAC’s website, and a spokesperson claimed that the number given was an accumulated pay over years of work and was misleading in the way it was published.

Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Lincoln Chafee

Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee angered many in the public sphere in Christmas of 2011 when he chose to call a decorated spruce tree a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree,” with the argument that he was trying to be inclusive. Others took it as a religious attack.

If it’s in my house it’s a Christmas tree, but when I’m representing all of Rhode Island I have to be respectful of everyone,” said Chafee following the event, according to the New York Daily News. “Now we can get back to next year’s budget … with pleasure.”


Joe Biden

The U.S.’s current vice president has earned himself a reputation over the years that could well be a problem for him if he chose to run for the presidency. One problem has been his tendency to speak his mind more than he probably should, getting himself in hot water on more than one occasion, including the one shown above, where he over-empathizes with a student vice president, asking, “Isn’t it a bitch?”

In a similar vein, his tendency to be overly touchy has earned him a negative reaction from many, as the Washington Free Beacon so succinctly demonstrated in the video above.

Finally, Biden joins many of his fellow politicians in having a plagiarism scandal behind him. In 1988, it led him to exit a presidential race after the public found out that he had been borrowing some of his stump speech from a talk given by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock, only properly giving credit some of the time. Others speeches were found to have taken passages from speeches given by John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey. It was also revealed that he’d cheated on a paper in law school, using copied content.

Bernie Sanders Win McNamee/Getty Images News

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders

First off, it’s important to explain that, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is an independent, in the presidential election he would be running as a Democrat, according to the LA Times. Rather than damage the chances of both parties, he said he would chose not to run as an Independent. “I will not play the role of the spoiler,” he said.

For that reason, despite identifying as Independent in the past, he’s included in the last column as a possible presidential hopeful for the Democratic party. Sanders took on public disapproval for his response to the VA whistle-blowing scandal, appearing to defend the system despite its corrupt practices and poor care given to veterans. “Did the delay in care of these people on the secret waiting list actually cause these deaths? We don’t know,” he said, according to Watchdog.org. “The VA holds up as good or better than private hospitals. By and large, veterans throughout America believe that they’re getting pretty good health care.”

He also raised eyebrows when he blamed the Koch brothers, billionaire supporters of Republican candidates, for wanting to make cuts and thereby causing the VA problem. The connection between the two issues drew some criticism, given his own defense of the system and the disconnect between topics.

Ted Cruz, Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) did not declare his connections to a company based in Jamaican despite ethics rules governing that he should. He called the failure of documentation and openness an oversight. There are rules disallowing senators from receiving money from a company they help to manage, but in this case, ultimately it did not appear that Cruz had broken that rule, saying he’d been involved early on in helping form, and donating money to, the company (Caribbean Equity Partners Limited), but had since been far removed.

Given the drug history other presidents have publicly admitted to — Obama used cocaine, Clinton didn’t inhale the Marijuana he smoked, and George W. Bush was arrested for driving under the influence. Cruz would fit in well with that crowd, given his own problems with police in his youth when he was caught drinking underage. While a presidential election could bring up all sorts of old baggage, on this one, it seems, Cruz is likely safe. The last time the issue was brought up, it failed to interest many people.

Rand Paul, Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) should have chosen his words more carefully when discussing Disability Insurance in Social Security. He was arguing that the program needed reform because it was being abused by those who did not require aid, but his hyperbolic phrasing came across as dismissive and offensive to those with true disabilities. “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts — join the club,” said Paul, according to the Washington Post. The context for that comment helps to take the edge off of his less than well formed statement, but a statement later released by his spokesperson actually made the situation worse for the senator.

Paul spokesman Brian Darling pointed to two data points — 27.7 percent of the disabled beneficiaries are diagnosed as having ailments related to ‘Musculoskeletal system and connective tissue’ and that 14 percent have ‘mood disorders.'” Which Darling correctly pointed out adds up to 42%. What is less correct, is the fact that this was summarized as anxiety and back pain, when these statistics also include everything from bipolar disorder to skeletal deformities and diseases.

In 2013, Paul was caught for having plagiarized parts of his book and a number of speeches he’d given. He defended his actions as unintentional and said that he would be more careful in future — though this promise was made in rather hostile tones. “What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone,” he said, according to CBS, “is we’re going to do them like college papers. We’re going to try to put out footnotes.” For a time anyways, this was promise he followed through on, successfully making the criticism of his citation failure seem extreme, likely his goal. But with the spread of plagiarism concerns to his literary output — which commonly would include citations — his actions are not so easily dismissed.

Paul has had a few off color moments with reporters, angered by questions or interactions with reporters, and responding poorly. Some suggested that his temper was inappropriately directed at female journalists in particular. “I think it’s pretty equal opportunity. I was annoyed with a male reporter this morning. I will have to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper,” said Paul in response to the issue, according to CNN, admitting that patience with the press is something he’s had an issue with.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) came to office with a family story that could appeal to American immigrants, one that details the flight from Cuba his parents made during Fidel Castro’s time in power. The narrative was found to be somewhat inaccurate, given that his parents left years before Castro took over.

He has also been criticized for his relationship with Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), who was accused of financial corruption and nepotism and placed under investigation both at the state and federal level. The two bought a house together that was eventually foreclosed on.

Which brings us to Rubio’s spending and finances, a topic that has resulted in a number of controversies. For one thing, like Jim Webb, Rubio employed many of his relatives, specifically his wife, mother-in-law, and a few other relatives of his wife. His wife did not disclose $34,000 worth of donations. As for his spending, he spent over $100,000 of the GOP’s money on private things, which he claimed was an accidental mix-up of credit cards. He also was found to have double-billed the state of Florida on his flights, forcing him to pay back $3,000 when the mistake was discovered. Generally not a strong background in financial accountability.

Finally, there was $48 million court house (with big screen TVs for each judge) in Tallahassee. While he denied having helped get the building plans passed through the state congress, it was later found in an email that he had been “especially helpful” in getting money for courthouse, according to Mother Jones.

Jeb Bush, Source: Andy Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Andy Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Jeb Bush

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made a mistake on a voting form a few years ago, checking his ethnicity off as “Hispanic” when he is, of course, white, though his wife and children are Hispanic. While hardly an earth shattering mistake, it did make him look rather foolish, and garnered a great deal of media attention.

Like Hillary Clinton, Bush has the advantage of having dealt with scandals in the past, particularly familial ones, and much of the digging that can be done into his past, has been done. This means there should be fewer surprises than there might be for a less well known candidate. “In a way, it’s a luxury that they can go into a race without worrying about what kinds of things people might try to dig into their past and unearth,” said Tony Fratto, former George W. Bush aid, according to News Max.

After leaving politics in Florida, Bush looked to get involved as a contractor with a company called InnoVida. This turned into a nasty news item though, when the CEO was sent to prison for investment fraud shortly there-after, and some argued that Bush should have known the position involved illegal activities given the history of the company and its leaders.

One ironic scandal that became a problem for Bush in 2001 — and has come up once again — were emails sent from his private account during his time as governor that dealt with sensitive information about troops and nuclear plants.

While not particularly politically relevant, Bush’s wife Columba did make the news in 1999 after she misreported her spending at customs on her way back into the U.S. from Paris. The issue comes up more often as evidence that both Bush and his wife prefer to keep her out of the public eye, and that this could prove difficult should he run for president. “My wife is not a public person,” Bush said at the time, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “She is uncomfortable with the limelight, which is why I love her. I don’t want a political wife — I want someone who, when I get home, I can have a normal life with.”

Scott Walker, Source: Darren McCollester/Getty News Images

Darren McCollester/Getty News Images

Scott Walker

In 2014, Gov. Scott Walker was accused of illegally working with various groups to earn money that would help him avoid a recall. The funding was obtained through illegal methods, according to some prosecutors, but the scandal ultimately was not taken to court. However, it was still a damaging accusation for the governor.

Like Clinton and others, Walker also underwent an email-related scandal in 2014. Various emails showed government resources were improperly allocated toward handling his campaign — governing and campaigning are required to be kept distinctly separate to avoid use of public resources for personal gain.

Walker also dealt with controversy over staff actions in Iowa, specifically Liz Mair, who worked with Walker on his PAC, Our American Revival. While under his employ, she tweeted a number of highly negative attacks on Iowa — never a good idea right before a presidential run — which eventually led to her resignation.

Mike Huckabee, Source: Scott Olson/Getty News Images

Mike Huckabee, Source: Scott Olson/Getty News Images

Mike Huckabee

Continuing with the apparent tradition of nepotism and familial funding, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was found to have used $400,000 worth of a PAC to pay family members, only using a small amount for the actual purpose of the PAC, to help GOP candidates in elections.

Huckabee has also had a lot of trouble with comments he’s made in the public eye inciting major controversy and offending large portions of the U.S. population, particularly as they’ve pertained to rape and women’s libidos. After Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, Huckabee defended him and had the representative as a guest on his show.

Huckabee also get himself in trouble with Democrats and women in general with comments on birth control made before the Republican National Committee. “If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” he said, according to Fox.

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