California’s Most Memorable Political Scandals

From allegations to indictments, some of the most memorable political scandals in our state revolve around money.

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Brian Curtis, NBC 5 News
California Democrat Maxine Waters was officially charged with three counts of alleged ethics violations including a charge that she requested federal help for a bank where her husband owned stock and had served on its board. Waters, a 10-term representative from Los Angeles, has denied any wrongdoing.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom publicly admitted having an affair with his campaign manager's wife in 2006. During a news conference when the then-newly-divorced mayor admitted to the extramarital relationship, he also said he was getting treatment for alcohol abuse.
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Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham walks into San Diego's Federal Courthouse March 3, 2006. Cunningham was found guilty of conspiracy and tax evasion for accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes and could face up to 10 years in prison.
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Sure there was the romance with a local journalist, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa faced scrutiny for accepting free tickets – sometimes four-figure tickets – to events around the city. The mayor argued he doesn't have to declare tickets as gifts if he is at an event to perform an official city duty.
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The spending habits of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez were investigated once it was discovered he had spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on travel, gifts and restaurants. In 2009, the Fair Political Practices Commission cleared the LA Democrat of any illegal activity.
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Former GOP Assemblyman Michael Duvall resigned in September 2009 after talking about his sex life in detail next to an open legislative microphone.
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California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (R) is consoled by his wife Dominique as he pauses while announcing his resignation during a news conference in front of his home February 4, 2005 in San Francisco. Shelley, 49, was hounded by accusations of mishandling $46 million in federal elections funds although charges were never filed.
Under the cloud of a criminal investigation and facing certain impeachment, Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush resigned in 2000. You can read Quackenbush’s defense at his own website.
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Federal prosecutorsdid not file corruption charges against Don Perata, right, after an investigation that stretched back to 2004. Agents were looking for quid pro quos from political donations to Perata and whether the former lawmaker and his family profited personally from those donations. Perata's attorney maintained his client never exchanged votes for cash or sought to personally enrich himself or those close to him.
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When California State Senator Roy Ashburn (R) of Bakersfield was arrested on two counts of DUI in early 2010, his life changed. The divorced father of four later admitted something he had kept from his constituents and colleagues -- that he was gay. Most recently, Ashburn admitted he was a hypocrite when he had voted against several gay rights initiatives.
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Former San Diego mayor/now conservative radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock, seen here hosting a city attorney debate in March, resigned after an indictment in 1984 after his corruption trial. Nearly five years later, the one conspiracy conviction for campaign fraud was reduced to a misdemeanor and then dismissed under a plea agreement.
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During the height of Carole Migden’s senate re-election race, the state's Fair Political Practices Commission investigated alleged violations of campaign finance rules. The watchdog agency initially sought $9 million in damages, but in October 2008 the commission and Migden settled the dispute, with Migden agreeing to pay $40,000 while the commission agreed to pay legal fees she incurred.
During the Great Earthquake of 1906, San Francisco Mayor “Handsome Gene” aka Eugene Edward Schmitz was convicted of graft and bribery and given the maximum penalty. He and the political boss who masterminded his rise to power, Abe Ruef, saw their convictions later overturned on appeal. (1907)
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