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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Resigned, Recalled, or Impeached Elected Officials 2001-2005

Ohio Governor Robert Taft pleaded no contest today in Franklin County Court to four first degree misdemeanor charges relating to the omission of more than fifty gifts on ethical filings from 2001-2004. While Ohio has no recall process, under Section 24 of Article II of the state Constitution, the "governor, judges, and all state officers, may be impeached for any misdemeanor in office". Section 23 of Article II mandates that the house of Representatives has the power to impeach and the Senate holds the impeachment trial. A majority of Representatives must vote to impeach; two-thirds of the Senators must vote to convict.

Below is a partial list of elected state officials from around the country who have resigned their office or candidacy or been impeached or recalled within the last few years. It is unclear whether there is any other period in the history of America in which so many constitutional officers were forced from office.

Much as embattled coin dealer Tom Noe plays a central role in Taft's current problems, campaign contributors played a role in nearly every case. The pattern that emerges demonstrates both the insidious role that money can play in American politics and the pressure voters can bring to bear on public officials who step out of line in their endless pursuit of campaign cash and political power.

John Rowland, Governor of Connecticut, resigned in May 2004 in the face of an impeachment investigation into his receiving gifts from a wealthy campaign contributor, including questionable real estate transactions, free home construction, and free vacations.

James McGreevey, Governor of New Jersey, resigned in August 2004 when his hand-picked and ill-qualified Head of Homeland Security revealed a long-running affair with McGreevey. At the same time, McGreevey's benefactor and sugar daddy, Charles Kushner, was found guilty for blackmailing his brother-in-law and impeding a federal investigation, and was sent to jail.

Gray Davis, Governor of California, was recalled in 2003 in the face of voter disgust with his incessant fundraising and a scandal relating to a prime state contract given to a big-time contributor.

George Ryan, Governor of Illinois, was forced not to run for a second term in 2002 due to a corruption investigation into his 1991-1999 tenure as Secretary of State. He was indicted in 2003 on federal charges of taking payoffs, gifts and vacations in return for government contracts and leases while he was Illinois secretary of state.

Kevin Shelley, Secretary of State of California, resigned in 2005 after a number of scandals, including: - using Help America Vote Act funds for partisan purposes; - using HAVA funds to advance his political career; - accepting laundered campaign contributions from a top contributor, for whom he had helped arrange a state grant while in the Assembly; - accepting campaign contributions in his state office (a violation of California law).

Robert Torricelli, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, quit his re-election campaign for the Senate just five weeks before the 2002 election due to an investigation into laundered contributions to his campaign committee.

James Trafficant, U.S. Representative from Ohio, was expelled from office in 2002 for ethical violations. His expulsion followed on the heels of a conviction for bribery, corruption, and tax evasion.

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