Tea Party groups had claimed for months that they'd been stonewalled and pressured by IRS officials. In May, the truth came out -- the IRS acknowledged that agents had improperly targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Some have tried to claim this was the work of wayward employees in an Ohio office, but the debate continues over how high up the policy went.
In June, the Guardian newspaper as well as The Washington Post began reporting on the National Security Agency's massive data collection programs -- based on leaks from NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In the ensuing weeks and months, the leaks would make their way into publications around the world. The steady drip of reports about widespread government surveillance fueled suspicion and calls for reform in the United States, but also diplomatic scuffles amid claims that the NSA was snooping on some of America's closest allies. The advisory board tasked with reviewing the policies of the NSA recently released a report calling for the federal government to rein in the spying on several fronts. A judicial battle is also brewing, on the heels of two conflicting rulings from federal judges about the lawfulness of the NSA programs. Obama plans to make an announcement on the NSA’s future at the beginning of the new year.
The Justice Department earlier this year secretly obtained two months of telephone records from reporters and editors at The Associated Press. Concern about what the AP’s top executive called an “unprecedented intrusion” quickly grew. It was later revealed the DOJ was seeking the communications records of Fox News' James Rosen, who was accused in an affidavit of being a possible criminal "co-conspirator" for his alleged role in publishing sensitive security information. Faced with a backlash from the press and beyond, Obama ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to review the DOJ’s policies, resulting in the toughening of guidelines for subpoenaing reporters’ phone records and other new standards.
No year would be complete without a political sex scandal (or sexual harassment scandal). The face of that story this year was San Diego Mayor Bob Filner -- who after trying to cling to office for weeks, finally resigned on Aug. 30 amid sexual harassment allegations from 17 women. Filner later pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery involving three women. Eventually, Filner was sentenced to three months of home confinement and three years of probation for harassing women while he was mayor, effectively ending the former 10-term congressman’s political career.
Republican Florida Rep. Trey Radel was sentenced Nov. 20 to one year of supervised probation for purchasing 3.5 grams of cocaine, valued at $250, from an undercover officer. He had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. However, after completing inpatient rehab treatment, Radel announced he would not resign his seat in the House of Representatives. The House Ethics Committee has since voted unanimously to open a probe into Radel.
This largely overlooked scandal is one that may be growing. Outgoing Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been accused of illegally promoting dietary supplement company Star Scientific, in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from its chief executive Jonnie R. Williams. Federal prosecutors investigating the governor in connection with this gift scandal have reportedly delayed asking a grand jury to charge the Republican and his wife. McDonnell, elected in 2009, is due to leave office Jan. 11 to make way for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
The launch of HealthCare.gov turned what would have been a rough year for President Obama into a very bad year. The launch itself was plagued by technical problems -- on top of that, Obama was called to account for his campaign promise that those who like their plans can keep them, despite millions of cancellation notices going out. The problems and complications prompted the administration to announce a string of selective delays and exemptions for the law's implementation. The administration still has a long way to go, though enrollment numbers have picked up considerably in December. The real test will be this year, when coverage begins -- and a penalty awaits those who don't sign up.
The passing of another year brings with it another slate of political scandals on which to reflect. Here’s a look at some of the biggies that grabbed the headlines in 2013.