GOP Admins Had 38 Times More Criminal Convictions Than Democrats, 1961-2016

We compared 56 years of corruption in Republican and Democratic presidencies: both sides are not equally corrupt.
Democrats top row: President Obama, Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy. Republicans bottom row: President W. Bush, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon. (Official White House Photos)

Democrats top row: President Obama, Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy. Republicans bottom row: President W. Bush, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon. (Official White House Photos)

This is the first in a five-part series on government corruption and how that corruption is investigated.

Republican administrations have vastly more corruption than Democratic administrations. We provide new research on the numbers to make the case.

We compared 28 years each of Democratic and Republican administrations, 1961-2016, five Presidents from each party. During that period Republicans scored eighteen times more individuals and entities indicted, thirty-eight times more convictions, and thirty-nine times more individuals who had prison time.

Given the at least 17 active investigations plaguing President Trump, he is on a path to exceed previous administrations, though the effects of White House obstruction, potential pardons, and the as-yet unknown impact of the GOP’s selection of judges may limit investigations, subpoenas, prosecutions, etc. Of course, as we are comparing equal numbers of Presidents and years in office from the Democratic and Republican parties, the current President is not included.

We’re aware some of our numbers differ from other totals, but we explain our criteria below.

Figure 1. Presidential administrations corruption comparison

Figure 1. Presidential administrations corruption comparison

Why We Compared Democratic And Republican Corruption

In our article 28 Reasons Why the Rich and Super-Rich Should Vote for Democrats (Rantt, May 5, 2018) reason 27 contended that Republican administrations are more corrupt than Democratic administrations.

We designed a graphic, Figure 1, inspired by several tables already on the web, to visualize this comparison of corruption over the years. By adding Kennedy and Johnson, who were not included on most other tables that started with Nixon, it was possible to compare 28 years of Democratic Presidents to 28 years of Republican Presidents.

As we were ready to publish, Rantt Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Baba asked if we had verified the data for the table. Multiple tables online agreed on the numbers, but what if all the tables were copied from one original faulty example? The article was published without the table, pending fact-checking.

Figure 1, the revised Corruption Table, is based on a review of 56 years of records. Figures 2 explain the criteria for inclusion; Figure 3 is a list of all special and independent counsel investigations, and Figure 4 lists every person indicted by the independent investigations or in otherwise very high profile cases.

Exploring the political scandals of the last half-century is an incredible slog down memory lane (or through the dark wood) for anyone who has lived through them. I was 12 when Kennedy became President, 25 when Nixon resigned. Now, recalling Nixon and Watergate, I’m surprised by memories as well as by how much I never knew at the time about that investigation and many others to follow. This article is about the research and choices resulting in the small table above. Four companion articles on political corruption follow.

Moments like these require unrelenting truthtelling. We take pride in being reader-funded. If you like our work, support our journalism.

Confirming The Numbers – Who Was Counted And Why

Sources for total indictments, convictions, and prison sentences often do not agree. This analysis has referred to investigators’ final reports, contemporary reporting, some obituaries, and later articles. The final reports of investigations were essential. Even the final reports, however as noted below, left questions.

One approach to comparing malfeasance by administration might be to include only positions designated in 28 USC § 591. This section of the US Code lists government officers who are the direct concern of an independent counsel – starting with the President and Vice President. We use broader criteria. Other lists likewise don’t appear to use this act as their basis for comparison. Further, 28 USC 591 is applicable to the Independent Counsel Law, but not to other special prosecutor or special counsel investigations.

Some sources report 76 Watergate indictments, 55 convictions, and 15 served time. One source had 69 Watergate indictments of government figures. There is no path to that many “government” figures indicted. We report 26 government and former government figures. We find (Figure 1) total 85 Nixon administration indictments, 78 convictions, and 24 with prison time. Figure 4 lists them. Some sources list two indictments for Clinton administration officers. However, we “assign” to the Clinton administration 5 indictments, counting his impeachment as an indictment, and involving the Departments of Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development. Other lists show no Obama administration indictees. We include one, General David Petraeus.

Special investigations have resulted in many indictments, plea bargains and trials, and judgments involving people and entities, such as businesses or campaign committees, which are not part of an administration. We make a judgment call to include some in the totals and exclude others. We include them if the President or people very close to him obviously knew of, enrolled, or protected those people and entities. This is the case with Nixon, where there is ample evidence he was part of the production of illegal deals, and used the power of his office to try to obstruct justice. We do not count in the total numbers, for example, some businesses and business people ensnared in Reagan and Clinton eras independent investigations.

To see our criteria for inclusion in the corruption numbers, check out Figure 2 here. It is possible and reasonable to arrive at different numbers using different criteria. This article and the tables provide the data to support our conclusions.

Figure 2. Criteria for inclusion in numbers indicted, convicted, jailed. To check out the full table, <a href="">click here</a>.

Figure 2. Criteria for inclusion in numbers indicted, convicted, jailed. To check out the full table, click here.

The Independent Investigators

Twenty-nine independent investigations (Special Prosecutors, Special Counsels, and Independent Counsels) have been empowered between 1973 and 2018: 28 between 1973 and 2007, when the last previous investigation was closed, and the current Special Counsel investigation lead by Robert Mueller. This table lists these investigations. Most but not all indictments and prosecutions of administration officers were produced by these investigations.

Figure 3 is the breakdown of Independent Counsels. To check out in full, click here. Partially adapted from CRS Report for Congress: Independent Counsels Appointed Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, Costs and Results of Investigations, Order Code 98-19A, Updated June 8, 2006. *The date given for the conclusion of Patrick Fitzgerald’s Special Prosecutor investigation is the last day of the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. There was no final report. The total number of relevant indictees under Nixon in Figure 4 is larger than in Figure 3 as some were not a result of a Special Prosecutor investigation, including Spiro Agnew, the Vice President of the United States, and the Director and two senior officers of the FBI. ^This is the total as of February 7, 2019.

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The Big List of Alleged Malefactors

Each person (or group such as businesses and executives) identified as indicted, from 56 years of Executive branch investigations, is listed in Figure 4. Figure 5 provides the numbers, thus far, for the Trump administration. Two years into his term, President Trump has already proved greater than all but one of the previous 10 Presidents – in number of indictments the Administration has scored. Congratulations Mr. Trump, you are the Greatest! Of course, the information in Figure 5 that is accurate in the morning may be out of date by the afternoon.

The Final Reports of the 28 Special Prosecution, Special Prosecutor, and Independent Counsel investigations between 1973 and 1999 are the go-to source for who was indicted for what. Before an investigation closes down it will be clear if the indictment itself survives legal challenge; cases will go to trial; there will be decisions. But the independent investigation may well close down before appeals are heard and decided. Therefore, the final reports are not, in some cases, the last word on total convictions and jail time. That still required further research of court records, news stories, and obituaries.

It is not necessary to read the many hundreds of pages of most of these documents for the raw numbers. There are, though, many engrossing distractions in the tales of greed for power or money, ambition, obstruction, arrogance, (misplaced) loyalty, ideological zealotry, duplicity, error and incompetence the reports lay out in generally careful legal language.

Different understandings on who should be included are reasonable. Errors, if any, are minimal. The disagreements, of course, are inevitable.

To see the full list of persons and entities used in this analysis of corruption through 10 Presidential administrations, link out to Figure 4, Indicted Persons, Kennedy to Obama Administrations 1961-2016.

Figure 4. Indicted Persons, Kennedy to Obama Administrations 1961-2016. To download the full table, <a href="">click here</a>.

Figure 4. Indicted Persons, Kennedy to Obama Administrations 1961-2016. To download the full table, click here.

Who Has Special Counsel Robert Mueller Indicted?

The list of persons and entities indicted so far, connected or potentially connected to the Trump Administration, Figure 5, is still short enough to include here.

Figure 5. <a href="">Indicted persons and entities</a>, proven or potentially associated with the Trump campaign and Administration, from Mueller probe and referrals.

Figure 5. Indicted persons and entities, proven or potentially associated with the Trump campaign and Administration, from Mueller probe and referrals.

This Corruption Series

Rantt is publishing four more articles in this series:

We will look at examples of the corruption of the last 56 years and the institutions that investigate and litigate it. We hope to contribute to understanding the impact of our current situation.

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Rantt 101 // Barack Obama / Corruption / Democratic Party / Donald Trump / George W. Bush / Republican Party / Richard NIxon / Special Counsel