Governors Behaving Badly Give Their States a Unique Place in American History

Crystal Shepeard

Even the most cynical of Americans feel that public officials have a duty to uphold the public trust. Since there seems to be fewer and fewer politicians who pursue public service for the good of, well, the public, calls for transparency on the part of our government are how we acknowledge that power can tempt even the most well meaning.

Nevertheless, when they fail it still comes as a shock to those who continue to believe that public service is an honorable duty.

The conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was particularly jarring for his supporters considering his track record of focusing on his unwavering conservative ideals. There was little indication he would go on to be the first Virginia governor to be indicted and ultimately convicted. While he may be a first for Virginia, he is just the latest in a long list of governors behaving badly.

Like McDonnell, all of them were tempted by money and power.

As long as there has been politics and money, there has been corruption. The first United States governor to be impeached occurred in 1862. Charles Lawrence Robinson was the first governor of Kansas, starting before it was part of the union. Robinson was first arrested for “treason and usurpation of office” after he was elected governor during the 1855 Kansas constitutional convention.

Found not guilty on all charges, he was sworn as governor again in 1861, shortly after Kansas joined the union. A little over a year later, he was impeached for “high misdemeanors” for selling Kansas bonds below the rate that had been established by the legislature. He was again found not guilty.

read more