Golden Dukes: It’s Time To Vote On 2022’s Superlative Scandal

Golden Dukes 2022. TPM illustration.
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Really great stuff, guys. I asked and you certainly answered. Now, it’s voting time.

For those of you just tuning in, welcome to the 2022 Golden Duke awards. This is TPM’s version of the Oscars except we celebrate all the horror-show politicians and delightfully abominable public figures who kept us in business this year.

We’re cheers-ing all the damaged duds that fall into these categories for Golden Dukes 2022:

1. Best Scandal — General Interest
2. Best Scandal — Local Venue
3. Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy
4. The Expertly Cringe Campaign Ad/Meme (please include a video link if you have one)
5. Most Convoluted Conspiracy Theory/Most Creative Take On The Big Lie
6. Forgotten Heroes — This category will serve as an “in memoriam” to all of our favorite characters who either lost the midterms or didn’t make it past their primaries. These are the whacky candidates that we will miss most.

Earlier this week I asked readers and TPM’s staff to submit nominations for each category.

This was probably my favorite reader nomination: “Desantis Kill Disney cuz of gay.” Beautiful in its simplicity.

Up first, Best Scandal — General Interest. There were so many excellent nominations it was hard to pick, but I’ve settled on the following nominees. If you need some convincing, I’ve included some TPM staff and reader nomination pitches below. Vote here ⬇️⬇️⬇️ and happy Duke-ing!

Donald Trump, Mar-a-Lago documents case

The Mar-a-Lago documents case is the Trump scandal par excellence. It combines pettiness, lying, obstruction, grift, narcissism, stall tactics, rampant illegalities, and absurd risks to national security. It is the single most dire threat of criminal prosecution, and they pretty much have him dead to rights. But what makes it Golden Duke-worthy is the sheer ridiculousness of the entire scheme and its ability to consume the dignity of anyone who was involved. Could the 2021-you have imagined that in year two of his ex-presidency, Trump would be arguing in federal appeals court to get his photo of Celine Dion back? I didn’t think so. But that actually happened

— Nominated by: David Kurtz, TPM executive editor

Ron DeSantis, migrant flight to the vineyard

Between the borderline kidnapping of Texan migrants, the absurdity of Florida spending its money to ship people from Texas to Massachusetts, the absolute shadiness of the contracts DeSantis is using, and the impact of this on the 2024 nomination, this scandal has everything.

— Nominated by: TPM reader

Sam Brinton, stolen Vera Bradley bag, among other things

I am absolutely riveted by the sad saga of the Biden administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition at the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Sam Brinton is on leave from their job, a plum position that came with the longest title I have ever seen and a reported six figure salary, after allegedly stealing someone’s bag at the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport on Sept. 16. There were a lot of achievers this year from Kanye to Dr. Oz. However, unlike anti-Semitism or puppy killing, this was a fairly small crime. There are also so many things that make it an absolutely hilarious scandal. Firstly, the stolen bag was Vera Bradley, a brand which makes objectively hideous luggage. Then, there’s the fact that Brinton allegedly took the bag from an airport, one of the more heavily surveilled places to attempt a crime. The criminal complaint, which is an absolute masterpiece of dry, shady legal writing, notes that there is footage of Brinton taking the suitcase from the baggage carousel, removing its luggage tag, and then leaving “the area at a quick pace.”

Brinton was then captured on cameras at their hotel, on their return flight to D.C., and on another flight with the allegedly purloined luggage. The criminal complaint goes on to explain that, when police got in touch about the bag, Brinton initially attempted to deny the theft. Afterwards, Brinton allegedly called back and admitted they had not been “completely honest,” an absolutely epic understatement all things considered. The cherry on top of this scandalous sundae is the fact that, on that call, the police gave Brinton instructions for how to return the bag, which sounded a lot like a chance to minimize consequences. Brinton allegedly never returned the bag and is now facing a stiff fine and prison sentence. Just a totally wild, strange mess all around!

— Nominated by: Hunter Walker, TPM investigative reporter

Leonard Glenn Francis, the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal

The company’s chief executive, president, and chairman, Malaysian national Leonard Glenn Francis, allegedly bribed a large number of uniformed officers of the United States Seventh Fleet with at least a half million dollars in cash, plus travel expenses, luxury items, carousals and prostitutes, in return for classified material about the movements of U.S. ships and submarines, confidential contracting information, and information about active law enforcement investigations into Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Francis then allegedly exploited the intelligence for illicit profit, brazenly ordering his moles to redirect aircraft carriers, ships and subs to ports he controlled in Southeast Asia so he could more easily bilk the Navy for fuel, tugboats, barges, food, water and sewage removal.

— Nominated by: TPM reader

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