John Jenrette is a former American politician.
John Wilson Jenrette, Jr. was born in Horry County, South Carolina in 1936. After graduating from law school at the University of South Carolina, worked as a city attorney, then a judge, as he attempted to reach higher office. Jenrette was elected to the South Carolina house of representatives as a Democrat in 1964, where he represented his native town of Myrtle Beach.
Jenrette retired from the state house to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. Jenrette defeated seventeen term Congressman John L. McMillan in the primary, but lost the general election to Edward L. Young. Undaunted, Jenrette ran for the same seat in 1974. In part because of the extreme unpopularity of the Republicans following the Watergate scandal, the Democrat Jenrette was victorious in unseating Young.
Jenrette, a liberal, seemed out of place representing his rather conservative waterfront congressional district, but in part because he was locally well-known, and in part because the South Carolina Republican party was not especially well-organized at the time, Jenrette was re-elected in 1976 and in 1978.
Jenrette is most famous for two actions during his days as a Congressman. First, he had sex with his then-wife, Rita Jenrette, behind a pillar on the steps of the Capitol Building. The comedy group "The Capitol Steps" take their name from this escapade. Second, he was charged with and convicted for accepting a $50,000 bribe in the Abscam sting operation conducted by the FBI in 1980. Jenrette was sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served 13 months. He had not been videotaped taking bribes, as some of his colleagues had, but he was recorded saying he'd been given cash by an associate. In 1989 he was convicted of shoplifting a necktie from a department store at Bailey's Crossroads and was sentenced to 30 days.
Jenrette resigned from Congress on December 10, 1980, and currently is president of a public-relations firm in his native Myrtle Beach, and developing property in Cherry Grove South Carolina. He has been investigated by a federal grand jury in connection with the latter, but not charged.
Sources The Washington Post "Destination Scandal" tour of DC
The Hill, May 29, 2002
The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), November 17, 1999
The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), July 22, 2000