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John Wilson Jenrette, Jr. (born May 19, 1936) is a former Americanmarker politician from the Democratic Party. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1975 until December 1980. He was convicted of accepting a bribe in the FBImarker's Abscam operation.

Biography

Jenrette was born in Horry Countymarker, South Carolinamarker in 1936. After graduating from law school at the University of South Carolinamarker, 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 Beachmarker.

Jenrette retired from the state house to run for a seat in the U.S. House in 1972. Jenrette defeated seventeen-term Congressman John L. McMillan in the primary, but lost the general election to Republican Edward Lunn Young. Undaunted, Jenrette ran for the same seat in 1974. In part because of the extreme unpopularity of the Republicans following the Watergate scandal, Jenrette unseated Young.

Jenrette, a liberal, seemed out of place representing his rather conservative waterfront congressional district. However, he was locally well-known, and the South Carolina Republican Party was not especially well-organized at the time in that part of the state. Jenrette easily defeated Young again in 1976 and was unopposed 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 during a break in a late night session of Congress. The comedy group "Capitol Steps" take their name from this escapade. Second, he was charged with and convicted for accepting a $50,000 bribe in the FBI 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. His wife, Rita, separated with him in January 1981 and the two divorced later the same year. In 1989 he was convicted of shoplifting a necktie from a department store in Bailey's Crossroadsmarker, Virginiamarker and was sentenced to 30 days.

Jenrette was defeated for reelection in 1980 and resigned from Congress on December 10, just days before the end of his term. He subsequently ran a public-relations firm called Lehuguenot, Ltd., in his native Myrtle Beachmarker, and developed property in Cherry Grove, South Carolinamarker.

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