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Former South Carolina politician John Jenrette dies

Jenrette represented South Carolina's Grand Strand and Pee Dee region in the US House of Representatives until scandal in 1980
Credit: Associated Press
John Jenrette, as US Representative of South Carolina, stands with his wife Rita, in Washington, DC, Sept. 22, 1976.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina politician John Jenrette died on March 17. 

Jenrette grew up in Conway and represented the state as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from January 1975 until December 1980.

He is probably best known for his involvement in the Abscam corruption scandal in 1980. The FBI sting operation targeted D.C. politicians, offering them bribes in exchange for assisting a fictitious Arab sheik with immigration to the U.S. Jenrette accepted $50,000 and was convicted in the scandal. He ended up serving 13 months in prison.

He and his second wife Rita also made headlines after allegedly having sex on the steps of the Capitol Building during a late-night session of Congress. John and Rita divorced in 1981.

According to his 2017 biography, Capitol Steps, and Missteps: The Wild, Improbable Ride of Congressman John Jenrette, Jenrette went from politics to "marketing an experimental balloon-operated flotation device; running (and then folding) a national chain of timeshares; breeding horses in Bulgaria; and selling Phillip Morris cigarettes in Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union". 

Jenrette's death was announced on Friday, March 17, 2023. Arrangements will be announced by Goldfinch Funeral Home in Conway. Jenrette, 86, is survived by his third wife, Rosemary.

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