But the most crooked presidential contest -- and the one that began the push for campaign finance reform -- happened in 1896. On one side, Democrat William Jennings Bryan was pushing for a move from a gold-based to a silver-based currency, a switch that could have been good for common voters, but which terrified bankers, financiers and other big money interests. On the other side, Republican William McKinley was close friends with Mark Hanna, a political fixer with a pocket full of big money connections.
Pictured: 1897 illustration shows President William McKinley, standing, leading a toast to a dejected William Jennings Bryan sitting in a chair labeled "Guest of Honor"; seated around the table are, among others, "Teddy" Roosevelt, Mark "Hanna," and Benjamin B. "Odell," Jr.