Watergate Essay, Research Paper
Watergate was the name of the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States.
It included various illegal activities constructed and carried out to help reelect President Richard
Nixon in the 1972 presidential elections. Watergate included burglary, wire tapping, violations of
campaign financing laws, and sabotage and attempted use of government agencies to harm
political opponents. It also involved a cover-up of conduct. There were about forty people
charged with crimes in the scandal and related crimes. Most of them were convicted by juries or
plead guilty. Watergate involved more high-level government officials than any previous scandal
in the United States. It led to the conviction of former Attorney General John Mitchell and two
of Nixon s top aides, John Erlichmen and H.R. Haldeman, in 1975. Former Secretary of
Commerce Maurice H. Stans, a leader of Nixon s reelection campaign pled guilty to Watergate
criminal charges and was fined $5000. Watergate also resulted in the resignation of Attorney
General Richard Kleindienst in 1973.
Watergate really began in 1969 when the White House staff made up a list of enemies.
This so-called enemies list was kept of people the president s men wanted retribution on.
Nixon had adversaries which included 200 liberal politicians, journalists, and actors. When people
made public speeches against Vietnam, agents found out secret information about them that
would harm them. The Nixon campaign routinely engaged in unethical dirty tricks . These
deceptions were led by White House staffers Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President;
Deputy Campaign Director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) Jeb Magruder;
Dwight Chapin, Deputy Assistant to the President; and Donald Segretti, an attorney. These
corrupt antics included following Democratic political candidates, assembling reprots on thier
personal lives, forged letters on candidates letterheads, altering schedules of campaign
appearances, placing harrassing phone calls, and manufacturing false information, then leaking it
to the press. The goal of these tricks was to help eliminate the strongest candidates from the
Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, the campaign of front runner Senator Edmund Muskie
of Maine was ruined. False rumors circulated to newspapers. The day before the election,
Senator Muskie lashed out at the press. This damaged Muskie s eventempered reputation and
contributed to his failure to win the 1972 Democratic nomination for the president.
The Special Investigations Unit, better known as the plumbers unit, was created as a
result of the Pentagon Papers being leaked to the New York Times in June of 1971. The
Pentagon Papers were secret defense department documents on the American involvement in the
Vietnam War. They revealed a pattern of government deception related to Vietnam. The Papers
were leaked to the New York Times by Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the staff of the
National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger. The Nixon administration responded by stopping
publication of the papers and charging Ellsberg with espionage. The plumbers were to block new
leaks and control public knowledge of Vietnam policy. President Richard Nixon ordered
domestic policy adviser, John Erlichman, to streamline leak plugging by creating the plumbers
unit. Erlichman s deputy, Egil Krogh, Jr. and David Young, a member of the National Security
Council staff, hired former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy and former CIA operative E. Howard
Hunt to run thier illegal secret operation. Plumbers set wiretaps, opened mail, and conducted
break-ins in order to gain information about leaking. They targeted political enemies of the Nixon
administration for harrassment. Ellsberg was at the top of that list. In September of 1971, the
plumbers unit broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg s psychiatrist. They wanted
to find degrading information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial. The case against Ellsberg
was dismissed because of the burglary.
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic
National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The men were adjusting
electronic equipment that they had installed in May. The police apprehended a walkie talkie, forty
rolls of unexposed film, two 35 millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-sized teargas guns, and
bugging devices. Four of the men who were arrested came from Miami, Florida. They were
Bernard Barker, Frank Sturigis, Virgillio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez. The other man was
James McCord, security coordinator for the CRP. The two co-plotters were Gordon Liddy and
Howard Hunt. Their arrest eventually uncovered a White House sponsored plan of surveillance
of political opponents and a trail of conspiracy that led to many of the higheset officials in the
A secret fund that contained more than $300,000 was designated for sensitive political
projects. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, Herbert Porter (scheduling director, CRP), H. R.
Haldeman (chief of staff), and Herbert Kalmbach (Deputy Finance Chairman, CRP) had control of
the fund. All were principal assistants of John Mitchell, Campaign Director of the CRP. This
money was kept in a special account at CRP. They were funds for Watergate espionage. A
$25,000 cashier s check intended as a contribution to the Nixon reelection effort was deposited
into a Miami banking account of Bernard Baker in 1972. The General Accounting Office, the
investigative arm of Congress, ordered an immediate audit of the Nixon campaign finances. The
audit report concluded that former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, the chief Nixon
fund-raiser, had an illegal cash fund of $350,000 in his office safe. The $25,000 from the
cashier s check and another $89,000 from four Mexican checks passed through the fund. This
cash supply was used, in part, as an intelligent-gathering fund.
The Watergate money trail exposed a multitude of Nixon administration financial crimes
and illegalities. The serial numbers on the money the Watergate burglars carried (as well as the
name of their paymaster, Howard Hunt, found in the address book of one of the burglars) led
investigators to a Miami bank and an account set up by the Campaign to Re-elect the President.
Eventually, investigators would examine the records of the activities of Maurice Stans, former
Attorney General John Mitchell, and Secretary of the Treasury John Connally. They discovered a
host of unethical and allegedly illegal campaign fund-raising operations. Major corporations were
told to contribute at least $100,000 dollars each. It was understood that the donations could
easily buy the companies influence with the White House. Many large coporations went along.
Connally accepted bribes from a dairy organizaition eager to have the Nixon administration
increase price supports. There were also efforts to pressure corporate contributors by threatening
investigation by the Internal Revenue Service or Environmental Protection Agency, attempts to
avoid contributor disclosure laws, and offers of favorable legislation in return for campaing
contributions for the 1972 campaign. Kalmbach acknowledged raising and distributing large sums
of money that were later used for illegal purposes. He promised an ambassador a better
assignment in return for a settlement of an antitrust suit. Maurice Stans later plead guilty to
charges relating to illegal handling of campaign funds.
Immediately following James McCord s arrest, members of the Nixon administration
began a cover-up of McCord s connection with the White House. Memos and written files
connecting him and his superior, Hunt, to the the White House were destroyed. More than
$187,000 in bribes- hush money – was paid to Hunt, McCord, and the other burglars to keep
them from discussing their ties to the White House. Jeb Magruder and John Mitchell denied any
association to Hunt and McCord before a grand jury. A cover story was made up by White
House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, domestic policy assistant John Erlichman, and the
president s lawyer, John Dean. They were to say that the burglary was part of a CIA operative,
vital to national security. On June 23, 1972, President Nixon authorized the cover-up, but the
CIA refused to cooperate. So the Nixon administration successfully applied political pressure to
delay several trials and investigations of the burglary until early 1973. Nixon ordered his aides to
block any information to investigators. Magruder and others destroyed incriminating documents
and testified falsely to official investigators. L. Patrick Gray, acting director of the FBI, destroyed
documents given to him by Ehrlichman and Dean.
In January of 1973, seven indicted men were tried before Judge John Sirica in th United
States District Court in Washington, D.C. Four of the men arrested the night of the burglary
plead guilty along with Howard Hunt. James McCord and Gordon Liddy were convicted of
conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. Many other high government officials were
convicted. Then, the jude subpoenaed tapes that had relevant conversations involving the
president. Instead of being impeached, Nixon resigned on August 9, the first president to ever
Many Americans expressed relief and exhiliration that the national nightmare was over.
Many were relieved to be rid of Richard Nixon, and many were exhilirated the system of the
United States actually worked. But the wave of good feeling could not obscure the deeper and
more lasting damge of the Watergate crisis. The Watergate burlary and the scandals associated
with the burlary were about more than Nixon s fall from power. Watergate was about a seamy
side of politics that before the scandal most Americans scarcely imagined existed. Watergate was
about ambition overriding good judgement and fair play; but it was also about a political culture
and political system that often rewarded just such ambition. Watergate was contradictory,
controversial, captivating, and ultimately, compelling.