The Watergate Scandal

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The Watergate Scandal

The Watergate Scandal involved a number of illegal activities that were designed to help President Richard Nixon win re-election. The scandal involved burglary, wiretapping, campaign financing violations, and the use of government agencies to harm political opponents. A major part of the scandal was also the cover-up of all these illegal actions. “Watergate, however, differed from most previous political scandals because personal greed apparently did not play an important role. Instead Watergate attacked one of the chief features of Democracy – free and open elections” (Worldbook 1).

The Watergate Scandal got its name from the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. This large office building was the home of the Democratic National Headquarters, and the site of the break-in that began the largest scandal in American Politics. However, even before the break-in, President Nixon had begun illegal operations.

President Nixon had created a special investigation unit to prevent the leaking of confidential documents to the public. He did this after a number of Defense Department papers were released to the public concerning President Nixon’s paranoia over the public’s criticism of his Vietnam War policies (Owens 1).

The “Plumbers”, as they were nicknamed, were headed by two of Nixon’s top aides, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt. In order to prevent all information leaks, the “Plumbers” investigated the private lives of Nixon’s political enemies and critics. The White House rationalized the actions of the plumbers by saying that they were protecting National Security.

The actual Watergate Scandal began on June 17, 1972, with the arrest of five men for breaking into the Democratic Party’s National Headquarters located in the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. The five men were part of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). They were attempting to fix a broken phone tap that they had installed about a month before. The five men were charged with burglary and wiretapping. Throughout the next few months this minor break-in turned into a full blown political scandal.

When first questioned about the situation in early 1973, Nixon denied all allegations that either he or any White House official was linked to the break-in. Later that year evidence was uncovered that linked several White House officials to the bre...

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...r the break-in. They revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the break-in. Nixon ordered them to close the investigation for he feared that the FBI would discover the involvement of his campaign. After the release of these final three tapes, Nixon lost nearly all his support in Congress. With no support, and having already been impeached, President Nixon’s top aides advised him to resign. On August 9, 1974 President Richard M. Nixon followed their advice, and resigned from the presidency to avoid being removed from office. Vice President Gerald R. Ford replaced him that very same day. On September 8, 1974 President Ford pardoned Nixon of all federal crimes that he had committed while serving as the President of the United States.

The resignation of the President, charges to nearly forty people, and a nation in disgust were not the only results of the Watergate Scandal. In 1974 Congress approved reforms in the financing of political campaigns. The reforms limited the amount of money that could be given by contributors and required detailed reporting of all contributions and spending. These new laws were soon adopted by state legislation as well.

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