BY TODD THOMPSON
FEBRUARY 19, 1998
Watergate was the name of the biggest political scandal in the United States history. It included various illegal activities designed to help President Richard M. Nixon win reelection in 1972. Watergate resulted in Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974.
Watergate differed from most previous political scandals because personal greed apparently did not play an important role. Instead, Watergate represented an attack on one of the chief features of a democracy, free and open elections.
The Watergate activities included burglary, wiretapping, violations of campaign financing laws, and sabotage and the attempted use of government agencies to harm political opponents. The scandal also involved a cover-up of many of those actions. About forty people were charged with the crimes in this scandal and with related crimes. Most of these people were convicted by juries or pleaded guilty.
Watergate involved more high level government officials than any previous political scandal.
It led to the conviction on criminal charges in 1975 of former Attorney General John N. Mitchell and two of Nixon's top aides, John D. Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman. Also in 1975, former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans, a leader of Nixon's reelection campaign pleaded guilty to Watergate criminal charges and was fined $5,000. Watergate also had resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst in 1973.
Watergate arose from a break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington, D. C., on June 17, 1972. Employees of Nixon's 1972 reelection committee were arrested in the break-in and convicted of burglary. Early in 1973 evidence was uncovered that linked several top White House aides with either the break-in or later attempts to hide information related to it.
Nixon insisted that he did...