History Thread: The Watergate Scorecard

There’s an old quote, generally attributed to Mark Twain, that “history doesn’t repeat itself but sometimes it rhymes.” That nostrum seems especially appropriate on August 9, 2022. This marks the 48th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation, which seems singularly appropriate considering yesterday’s events at Mar-A-Lago.

What makes Watergate stand apart from other presidential scandals is the sheer number of people prosecuted as a result. Even the Harding Administration’s sundry scandals only resulted in a handful of convictions, notably Interior Secretary Albert Fall for his role in masterminding Teapot Dome. Eleven members of the Reagan Administration were convicted due to Iran-Contra, but most of these were voided on appeal, and those that weren’t were ultimately pardoned by Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush.

In contrast, dozens of figures both inside and outside the Nixon Administration were indicted. While the number is smaller if we limited ourselves strictly to jailtime – many received suspended sentences or fines, and a handful had their sentences overturned or dismissed – it still speaks to a prosecutorial zeal towards corrupt politicians that remains unparalleled in American history. Even so, the President himself escaped justice – a lesson, hopefully, which won’t be repeated this time around.

While I can’t find a definitive list of Watergate prosecutions, based on the special prosecutor’s report and other available documentation I compile a reasonably comprehensive one. Let’s remember a time when presidential hoodlums were held accountable, and hope at least some of this transfers to their modern equivalents.

White House/Executive Branch:

  • Spiro Agnew, Vice President of the United States – pleaded no contest to a charge of income tax evasion, received $10,000 fine and three years’ probation.
  • Dwight Chapin, White House Appointments Secretary – convicted of lying to a grand jury, served eight months in prison.  
  • Charles Colson, Special Assistant to the President – pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, served seven months in prison.  
  • John Connally, Secretary of the Treasury – indicted for accepting bribes from milk companies, acquitted. 
  • John Dean, White House Counsel – pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, served four months in prison.
  • Frank Demarco, Deputy White House Counsel – indicted for obstruction of justice and lying to the IRS, charges dismissed by judge. 
  • Harry Dent, political strategist – convicted of violating campaign finance laws, received one month’s probation. 
  • John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs – convicted of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice – served eighteen months in prison.
  • H.R. Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff (pictured) – convicted of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice – served eighteen months in prison. 
  • Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal attorney – convicted of violating campaign finance laws, served six months in prison. 
  • Richard Kleindienst, Attorney General – convicted of lying to the Senate in regards to the ITT affair, received suspended sentence of 30 days and $100 fine. 
  • Robert Mardian, Assistant Attorney General – convicted of conspiracy; overturned on appeal. 
  • Edward Morgan, Deputy White House Counsel – pleaded guilty of conspiracy to obstruct IRS investigation of presidential income, served four months in prison. 
  • Gordon Strachan, aide to Haldeman – indicted for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, charges were dropped without trial. 
  • Tony Ulasewicz, bagman and special investigator – convicted of income tax evasion, received a year’s probation.  

Committee to Reelect the President:

  • Jack A. Gleason, CREEP fundraiser – pleaded guilty to violating Corrupt Practices Act, received suspended sentence.
  • Fred LaRue, CREEP fundraiser – pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, served four month in prison.
  • Jeb Magruder, Deputy Director of CREEP – pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice, served seven months in prison. 
  • John Mitchell, Attorney General and Director of CREEP (pictured) – convicted of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice – served nineteen months in prison. Acquitted of obstruction of justice in Vesco Affair. 
  • Kenneth Parkinson, CREEP counsel – indicted for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, acquitted. 
  • Herbert Porter, CREEP operations director – pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, served five months in prison. 
  • Harry Sears, New Jersey campaign director – indicted for obstruction of justice related to Vesco affair, acquitted. 
  • Maurice Stans, Secretary of Commerce and CREEP Finance Director – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $5,000. Acquitted of obstruction of justice in Vesco Affair. 
  • Wendell Wyatt, Oregon campaign director – convicted of failing to report campaign contributions, fined $750. 

Watergate burglars:

  • Bernard Barker, burglar – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served one year in prison. 
  • Virgilio Gonzalez, burglar – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served thirteen months in prison
  • Howard Hunt, CREEP consultant – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served thirty-three months in prison. 
  • Gordon Liddy, CREEP general counsel – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served four-and-a-half years in prison. 
  • Eugenio Martinez, burglar – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served fifteen months in prison. 
  • James McCord, head of burglary team – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served four months in prison.
  • Frank Sturgis, burglar – convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, served fifteen months in prison.

Plumbers, other:

  • Felipe De Diego, Fielding burglar – indicted for conspiracy, charges dropped without trial. 
  • Egil Krogh, director of the Plumbers (pictured) – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate Daniel Ellsberg’s civil rights, served four-and-a-half months in prison.

Dirty tricks operations:

  • George Hearing, sabotage operative – convicted of distributing illegal campaign literature, served one year in prison. 
  • Donald Segretti, oversaw sabotage of Democratic primaries (pictured) – convicted of distributing illegal campaign literature, served four months in prison.

Milk scandal:

  • Jack L. Chestnut, aide to Hubert Humphrey, involved in “milk money” scandal – convicted of violating campaign finance laws, received four month prison sentence – overturned on appeal. 
  • Jake Jacobsen, attorney, used as intermediary in “milk money” scandal – pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury, received suspended prison sentence.  
  • Harold Nelson, general manager of Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, served four months in prison and fined $10,000.
  • David Parr, counsel of Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, served four months in prison and fined $10,000.
  • Stewart Russell, counsel of Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – convicted of conspiracy, sentenced to two years in prison; sentence overturned on appeal. 
  • Norman Sherman, Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fined $500. 
  • John Valentine, Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fined $500.

Other businessmen:

  • Raymond Abendorth, Time Oil – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $2,000.
  • James Allen, Northrop Corp. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Richard Allison, Lehigh Valley Farmers’ Cooperative – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Orin Atkins, Ashland Petroleum – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Tim Babcock, Armand Hammer lobbyist – convicted of violating campaign finance laws, served four months in prison and fined $1,000.
  • Russell DeYoung, Goodyear Tire and Rubber – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Ray Dubrowin, Diamond International Corporation – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000. 
  • Armand Hammer, Occidental Petroleum – convicted of violating campaign finance law, received probation and fined $3,000.
  • Harry Heltzer, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $500.
  • Charles Huseman, HMS Electric Corp. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Thomas Jones, Northrop Corp. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $5,000. 
  • William Keeler, Phillips Petroleum – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • Harding Lawrence, Braniff Airways – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000.
  • William Lyles, Sr., LBC & W, Inc. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $2,000. 
  • John Melcher, VP of American Shipbuilding – convicted as accessory after the fact to Steinbrenner’s violation of campaign finance laws, fined $2,500. 
  • H. Everett Olson, Carnation Co. – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000. 
  • George Steinbrenner, American Shipbuilding and New York Yankees – pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and violating campaign finance laws, fined $15,000.
  • Robert Vesco, financier and drug dealer – indicted for securities fraud, fled abroad before he could be charged.
  • Claude Wild Jr., Gulf Oil – pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, fined $1,000. 

Others:

  • Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI – convicted of violating civil rights through oversight of COINTELPRO operations, fined $5,000; pardoned by President Reagan before fine was paid.  
  • L. Patrick Gray, Acting Director of the FBI (pictured) – Indicted for ordering illegal break-ins as director but charges were dropped. 
  • Richard Helms, Director of the CIA and Ambassador to Iran – convicted of lying to Congress about CIA activities in Chile, received two year suspended prison sentence.
  • Edwin S. Miller, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI – convicted of violating civil rights through COINTELPRO programs, fined $3,500; pardoned by President Reagan before fine was paid. 
  • Ralph Newman, bookstore owner and literary appraiser – convicted of perjury related to Nixon’s presidential papers, fined $10,000. 
  • Edwin Reinecke, Lieutenant Governor of California – convicted of perjury related to ITT affair, received suspended sentence of eighteen months.

Others investigated but not charged:

  • Robert Abplanalp, businessman and fundraiser – investigated for violating campaign finance laws, no charges ever brought.
  • Alfred Baldwin, lookout for Watergate burglars – never charged. 
  • Robert Bennett, fundraiser – investigated for violating campaign finance laws, no charges ever brought. 
  • George H.W. Bush, Republican National Committee Chairman – investigated for violating campaign finance laws, no charges ever brought. 
  • Jack Caulfield, White House special investigator – no charges ever brought. 
  • Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor – investigated for lying to Congress about wiretaps ordered against aides, no charges ever brought.
  • Ray Kroc, McDonald’s CEO – investigated for violating campaign finance laws, no charges ever brought. 
  • Richard Nixon, President of the United States – named as unindicted conspirator by grand jury; pardoned by President Ford after resignation.
  • Bebe Rebozo, businessman and fundraiser – investigated for violating campaign finance laws, no charges ever brought. 
  • David Young, co-director of Plumbers – received immunity in exchange for testimony about the Plumbers’ activities.