In 1972 I was chosen as one of two delegates from our high school to attend Hoosier Boys State, an annual event sponsored by the American Legion to inculcate our youths with proper values, and respect for the Constitution. The first day we were there a delegate from a high school near Anderson was tossed out when he asked why we had to march everyplace. The second day, I saw a couple of people, anti-war pamphlets in their hands on state-owned property (Indiana State University) confronted by American Legion people, grabbed, their pamphlets taken from them and dumped in the trash. I learned a lot about the First Amendment .
While I was there, a minor news story broke. Several people had been arrested after they had broken into Democratic National Headquarters in someplace called The Watergate in Washington, D.C.
We did not know the full ramifications to follow from the arrest of those five guys. Every June 17 I try to toast the event that brought down Richard Nixon as President of the United States. (Really? If the guy only had burned the tapes immediately after the arrest of the burglars—the tapes were not yet "evidence"—he would have walked.)
From Watergate we received several things. First, any scandal will have the word "gate" appended to it as a suffix. I always thought that a sign of journalistic lassitude. Second, the Watergate is not only an office building but a hotel and a place with condos and apartments. Third, cash—without limits, ties or paper trails—given to political campaigns can be used for anything. (Nixon: A million dollars? A million dollars is not a problem.) Congress acted in a somewhat responsible manner and enacted legislation for campaign finance reform—after all the grandstanding of the multiple hearings. Every day during the summer of 1973 the Senate Committee met.
Nixon resigned—yay! We threw a party—and life proceeded.
Then along came—I know, Nic, you are waiting for this phrase—Citizens United and one positive product of Watergate (unless you got a good deal on a condo there in the aftermath) disappeared.
As computers replace humans as pilots of fighter jets and drones monitor us from the skies, corporations will toss in bags of cash to buy politicians. We cannot be sure the corporations are owned by people who are not Americans.
June 17—a date that will live on in some people’s minds—also was the day I first tried Cap’n Crunch cereal. There had to be a connection to Watergate there, someplace.