The Senate Watergate Report Vol 1 Author:Daniel Schorr (Introduction) The Senate Watergate Report is a unique record of the biggest political scandal in American history. It was released while `the Watergate drama is still unfolding,' before President Nixon's resignation and during the time the House of Representatives was drawing up articles of impeachment. It's a record of events learned by the Senate Select Com... more »mittee on Presidential Campaign Activities, more popularly known as the Ervin Committee, named for its chairman, North Carolina Democrat Senator Sam Ervin. Senate Resolution 60 created the Ervin Committee, which sat from February to August of 1973, and whose mandate was to conduct a complete investigation of illegal, improper, and unethical activities during the 1972 presidential campaign. Excluding statements by the committee Senators and the introduction, the book is divided into four sections.
The first section deals with the Watergate break-in and coverup (`Coverup' is sometimes a single word in this report, although my spellchecker seems to disagree.) This section deals with the background and planning, break-in itself, and the subsequent cover-up. As is true throughout the Report, personalities aren't drawn beyond that found in testimony, conclusions are reached with corroborating testimony. This tends to make the reading somewhat dry and a little droning, and those looking for a breathless narrative history will find this book lacking. While it doesn't follow a strict chronology, this section begins with the hiring of G. Gordon Liddy as General Counsel to the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP, or, if you're into retro-design, CREEP.) The Report finds that Watergate began with Liddy's formulation of the `Gemstone Plan,' an elaborate, clandestine and extra-legal blueprint for domestic spying which led to the creation of the Plumbers. The Plumbers first crime was the break-in of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Ellsberg was the individual who `leaked' the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. The Plumbers were created to plug such leaks. The other crime investigated by the Committee was the break-in of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The rest of this section details the early knowledge of break-in by Nixon Administration officials and their attempts to cover-up the investigation, most significantly by trying to convince CIA to interfere with the FBI's investigation.
Campaign practices is the topic of the second section. This report "focuses on the presidential campaign practices that raise substantial questions of legality, propriety, or ethics." And so this section reports on the creation of the infamous Nixon Enemies List, the improper use of the FBI, Secret Service, the FCC, the Justice Department, and other government agencies that the Administration used to attack and harass its `enemies.' This chapter also takes a long, detailed look at the short, unhappy CRP-career of political prankster Donald Segretti.
Even the seasoned Watergate wonk will have problems wading through the third report, `Use of the Incumbency-Responsiveness Program.' This section examines the "utilization of federal resources to benefit the incumbent" and the improper injection of political considerations into the decision-making process. Basically this chapter looks at how the Nixon Administration tried to co-opt the black and the Spanish-speaking vote by either reward (give them a juicy federal grant,) or neutralization (tell them they're being considered for a grant and let them twist slowly in the wind waiting for it.) This stuff isn't usually included in the canon of Watergate high crimes and misdemeanors, and although the authors more or less convince me that the Nixon Administration did use incumbency improperly, they weren't able to convince me that this wasn't `politics as usual.' For one thing, S. Res. 60 mandated that the Committee look only at the 1972 campaign, so investigating other administrations' practices was beyond their scope. Something's fishy, but the Incumbency-Responsiveness Program doesn't seem unique to the Nixon Administration. I should add that the `high crimes and misdemeanors' remark is a little out of place, as well. The House handles impeachment trials. The Senate Committee was an investigative body whose purpose was to report and propose remedial legislation if problems were found.
The fourth report is entitled "The Hughes-Rebozo Investigation and Related Matters," and, as the title suggests, this section focuses on "the receipt, storage, concealment and expenditure of cash contributions by Charles G. Rebozo and related matters" and the "use of cash funds to the direct benefit of the president." The bulk of the chapter is devoted to a $100,000 contribution, in two $50,000 installments, made by representatives of Howard Hughes to `Bebe' Rebozo in 1969-1970. This is one of the more exhaustive and exhausting chapters in the book, with a good ninety pages devoted to a minute discussion of on what dates the two deliveries probably occurred. The report also asks what Rebozo did with the money. It was returned after the IRS expressed interest in the Hughes' contribution in 1973, and Rebozo claimed it remained untouched in a safe deposit box. Although the attention to detail is sometimes maddening, it turns out that the dates Rebozo received the money was very important indeed. This report also asks whether any of these monies was used to buy or improve President Nixon's homes in San Clemente and Key Biscayne.« less