by Richard W. Strong J.D.
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
Resident of Yucaipa. An attorney in private practice in Yucaipa with a specialty in
Probate, Wills, and Trust.
Native of Glendale, California, and a graduate of U.C.L.A. in Finance and Law.
Insurance Defence Counsel.
Deputy County Counsel for San Bernardino County for 15 years.
Married with two daughters, one of whom is a lawyer.
Hobbies are antiques, history, and religion
Sin, Sex, Greed:
A Historical Perspective
In recent months we have been subjected to a great deal of news coverage of the
scandal surrounding the President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.
He is not the first President to face impeachment because of his conduct, nor is he the
first public official who has misused his office and been involved in judicial
In this paper I shall try to review and comment upon this phenomena of scandals in
political office and its lasting effect upon the government of the United States, and upon
its people. In order to get an idea as to the moral basis of government, I will look at an
over-view of the process which led to government.
The ideal of government goes back to pre-history when humans, like other mammals,
hunted in packs or clans as a better means of survival for the members of the group,
rather than hunting and gathering alone. Since there were packs or clans, a method of
determining leadership was developed. It is much the same as other mammals in which the
strongest male holds control of the females and other males because of physical ability or
intelligence, or both, and when he becomes old he would be successfully challenged by
another leader who would take his place in the tribe. The leader might also reinforce his
position on the basis of the belief system of the people, in which the Leader claimed to
be a communicator with the Gods and told the people what the Gods wanted. This same method
of leadership is found in primitive peoples even today. There is no moral restraint upon
the leader who could do whatever he wanted within the scope of his ability to enforce his
So it is perfectly natural animal behavior to take whatever you can get by force or by
trickery and to breed with whatever female you can get and to acquire whatever goods you
can by any means necessary. So with the passing of time and the expansion of the human
family, the grouping of people became larger and a rise of agricultural civilizations were
found in the great valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates and the Nile.
This concept of governance on the basis of superior force found itself refined in these
agricultural valleys and a King or Pharaoh came to be method of governance for these
ancient civilizations in Egypt and in Assyria.
By this time the human consciousness began to recognize that there was some authority
or creator beyond that which the individual could experience with his senses. So, the
Pharaoh or King would oblige by claiming to be a God, with supernatural powers actin ~ for
the best interest of the people. This concept was later refined to become known as the "Divine Right of Kings"; namely, that the King was chosen by God for the task of
ruling over the people and as such, possessed some sort of supernatural power and wisdom
which was to be used for the benefit of the people. Interesting enough, the last King who
claimed Divine Right was Nicholas II of Russia who was overthrown in 1917.
If you ascribe to the recognition that humans, as mammals, and as such are amoral then
you have no natural basis for anything save and except selfish behavior, greed, sex and
You will not be surprised, or shocked, by the corruption, greed, murder, adultery
displayed by your leaders as this is perfectly natural behavior for animals.
By and large it is with the rise of the Judo Christian Religions which introduced the
concept of a single invisible God who rewards conduct in accordance with a different
standard than the natural animal one.
This monotheistic God punishes individuals who do not act in accordance with the
standard God has revealed, but the reward and punishment for these acts take place after
the death of the individual in an-after-life.
Moses, the Prince of Egypt and God appointed leader of the Jews, after leading them out
of slavery in Egypt, received a set of laws from God for the people to live by. These are
called "The Ten Commandments" and were thereafter extended by men into a complex
system of laws governing behavior, which were thereafter followed to a greater or lesser
extent by the people and Kings of Judah and Israel.
These concepts of God were expanded by the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth in the First
Century AD who claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews and expanded the scope of this system
of laws for conduct of leaders and followers.
By 350 AD the Christian Religion was proclaimed the state religion of the Roman Empire
by Constantine the Great and the leaders of the Church who had been outlawed before became
the interpreters of the State Religion.
The Christian Church then attempted to stamp out competing religions and place itself
in the position of predominant spiritual authority. The Christian Church, in order to
maintain its special relationship with the Ruler adopted the old idea that the King was
God, or at least almost God, to enforce the divine right of the individual selected by the
Church to act as the Ruler of the political entity. So it is in England that the Bishops
of the Anglican Church and the head of the Church of Scotland crown the British Monarch.
By the 1750's, the Stewart Family line had run out and the British Parliament went to
elector George of Saxe Colberg to be selected as King of England. He was crowned by the
Church of England and became George III of England.
In the years prior to the American Revolution the King and Parliament of England, then
in a series of acts, made all Judges responsible only to the King, made the Military
independent of Civil Control, imposed taxes without the consent of those governed, and in
the judgment of the Americans, abolished the system of English laws and established an
arbitrary government. On July 4, 1776, the representatives of the United States of America
in general congress assembled and made the following declaration regarding their intent
for the future of the United States of America:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among
the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and tine' pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are
instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That
whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the
People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation
on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that
Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and
accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while
evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same
Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is
their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future
security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the
necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history
of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations,
all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To
prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
Thereafter a list of grievances was listed and a war of rebellion ensued
in which the American Colonies sought to rid themselves of the domination of the English
King and Parliament. This was called "The American Revolution."
After a long and bloody struggle, the American Revolution ended with the recognition of
the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA as an Independent Nation.
In 1787 and 1788 the representatives of the several states unanimously adopted the
Constitution which we use today in addition to the first ten amendments of the
Constitution so these words became the basic law of the United States of America.
Subject of impeachment or the removal of an elected or appointed representative from
office is covered first in Article One, Section 2E which reads as follows:
"The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers, and
shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."
Section 3F reads as follows:
"The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for
that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United
States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside and no Person shall be convicted without
the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present."
Section 3G reads as follows:
"Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from
Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under
the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to
Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law."
The last section regarding Impeachment is found in Article II, Section 4 which reads as
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall
be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other
high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Treason is defined in Article III Section 3 (a) and (b) of the Constitution:
"(a) Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against
them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No person shall be
convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on
Confession in open Court.
"(b) The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no
Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life
of the Person attainted."
The test of these provisions of the Constitution regarding impeachments were tested
early in the history of the United States. Aaron Burr is best remembered for the dual with
Alexander Hamilton which took place in New Jersey and ended with General Hamilton dying
shortly after the dual.
However, it is not nearly as well remembered as Aaron Burr was the Vice-President of
the United States between 1801 and 1805, in that the House of Representatives of the
United States selected Thomas Jefferson to be President and Aaron Burr as Vice-President.
Interestingly enough, after the dual Aaron Burr was indited, both by the States of New
York and New Jersey for murder growing out of the dual with General Hamilton. At this
time, Burr was still the Vice President of the United States. Burr then headed South. He
wrote to his daughter as follows:
"You have doubtlessly heard 'that there has subsisted for some time a contention
of a very singular nature between the two states of New York and New Jersey..' the subject
in dispute is, which will have the honor of hanging the Vice-President..."
At Burr's urging, President Jefferson appointed General Wilkerson as Governor of the
newly acquired territory of Louisiana.
During his last session as Vice-President, Burr presided at the trial of Justice Chace,
a judge of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Chace had been impeached by the House of
Representatives and was charged that he had grossly abused the authority of the bench in
certain political trials. Judge Chace, was a prejudiced, arrogant man and the trial of
impeachment brought together many dignitaries of the Nation and Foreign Ambassadors as
spectators. The Senators, as Judges in this high court, placed in a grand semi-circle on
each side of the Vice-President, presented a powerful array of judicial authority. The
trial began on February 4 and ended with a verdict of acquittal on March 1st. Burr was
described, by a newspaper of the day, as "he conducted the trial with dignity and
impartiality of an angel, but with the rigor of a devil".
The day after the conclusion of the trial, Vice-President Burr left the Senate and
proceeded to new endeavors. Those endeavors included a conspiracy between Burr and General
James Wilkerson and a man named Herman Blennerhasset, who lived on an island on the Ohio
River. The plan was to create an Army, including those led by General Wilkerson, to detach
New Orleans from the United States and invade Mexico, creating a new government of which
Aaron Burr was to be the Dictator.
President Jefferson heard of the scheme and pronounced it "the most extraordinary
since the days of Don Quixote but never the less issued a warrant for the arrest of Aaron
Burr. In the meantime, Burr had assembled about one hundred men on Blennerhasset's island
and was floating down the Ohio and Mississippi River to New Orleans. In December of 1806
he was overtaken by Jefferson's proclamation of arrest, slipped the chests of arms on the
flat boat over board and surrendered to the Governor of the Mississippi Territory,
gave bond and fled to the Spanish Frontier. Captured another month later in Alabama, he
was brought to Richmond to face trial for treason.
Burr surrounded himself with the best Lawyers of his time, including Luther Martin, who
was the former Attorney General of the State of Maryland.
Substantial testimony was given that Burr had indeed entered into a conspiracy and
talked about it with a number of witnesses who testified as to his intent to start a
general revolution and an unauthorized invasion of Mexico, and the taking of some of the
territory of the United States.
The problem with the case was that there appeared to be no one who witnessed the
disposing of the arms, and could testify to a single overt act leading toward treason
against the United States. The trial, which took place in Richmond, Virginia, was presided
over by the Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, and the Chief Justice of
the Commonwealth of Virginia. The jury, after hearing much argument, came back with the
"We of the jury, say that Aaron Burr is not proved to be guilty under the
indictment by any evidence submitted to us. We therefore find him not guilty."
Thus ended the first major political trial and scandal in the United States.
Scandals large and small have always appeared in political office. Indeed, the great
Abraham Lincoln, at one point, informed the gardener of the White House not to pay more of
Mary Todd Lincoln's debts from the household accounts, but rather send those bills to him.
However, the Civil War with its tremendous purchases of arms and equipment, indeed led to
some contractors charging more and delivering less.
The scandal that led to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, was indeed one of partisan
political action. Johnson was nominated Vice-President in 1864 in recognition of his
service as a staunch union man in Eastern Tennessee. Johnson was "a poor white," a tailor by trade without schooling, had been taught to read by his wife. He had a good
mind and was eager to learn, persevering self reliant and courageous; who by shear force
of character fought his way up to the Federal House of Representatives, and then to the
United States Senate in 1862. He had other qualities which were less commendable. He was
intolerant, distrustful, and tenacious to the point of stubbornness, and filled with
bitter hatred of the planter class. So, upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, he assumed the
Presidency as the mood in Congress was divided into two groups; one group desired a stern
accounting of the Rebels.
They demanded imprisonment, trial and execution of Confederate leaders on the charge of
treason; insisted that Negroes should be given the ballot as the best means of providing
their Negro Civil Rights. Senator Charles Sumner said that the Southern States had
practically abdicated all rights under the Constitution.] Thaddeus Stevens thought they
should be treated as conquered provinces, having no rights which the conquerors were bound
Abraham Lincoln sided with a gentler view. It was his hope to bring the seceded States
back to the Union upon these conditions. Lincoln offered pardon to those who had taken
part in the rebellion and on condition that they should (1) take an oath of loyalty to the
Union, and (2) that they should agree to accept emancipation, and as soon as one-tenth of
the voters in any seceding State should do this they would elect a convention, form a new
State government which the President would agree to recognize.
President Johnson's plan for reconstruction, contemplating the Southern States
themselves, as the chief instruments for reconstructing the shattered fabric of Southern
After becoming President, Johnson announced a reconstruction policy similar to that of
Lincoln and as proclamation laid down three conditions for Southern States to be
readmitted to the Union: (1) they must repeal their succession ordinance, (2) repudiate
the confederate debt created during the war and, (3) ratify the Thirteenth Amendment
abolishing slavery. The Southerners promptly complied with these terms. They elected State
legislatures and governors and when the 39th Congress assembled in December, 1865,
Senators and Representatives were present from the Southern States ready to take their
seats. Several of these members had held high command in the Confederate Army, while
Georgia was represented by Alexander Stevens, Vice President of the Confederacy. Caucus of
Republicans in Congress decided to place on the roll of members elect only those from
loyal states, excluded the Southern delegations and appointed a joint committee on
reconstruction of fifteen members.
In several of the Southern States, Negroes were forbidden to carry arms, act as
witnesses in court or assemble in political meetings. The Congress of the United States
however passed two measures to benefit the newly freed Negroes.
One was the creation of a Freedman's bureau of 1865 under the war department, and the
second was a Civil Right's Act which declared the freedmen to be citizens of the United
States, guaranteeing them the Civil Rights of White Citizens. This meant that
Negroes would have the right to make contracts, purchase and sell lands and to move about
freely. They were not given the right to vote, but in many respects were to have full
benefit and protection of the laws to the same extent as white citizens.
President Johnson vetoed both of these measures, but Congress passed them over his veto
by the required two-thirds vote. The Vetoes lost Johnson all of his support in the
Congress except for the Democratic minority.
A few days after the veto, President Johnson addressed a crowd gathered at the White
House. Johnson declared that the 39th Congress was not a real Congress since eleven states
were excluded from representation. He attacked the joint committee on reconstruction as "an irresponsible central Directory" and charged that the three Republican
leaders, Sumner, Stevens and Wendell Phillips were seeking to destroy the fundamental
principles of the American Government.
In order to enforce a Civil Rights Act, the Congress then proposed the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution which was passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by
three-fourths of the States in 1868. This amendment conferred citizenship upon all persons
born or naturalized in the United States, and forbade the States to abridge the civil
rights of any citizen. Representation in Congress was to be based upon the number of
voters in each State. The rest of the amendment also disenfranchised those "who
engaged in insurrection or rebellion" unless Congress should remove the disability.
It is interesting that the words of Abraham Lincoln regarding his attitude toward the
seceding states show a different approach from the radical Republicans. He is quoted as
"There are persons in one section, or another, who seek to destroy the Union at
all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm or deny, but if
there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the
Union, may I not speak?... We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though
passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of
memory, stretching from every battle field, and patriot grave, to every living chorus of
the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our
nature...the States have their status in the Union and they have no other legal status. If
they break from this, they can only do so against the law, and by revolution. The Union,
and not themselves separately procured their independence and their liberty it has."
President Johnson continued to object to the reconstruction plan of the Congress, and
in 1867 Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act which forbade the President to remove
federal officers without the consent of the Senate. Even Cabinet officers could not be
removed during the Presidential term for which they were appointed. Johnson and all of his
Cabinet believed that the law was unconstitutional and Johnson removed his Secretary of
War, Edwin M. Stanton, who was openly opposing the President in his controversy with
The removal of Stanton brought matters to a climax and by a vote of 126 to 47, the
House of Representatives resolved:
"That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes
and misdemeanors in office."
Eleven charges were drawn up against the President, most of which were based on his
alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Indeed, the tenth article of impeachment
charged that the President's speeches of 1866 constituted a high misdemeanor as being an
attempt to bring Congress into disrepute.
Edmund Gibson Ross was elected a Senator from the State of Kansas having first been
appointed on July 20, 1866, by Governor Crawford to replace Senator Lane who committed
Edmond Ross had been discharged from the military service of the Union on September 20,
1965, holding the rank of Major and having served in the Eleventh Kansas Regiment during
the Civil War. He had seen his share of battle.
He was one of the fifty four Senators sitting in judgment of the impeachment of Andrew
Johnson, President of the United States. A bit of back-ground should be brought forth here
to place in context the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
Abraham Lincoln had refused to sign the reconstruction bill presented to him by
Congress and Johnson, like Lincoln, wished the Southern States to resume their places in
the Union with as little delay and controversy as possible. This was in direct in conflict
with the Congress who believed that the seceding states should be treated as conquered
Secretary Stanton, under the direction of President Lincoln had prepared a tentative
plan for reconstruction which had been submitted to the Cabinet and was unanimously
approved, but when the Secretary of War abandoned the plan and adopted the tyrannical
attitude of the Northern politicians and sought to become the military dictator of the
conquered provinces, his usefulness to the Johnson Administration was at an end. President
Johnson asked for his resignation. He refused to resign and the President suspended him
and placed General Grant in the War Department who served as Secretary of War from August
1867 until Congress convened in December of that year.
The Senate refused to sanction the suspension of Stanton, and he resumed his position
as Secretary of War. This situation was intolerable to the President, which brought down a
storm of opposition in partisanship and vindictiveness.
The Tenure of Office Bill, was passed by the Congress and at a cabinet meeting all of
the Cabinet Members, including Stanton, declared the bill unconstitutional and advised the
President to veto it. This he did. It was passed over his veto, but his legal advisors
told him, and he believed that Congress had no constitutional power to compel him to keep
in his cabinet a man who had been appointed by a former president, or to review a Cabinet
On February 21, 1868, the President issued an order of removal against Secretary
Stanton and reported it to Congress. This violation of the Tenure of Office act seemed to
offer a pretext for impeachment proceedings, and on February 25, 1868, the house presented
to the Senate articles of impeachment against President Johnson and demanded his trial and
removal from office. The Senate organized itself as a Court under the constitutional
provision and the ordinary business of Government was on the verge of chaos for three
The Constitution then determined that the President pro tem of the Senate would succeed
to the office of President should the Vice-President be disposed. Senator Wade, the
President pro tem looked forward to the prospect of becoming President and did all that he
could to develop the conviction of President Johnson.
The accepted rule of court procedure is that the Presiding Judge shall rule on the
competency and admissibility of evidence. However, contrary to the established custom, the
Senate made a specific rule taking this prerogative from Chief Justice Chase, who presided
at the impeachment trial, assuming this authority itself. It then made substantial
decisions on a partisan basis, and on seventeen instances refused to hear testimony which
would have been favorable to the President. Indeed, General Sherman, a high ranking
officer of the Army, was not permitted to testify. He had advised the President that the
good of the service required a new Secretary of War.
Secretary Wells also took the stand to show that the entire Cabinet believed the Tenure
in Office to be unconstitutional. The Chief Justice ruled that this evidence was
admissible. However, the Senate, in a decision, overruled the Chief Justice and Secretary
Wells was not permitted to testify. The trial drew to a close on May 16, 1868. When the
first vote was taken on the omnibus charges, thirty-five Senators voted "guilty"
and nineteen voted "not guilty", which was one less than the two-thirds
necessary for conviction.
Edmund Ross, who at no time prior to the vote, had indicated how he would vote on the
impeachment, took the oath that he "will and truly try the President on the evidence
presented," voted "not guilty." This was the nineteenth Senator which
prevented Andrew Johnson from being convicted in the Senate of the United States of the
charge of impeachment.
His vote was very unpopular and on May 21st Ross wrote to his wife on a sheet of Senate
"Don't be discouraged, dear wife, it's all coming out all right. This storm
of passion will soon pass away, and the people, the whole people, will thank and bless me
for having saved the country by my single vote from the greatest peril through which it
has ever passed, though none but God can ever know the struggle it has cost me. Millions
of men are cursing me today, but they will bless me tomorrow. But few knew of the
precipice upon which we all stood on Saturday morning last.
Your Affectionate Husband"
Ulysses S. Grant was elected President of the United States in 1868 with the motto "Let us have peace". During the period of reconstruction in the years after the
Civil War, substantial corruption existed in both the Federal and State Governments.
Indeed, substantial corruption existed in the former Southern States who were being ruled,
by and large, by uneducated Negroes who, in South Carolina, stated they intended "to
squeeze the State dry as a sucked orange". The Tweed ring in New York was a notorious
corruption. Tweed defrauded the treasury of New York City out of $150,000,000 before his
career ended in jail.
Thomas Nast, a cartoonist of the time presented effective cartoons in Harper's Weekly,
and was offered $500,000 to stop his caricatures of Tweed and go to Europe.
Corruption and graft also existed in the Grant administration. Secretary of War Belknap
resigned his office to escape impeachment for accepting bribes. President Grant's private
secretary was a party to frauds which cheated the Government out of the internal revenue
tax on whiskey. Members of Congress accepted presents of stock from the Credit Mobilier, a
corporation engaged in building the Union Pacific Railroad.
People finally rose up and threw out a number of congressmen when they raised their
salaries from $5,000 to $7,500 and raised the President's salary from $25,000 to $50,000.
This was not illegal in itself, but the Bill was retroactive to the beginning of the
Congressional term, which cost many Congressmen the next election.
In the Presidential election of 1884, the Democratic Candidate was Grover Cleveland who
had an excellent record as Governor of the State of New York. But who can forget the
famous slogan: "saw, caw, where's your Pa? He's in the White House, hew, hew,
haw". This referred to the allegation that Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate
daughter from a prior sexual affair.
As we come closer to modern times, scandal once again raised its head. Warren G.
Harding of Ohio was elected President in 1920. There was some allegations that Harding had
engaged one of the maids in the White House into having sexual intercourse with him in a
clothes closet. This issue was not raised since he died prior to running for reselection
and Calvin Coolidge took his place as President after Harding's death.
Several years before the Federal Government had set aside certain reserves of oil to
supply the Navy. One was the Teapot Dome District in Wyoming which had been set aside by
President Wilson. By an act of Congress passed in 1920, custody of the Naval Reserve was
assigned to the Secretary of the Navy; but an executive order made on June 1, 1921, based
upon the opinion of Attorney General Daugherty, transferred the Naval oil Reserve to the
Department of the Interior. Secretary Fall of the Interior Department signed a lease of
the Teapot Dome on April 7, 1922, to the Sinclair Oil Combination. It also leased one of
the California Reserves to E. M. Doheny, another oil magnet. Under these leases, the
government reserved a moderate oil royalty, about one-third, and the rest going to the oil
A special Senate Investigating Committee was appointed and Doheny testified before the
Committee that he had loaned Secretary Fall the sum of $100,000 a few days before the
leases were signed. The counsel for the Sinclair oil interests testified that Fall had
received $25,000 as a loan from Sinclair. President Coolidge announced that the intent to
fire any one who appeared guilty of fraud or corruption; and he appointed special counsel
to institute proceedings to cancel the oil leases and to prosecute the wrongdoers.
The Senate undertook the investigation of the official conduct of the Secretary of the
Navy, Edwin Denby, and Attorney General Daugherty, both of whom resigned at the request of
A criminal action drew out of the Teapot Dome Lease and Harry F. Sinclair was acquitted
by a jury of conspiring with Fall to defraud the government. However, he had employed
private detectives to shadow the jury during his trial and he was sentenced to six months
in prison for contempt of court. Ex-Secretary Fall was acquitted on the charge of
conspiracy, but was indicted for bribery in connection with the lease to Doheny.
As we get closer to modern times, which of us cannot remember Lucy Mercer, the dear
friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nor can we forget General Harry Vaughn who was relieved
of command by Harry S. Truman, and do we forget Sherman Adams and the vicuna coats during
the Eisenhower Administration. And, of course, John Fitzgerald Kennedy can be best
remembered for his alleged relationship with Marilyn Monroe, Judith Exner, Fiddle and
Faddle and other alleged ties to the underworld.
President Lyndon B. Johnson can be remembered with a fertilizer salesman named Billy
Sol Estes, who was also a prodigy of the President.
As we reach the era of Richard Nixon, we dive deep into the scandal known as "Watergate". This was a plan first concocted by G. Gordon Liddy to provide
members of the Committee to Re-elect the President with intelligence information regarding
the actions of certain Democrats, and was approved by John Mitchell, then the Attorney
General of the United States in the Attorney General's office; stupid.
On the weekend of June 17, 1972, James McCord and four Cubans were arrested, having
broken into Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate complex near Washington, D.C. James
McCord was the head of security of the Committee to Reelect the President and was there to
place a "bug" on the telephone of Lawrence O'Brien, the Democratic National
Committee Chairman. The members of the Committee to Re-elect the President came up with a
cover story which would place full blame on Gordon Liddy. The story would be that he
misappropriated funds for his own illegal use, the money that was given to him for
illegitimate purposes. James McCord, Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were indited along
with the four Cubans. On March 23, James McCord wrote a letter to Judge John Sirica
indicating that there were others higher up who were involved in a cover up of the
burglary. There were Senate hearings on this same subject, and in due course it became
clear that Richard Nixon himself had been involved with the cover up of the crime, even
though he had not known of it prior to its occurrence. Indeed, most of the parties
involved in this matter were convicted and many served jail time. In Jeb Stuart Magruder's
book, "An American Life" he was asked "Why did it happen?" He said:
"First the fact that over the past third of a century, too much power has
accumulated in the White House. There are too many working there who are not confirmed by
the Senate and are not responsible to any one but the President. I think the second cause
of Watergate was the peculiar nature of Richard Nixon, a man of enormous talents and
enormous weaknesses. Without question, Nixon had the potential to be the greatest
conservative political leader of our time. He knew his goals and he had the skills
acquired to achieve them. Yet he had a fatal flaw too, an inability to tolerate criticism
and an instinct to overreact in political combat."
"Watergate happened because some of us who serve the President serves him poorly.
It is not enough to blame the atmosphere he created. No one forced me or others to break
the law. Instead, I tried to show we ignored our better judgment out of a combination of
ambition, loyalty, and partisan passion. We could have objected to what was happening or
resigned in protest. Instead, we convinced ourselves that wrong was right, and plunged
"There is no way to justify burglary, wiretapping, perjury and all the other
elements of the cover-up. I think I was guilty of a tremendous insensitivity to the basic
tenants of Democracy. I, and others, rationalized illegal actions on the grounds of
"politics as usual" or "intelligence gathering" or "national
security." We were completely wrong, and only when we have admitted that and paid the
public price of our mistakes can we expect the public at large to have faith in our
government or our political system."
No paper on the scandals in government would be complete without a mention of Jimmy
Carter's famous interview by Playboy magazine which he acknowledged lusting in his heart ~
However, the scandal of Burt Lance is not nearly as important t ¢~) as the scandal known
as "Iran-Contra", in which men in the office of the President of the United
States attempted to carry out a trade of arms for hostages with the Iranians so that funds
could be available for the Contra rebels fighting against the Communists in Guatamala and
We all remember the appearance of Lt. Colonel Oliver North of the United States Marine
Corps; appearing before the Congressional Committee after having been given transactional
immunity from prosecution, telling of his exploits in violating the laws of his Country
and defying the Congress of the United States.
As it turns out, Admiral Poindexter agreed that he had never told President Reagan of
many of the events that were taking place. Ronald Reagan, in deposition, had a faulty
memory which foreshadowed his bout with Alzheimer disease at another time.
But then the ladies have not been inactive. Who can forget Wilbur Mills and Fannie Fox,
the stripper in a Washington, D.C. burlesque house, with the chairman of the Ways and
Means Committee of the House on stage. Or, Jessica Hahn and Gary Hart? And of course,
Congressman Ben Thompson and the girl who could not type. Then of course there is Senator
Packwood from Oregon, a notorious groper who ultimately resigned his Senate seat.
But the greatest scandal to date, seems to surround President William Jefferson
Clinton, who currently faces a vote of impeachment in the House of Representatives. Since
coming to office in January of 1993, Mr. Clinton has been linked to the bankruptcy of the
Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan in Little Rock, Arkansas in that he was a partner with
James and Susan McDougall The failure of that Savings and Loan costing the government
about $60,000,000. The firing of seven employees of the travel office of the White House
and attempts to get the FBI and Internal Revenue Service to do criminal investigations
which leads to the rebuke of White House Counsel Vincent Foster.
On July 20, 1993, the FBI gets a warrant to search the office of David Hale, as a part
of the Capital Management Services, and as a party to the Whitewater investigation, and
Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster drives to Fort Marcy Park and commits
suicide. White House employees immediately descend on Foster's office carrying out large
arms full of folders which they subsequently deny. Access is denied to the Foster office
by the FBI and Park Police. The head of the Resolution Trust Corporation, Roger Altman is
acquitted for bank fraud in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International Case in New
In the year 1993, on September 23rd, David Hale is indited for fraud. On December 19th
allegations by Arkansas Troopers of the President's sexual infidelities, while governor,
surface in the American Spectator Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.
In January of 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno appoints Robert Fiske as special
counsel to investigate Whitewater. Mr. Altman recluses himself from the Madison Guarantee
Investigation and resigns as head of the Resolution Trust Corporation. On March 14th,
Attorney General Webster Hubbell resigns from the Justice Department. On May 6 of that
year, former Little Rock resident, Paula Corbin Jones files suit against President
Clinton, charging he sexually harassed her while Governor of Arkansas.
On July 6,1994 a special Whitewater Committee of the Congress opens a round of hearings
in Washington which ends on July 3, 1995 with a determination that there is serious
misconduct and malfeasance in matters referring to the Resolution Trust Corporation, with
criminal referral made to the Justice Department. By this time, former Associate Attorney
General Webster Hubbell has pled guilty to two felonies in a scheme to defraud his former
Rose Law Firm partners and says he will cooperate with the independent counsel. He
In June of 1995, Monica Lewinski begins work at the White House as an unpaid intern in
the office of Chief of Staff, Leon Penetta. By this time the money raising plan for
bringing foreign funds into the Democratic Coffers is in full swing. John Huang, who works
for the Lippo Group, becomes an employee of the Department of Commerce and begins to
solicit funds for the Democratic Party
On November 15, 1995, Monica Lewinski will enter into a sexual relationship with the
President of the United States which will continue through August 17, 1997. William
Clinton will attempt to use his influence to get Monica Lewinski a job away from
Washington and will attempt to influence her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual
harassment case. He will lie in a deposition in the Jones case, and before a Federal Grand
Jury convened by the Special Counsel Kenneth Starr.
On September 9, 1998, Kenneth Starr submitted to the House of Representatives thirty
six sealed boxes containing complete copies of all of the documents which were filed in
conformity with the requirements of TITLE 28, United States Code Section 595C which
"An independent counsel shall advise the House of Representatives of any
substantial and creditable information which such independent counsel receives that may
constitute grounds for impeachment."
Thereafter, by a vote, the House of Representatives, the Judiciary Committee sent to
the House Four Articles of Impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton which
will soon be voted upon.
What then have we learned regarding human behavior and government from this paper?
The human characteristics which we see in the animal kingdom continue to exist in even
the highest elected officials.
That sin, sex, and greed are still powerful motivators for behavior, and that otherwise
intelligent and talented men will take massive risks and do immoral and illegal things to
get when they want.
That in impeachment hearings and in criminal prosecutions that Defendants, like O.J.
Simpson, may walk away if adequate lawyers can convince the jury to find not in accordance
with the evidence presented.
That by and large in the history of this country the scandals have not materially
changed the course of history, or the system of government which was developed by the
founding fathers. Indeed, their wisdom in setting forth a system for the handling of
dishonestly, treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors has worked well for over two
hundred years. There is no reason to believe that it will not work well in the future.
In the words of John Adams: "This Country is big enough to outlast any one