Forty years ago today, a group of five men broke into Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate office complex. They were arrested, and were connected to the Committee to Re-elect the President, setting off the Watergate Scandal that rocked the nation and eventually forced Richard Nixon to resign from the presidency.
There's not enough space here to dwell on the details of the long, drawn out scandal. But it was a moment that changed forever the public's view of government. Gone was the illusion of government as a benificent Big Daddy who wanted to take care of us. We learned that hunger for power fueled big bucks in "slush funds" often drove the people in Washington. A list of reforms, especially limits on corporate political contributions and public reporting on who donated what, were passed to help restore confidence in government.
Today, however, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, those restrictions are gone. Big money is back in political campaigns, bigger than ever. The amounts of money be raised and spent by Super PACS would make Nixon's campaign slush fund look like pocket change.
As we brace for the onslaught of political advertising that will be coming between now and November, it would behoove us to think back to the lessons of Watergate. Are we heading back that way?