To Mark Watergate’s 40th Anniversary, Common Cause to Convene Two-Day Conference at National Press Club

Watergate figures, policy experts, reformers, journalists to explore lessons learned and their resonance today

Forty years after the Watergate scandal exposed the corrupting power of secret money and tested America’s commitment to the rule of law, Common Cause is convening a two-day conference in March to examine Watergate’s lessons and their relevance to 21st century American politics.

The “Lessons of Watergate” conference, March 13-14, will feature major Watergate era figures, policymakers, journalists and political reform advocates, with group discussions and breakout sessions geared to using our past to navigate today’s challenges. All sessions will be held at the National Press Club.

Featured speakers include:

– William S. Cohen, former US. Senator and Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, then-Rep. Cohen was part of a group of moderate Republicans who rose above partisanship to help craft articles of impeachment against President Nixon.

– Elizabeth Holtzman, a former prosecutor and Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee emerged during the impeachment hearings as one of the panel’s best-prepared and most relentless investigators.

– Daniel Ellsberg, the courageous military analyst who helped write The Pentagon Papers, a Defense Department study that concluded the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and ultimately leaked it to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers. The leak sparked the Nixon administration to create a “plumbers” unit that later carried out the Watergate break-in.

– Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator who partnered with Sen. John McCain to author the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the last major piece of post-Watergate campaign finance legislation.

– Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s national governing board and secretary of labor under President Clinton.

Other confirmed Watergate-related speakers include Jill Wine-Banks, prosecutor during Watergate hearings who questioned secretary Rose Mary Woods about the 18 – minute gap in Nixon’s tapes; Terry Lenzner, staff member on the investigating Senate Watergate Committee; Timothy Naftali, historian and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum; Richard Ben-Veniste, Watergate special prosecutor; George Frampton, Watergate special prosecutor and co-author with Mr. Ben-Veniste of Stonewall: The Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution; Francis O’Brien, chief of staff to Rep. Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974; Scott Armstrong, who served on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee and founded the National Security Archives.

Additional confirmed speakers include Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People For the American Way; Danielle Brian, executive director of Project On Government Oversight; Eliza Newlin Carney, staff writer covering lobbying and influence at CQ Roll Call; David Cohen, senior congressional fellow at the Council for a Livable World and past president of Common Cause; Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America; Michael J. Copps, former member of the Federal Communications Commission and now senior advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative; Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause; Stuart Eizenstat, partner at Covington & Burling and senior strategist at APCO Worldwide; Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch; Matea Gold, staff writer covering money and politics for The Los Angeles Times; Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Mort Halperin, senior advisor to the Open Society Institute, expert on civil liberties and foreign policy and who served in the Nixon Administration; Ben Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP; Celinda Lake, pollster and political strategist; Chuck Lewis, investigative journalist and founder of Center for Public Integrity; Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign; Spencer Overton, law professor at George Washington University, served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice; Trevor Potter, founder and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center; Alicia Shepard, author, journalist and expert on the work and lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Frederick A.O “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., chief counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice; Don Simon, campaign finance and election law attorney; Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter and politics managing editor at The Huffington Post; Jonathan Turley, writer, commentator, legal analyst and George Washington University Law School professor; Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, nationally recognized expert on money in politics issues; Michael Winship, senior writer of Moyers & Company on public television, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

The program also includes a reception in the evening of March 13 to honor those who had the courage to speak truth to power.

This list will be updated in future advisories, and more information is available on Common Cause’s website here.

All sessions of “The Lessons of Watergate” conference are open to print, broadcast and online coverage. Seating is limited however and advance registration is required.

To register, visit

“After a $7 billion election, the most expensive and arguably the most divisive in our history, it’s more important than ever that we take a hard look at the way our democracy functions,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Watergate led to ethics and campaign reforms that shaped politics for a generation. But how are we doing today? How are post-Watergate reforms holding up? Are today’s leaders and institutions up to the challenges facing our democracy? Can ‘we the people’ still hold power accountable?”