From Watergate to Whitewater: The Public Integrity War

By Robert N. Roberts; Marion T. Doss Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Public Integrity Shock Troops

On June 18, 1996, the Senate Whitewater committee released the findings of its two-year investigation. "Tuesday was basically a day of competing political briefs, representing a form of party proxy campaign warfare in a Presidential election year," commented a New York Times editorial.1 Majority committee Republicans and minority committee Democrats reached totally different conclusions with respect to whether Hillary Rodham Clinton and other administration officials had engaged in any improper conduct. Recognizing the fact that partisan warfare had tainted the Whitewater findings, the New York Times stressed that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr "must eventually report to a court and the public on whether the Clintons and their allies have engaged in illegality or regrettable but noncriminal lapses of judgment and duty."2 The independent counsel, in less than two decades, had evolved into a position of untold power.

Throughout American history, political ethics scandals have come and gone.3 And throughout this period, ethics investigations have attempted to determine the guilt or innocence of those implicated.4 Since Watergate, however, the growth of a vast and powerful public integrity bureaucracy has transformed the nature of public ethics investigations.5 Federal law enforcement agencies have acquired the ability to unravel even the most complex public corruption schemes.6

Watergate constituted the single most important factor in building support for a new public integrity bureaucracy. Public confidence in government, some argued, could be restored only with much greater vigilance

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