Watergate transformed American political culture. Among other things, it led to the passage of a host of initiatives designed to improve government ethics, including:


bullet House and Senate Open Meeting Rules (1973 and 1975, respectively), which opened all congressional committee meetings to the public absent a recorded vote to close them.
bullet Federal Campaign Act Amendments (1974 and later), which established limitations on campaign contributions, a public financing system for presidential elections, and an independent agency to administer and enforce the election laws. Some provisions of this law were invalidated by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), which we're also reading for today.
bullet Freedom of Information Act Amendments (1974 and later), which strengthened the Freedom of Information Act, increasing public access to government papers.
bullet The Government in the Sunshine Act (1976), which mandated opening meetings of all multi-member government agencies to the public.
bullet FBI Domestic Security Investigation Guidelines (1976 and later), which restricted political intelligence-gathering activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
bullet Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (1977), which prohibited American companies from bribing foreign officials, politicians, or political parties.
bullet Congressional Ethics Code (1977 and later), which set standards of conduct and limited congressional outside earned income, honoraria fees, and gifts, and led to the formation of House and Senate Ethics committees.
bullet Ethics in Government Act (1978) which required financial disclosure by high government officials in all three branches of the federal government, restricted contacts between former high level executive branch employees and their former agencies, and established a government office to monitor compliance with the law.
bullet Special Prosecutor Provision of the Ethics in Government Act (1978 and later), which established a mechanism for appointing independent counsel to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing by high government officials.
bullet Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, (FISA) (1978), which regulated electronic surveillance conducted within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes. The interpretation of this law has been at the heart of the dispute regarding the Bush administration's policy of authorizing National Security Agency wiretaps without obtaining a warrant from the special court created by FISA.
bullet Intelligence Authorization Act (1980), which required the Executive Branch to keep the House and Senate Intelligence Committees "fully and currently informed" of all U.S. intelligence activities. This law actually was a weakening of an earlier reform, the Hughes-Ryan amendment of 1974, which required the Executive Branch to keep seven congressional committees informed of all US intelligence activities. The measure's key sponsor, Iowa senator Harold Hughes (Democrat) intended that this notification provision would make it far less likely that the executive branch would risk authorizing covert activities.