George McGovern hopes he has a better experience with The Watergate this time.
The longtime former South Dakota senator and congressman has an office in Washington, D.C., with the OFW law firm. The firm shifted its offices to The Watergate, a massive, five-building office/apartment/hotel complex, on Monday.
The Watergate entered the American cultural lexicon 39 years ago on June 17, 1972, when burglars under the control of the Nixon administration were caught entering the Democratic National Committee offices on the sixth floor of The Watergate.
McGovern, a part-time Mitchell resident, was the Democratic presidential nominee that year. The term “Watergate” is forever tied to the ’72 campaign.
“Look, I thought we’d put that behind us,” McGovern said with a laugh Tuesday during a telephone interview with The Daily Republic. He said he had no problem working in The Watergate, a hub of Washington politics and power for decades.
“I sure hope that no one breaks into my office this time,” McGovern said a few days ago, a quote that appeared in The Washington Post’s The Reliable Source blog and on numerous websites.
Although he sought to make the Watergate burglary a major issue during the closing days of the 1972 campaign, the public and most of the media weren’t that interested. President Richard Nixon defeated McGovern in a landslide, with McGovern only carrying Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.However, in 1973 and 1974, Watergate became the biggest story in the world as a series of criminal actions by the Nixon administration and campaign were uncovered. President Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, while McGovern served six more years in the Senate.
The term “gate” is now attached to most political scandals.
McGovern, 88, is a senior policy adviser for OFW, which also employs former South Dakota congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin as a principal attorney. The firm bills itself as “the nation’s premier FDA and USDA law firm.”
Marshall Matz, a principal attorney, or partner in the firm, said McGovern has enjoyed the irony of now working in the facility that is linked to the most famous political scandal in world history.
“George has such a good sense of humor, he likes chuckling about it,” said Matz, a New England native who has worked and spent time in South Dakota since 1972.
He said the law firm chose to move to The Watergate for two reasons: price and location. Because of increased security, getting around the District of Columbia has become extremely difficult in recent years, Matz said.
McGovern, who said he has been in The Watergate complex several times since 1972, said it holds no negative connotations for him.
“I’ve known a lot about The Watergate,” he said. “It’s a nice building … I think we’re lucky to be there.”
In addition to McGovern working in The Watergate, albeit on a very part-time basis, the complex is home to former Kansas senator Bob Dole, who was the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1972.
Matz was hired by Bill Janklow to work for South Dakota Legal Services and later worked for McGovern when he was in the Senate.
Matz remained in touch with McGovern after McGovern was defeated in the 1980 election and brought him to the OFW law firm several years ago, he said.
McGovern will make his first appearance at the Watergate office on Tuesday and will be back on Wednesday, July 6, for meetings with Treasury officials, Matz said.
He said aside from working with McGovern and Herseth Sandlin, OFW has an interest in South Dakota. It has an office in Lower Brule, Matz said, and he has the title ambassador to the United States of America for the tribe.
Matz has a residence in Sioux Falls and has voted in South Dakota since he moved here in 1972, he said.
McGovern spoke to The Daily Republic from his home in Florida but said he plans to return to Mitchell in time for his 89th birthday on July 19.