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A spokeswoman for the university's library tells me by phone that half of the papers it has been promised have arrived but are nowhere near being processed. She said that the whole collection is on "a seven-year block" at Cunningham's request.

The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress reports that Cal State San Marcos has the papers of another former North County congressman, Ron Packard. And it lists one-term congresswoman Lynn Schenk's papers as possessions of the University of Southern California. The website says both the Packard and Schenk collections are "unprocessed" and Schenk's "may have restricted access."

But Carol Bonomo, legislative liaison for Cal State San Marcos, tells me that Packard's papers, received in 2001, are now processed. And the USC Regional History Center's Dace Taube reports that Schenk's papers come not from her 1993-1994 congressional term, but from her work as business, transportation, and housing secretary under Governor Jerry Brown.

Libraries aren't the only repositories for congressional papers. According to archivist Jane Kenealy, Lionel Van Deerlin began donating his papers to the San Diego Historical Society in 1977, three years before being defeated by Duncan Hunter in the 1980 election. Although work is complete only through the first two of Van Deerlin's nine terms, volunteers have organized the materials loosely by subject matter in Hollinger boxes (acid-free cases with a flap-over top). The biographical directory for the Congress cites the size of the whole collection as 87 feet and states that "parts of the papers are restricted."

An item on a tuna-fishing crisis catches my eye as I survey the collection's guide in the historical society's research room. Opening a thick folder from the collection, I pick up sketchy details from a Van Deerlin press release dated June 12, 1965. "As of this afternoon only one vessel, the San Juan, remained in custody at Chimbote [Peru], after being seized early Friday 60 miles from shore. She carried 75 tons of fish. A Peruvian destroyer reportedly sent machine gun fire across the San Juan's bow.

"Owners of the San Juan said [the Peruvians] ordered her skipper to pay license charges and anticipated fine possibly totaling $10,000....

"Just released from the same port was the tuna boat Clipperton, after paying an assessment of $7138. Earlier this month the Sun Jason, making its way to port to seek help for a sick crewman, was seized and fined $2000 for alleged violation of Peruvian waters.

"Although the United States recognizes and enforces a three-mile territorial limit, Peru, Ecuador and Chile variously claim jurisdiction [of] 12 to 200 miles...."

The information was background to a decision by Van Deerlin to send "his administrative assistant to Peru to investigate alleged harassment of Southern California tuna boats....

"The congressman emphasized that his aide is not traveling at Government expense."

When the aide, Siegmund Smith, arrived in Peru the following day, he sent the Department of State a telegram, marked unclassified, which I pick up and read from the historical society collection. "Met at Lima airport 730 am by Don Mudd of Embassy staff," wrote Smith. "Embassy officials most cooperative and fully aware of grave implications of Peruvian actions."

Smith then mentions several U.S. military officials "all [having gone] to Chimbote, 250 miles up coast to investigate situation on the spot.

"Ambassador J. Wesley Jones called on Peruvian Prime Minister Fernando Schwalb and protested in strongest terms the unwarranted interference with American fishing vessels.

"Analysis of situation being made to ascertain overall policy of Peruvian government.... Strong possibility that it is in part at least independent action of port commander following April 30 change in Peruvian law which gives port commanders share of fines against vessels. Embassy informed by phone from Chimbote 830 am today that San Juan will buy license and expects to resume fishing....

"Am proceeding Chimbote soonest." A note at the bottom of the telegram says that it was "passed to the White House."

Two weeks later Van Deerlin received a letter from powerful San Diego businessman C. Arnholt Smith thanking him for assisting in bringing the Peruvian crisis to a close. Smith, who owned Sun Harbor Cannery, stated in the letter that he was enclosing a $500 check to cover the expenses of the Van Deerlin aide's trip to Peru.

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