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Though their story has become gospel for many CIA critics, the Copley Newspapers have consistently denied its truth, and records that might back up the accusations remain classified, locked away or perhaps destroyed, by the CIA. But as the correspondence in the Nixon archives make clear, there was little doubt that Copley was willing to do almost anything the vice president asked of him.

Nixon narrowly lost the 1960 presidential race to Kennedy, along with his 1962 “comeback” campaign against incumbent California Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, after which the ever-present Herb Klein could be seen hovering in the background as the failed candidate uttered his famous line, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

But Copley never wavered, even during the lowest point of Nixon’s “desert years,” when the ex–vice president moved away from California, joined a Manhattan law firm, and sat out the 1964 debacle of Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson.

Four years later, Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey, and Copley, accompanied by his young second wife Helen, made a triumphant return to Washington to celebrate at the White House. It was a heady time. An era of peace, prosperity, and Republican domination seemed to beckon: Nixon said he had a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam.

As during all previous conflicts of the 20th Century, San Diego was vital to the war effort. Coronado-based warships plied the Vietnamese coast and deltas. Miramar-trained fighter squadrons dueled with MIGs over Hanoi. Ironworkers labored in the bowels of the Navy Rework Facility. Much of the local economy still depended heavily on the Navy payroll.

When sailors came home from the sea, they spent their liberty at the peep shows and honky-tonks strung out along downtown’s lower Broadway. When they were killed in action, they were put to rest at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Point Loma. To Copley and many of the readers of the Union and Evening Tribune, waging the war until absolute victory over the Vietnamese Communists was a matter of faith.

By the mid-1960s, however, there was something new in the town’s political mix. True to the booster roots of his father, Copley had led the crusade to build a new University of California campus on Torrey Pines mesa. The growing city owned thousands of acres of open space remaining from a Spanish land grant. After a Copley-backed referendum campaign in 1958, the city’s voters easily approved ceding a big chunk of the coveted property to the state in exchange for the promised economic and cultural riches the university would bring.

UC delivered the promised material wealth; it also brought to town something else Copley and his conservative business allies had not bargained for. Antiwar radicals, led by German philosopher Herbert Marcuse, a scholar of Hegel and Marx, took up residence there and began talking revolution.

As resistance to the war grew, so did San Diego street protests. The city had seen nothing like them since the darkest days of the Great Depression, when radicals clashed with nightstick-wielding policemen, and the Copley papers railed against the “vicious Reds” besieging the city.

In the 1960s, Copley photographers recall being dispatched to the rallies at UCSD and taking thousands of pictures of the student demonstrators; few if any of the photographs ever made the paper. The rest, the old-timers believed, were being sent to the FBI for analysis.

Among the protestors were many of Marcuse’s graduate students. In 1966 one of them was 24-year-old Lowell Bergman, the future muckraker and 60 Minutes producer, who decided to start an underground newspaper.

“The spark was the incessant appearance of editorials in the San Diego Union-Tribune demanding that the University of California regents fire Marcuse,” Bergman recalled to an interviewer for Britannica.com in August 2000. “This came after students in Europe ran around in 1968 chanting ‘Marx, Mao, Marcuse!’ Someone drove by and fired at his garage door. There were phone threats. The tension was mounting. San Diego had an active right-wing vigilante movement, which I encountered later when I got into journalism.

“San Diego was not only the largest staging area for the Vietnam War; it was also home to a large military retirement community and politics that made parts of the Deep South look liberal. Thus was born the San Diego Free Press, which a year later was renamed the San Diego Street Journal.

“Our focus became the wealthiest and most powerful members of the community. And so it was that number one was a gentleman by the name of C. Arnholt Smith — Mr. San Diego of the Century. Number two was one John Alessio — Mr. San Diego for 1969.

“In the tightly controlled world of San Diego, they reigned with undisputed power. We told the story of how Alessio used his political clout (in the Democratic Party) to get the Navy to give in to building a bridge to nearby Coronado Island and his new renovated hotel, the Del Coronado.

“Then Smith, Alessio’s mentor and partner, used his own political clout (in the Republican Party) to garner all kinds of favors from his favorite politician, Richard Nixon. Smith was his first big contributor back in 1946 and was alone with him on election night in 1968. Suffice it to say that Smith and his bank and conglomerate were heavily involved in dealing with and influencing city politicians and the police bureaucracy.

“All this started appearing in detail in our pages, which resulted in all kinds of vigilante attacks, harassment, and fire bombs, with a few arrests sprinkled in. We survived; the two gentlemen — and a cast of other characters — wound up going to jail. It just took a couple of years and a lot of harassment.”

Bergman may have overstated the role of San Diego’s nascent underground press in bringing about the end of the Smith era. TIME magazine reported in March 1970 that the Street Journal’s October 1969 piece on Smith that triggered the violence against the paper was “essentially a rehash of a Wall Street Journal story.”

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Anonymous Feb. 27, 2008 @ 2:48 p.m.

How did Jim Copley manage to "adopt" David when the boy already had a father? Did the father die or relinquish his parental rights? Or was the adoption merely a name change or perhaps even a fabrication?


maybelar Feb. 28, 2008 @ 7:41 p.m.

No wonder "SOMETHING STINKS @ THE UNION-TRIBUNE!" Let everybody know that this 100+ years old company doesn't care about the family of their ordinary workers who works hard everyday!One after another the dirty-tricks emerge revealing Union Tribune's ruthless campaign against workers' rights. When UT Pacakging Employees attempt to stand up for themselves and try to form a union, we face threats, propaganda, discrimination, intimidation, harassment and even firings. Which are clearly contrary to the wishes and values of a True-American. It's wrong, and it's got to stop now!!!It is not surprising why Copley business is dying....


electric_fish Feb. 29, 2008 @ 5:27 a.m.

I haven't read it yet but this should be GOOD.


Anonymous Feb. 29, 2008 @ 9:27 a.m.

Gee what a surprise! A let's bash the Copleys story from the industrious and gregarious Matt Potter. What will he write about when the newspaper folds?


catoman2 March 2, 2008 @ 3:39 p.m.

Thanks for providing some historical perspective into UT influence and power in San Diego. The bias against Aguierre and the perpetual boosterism for the Padres and Chargers are merely recent examples of their corruption.

Cheers to the Reader for their willingness to challenge the powers that be here in Enron By The Sea.


jv333 Feb. 22, 2015 @ 1:29 p.m.

Re your Aguirre comment .... He was roundly attacked when he correctly cited all the problems with the city pensions....and as soon as he was out of the City Attys office, Sanders et al embraced the pension reforms movement.... No one ever addressed how it got underfunded to the tune of $2 billion in the first place....was there ever a discussion re the way Wall St money whores infiltrate these funds and take them over a cliff?


pete69 March 2, 2008 @ 11:11 a.m.

I wonder if...David gets the reader delivered to his yacht?...


JohnMont March 31, 2008 @ 7:35 p.m.

It's an interesting article but is there any way to find out what the average decline is nationwide compared to the Union. Also I know a lot of friends who subscribe to the NY times or LA times because they hate the U-T so much. Is there any way to track their circulation here? And compare it to the decline of the U-T.

It's a great article but i'd like more facts and figures than just a statement like...

"Almost all American newspapers are suffering in the Internet age, but the Union-Tribune is among the most prominent of the walking wounded. The decades-long decay in its circulation, beginning years before the advent of broadband, owes as much to its peculiar heritage of warped coverage and irregular stewardship as it does to the threat posed by the Web."

I don't disagree but I'd like more research and editing.


maybelar April 1, 2008 @ 11:04 p.m.

Again, I hope someday justice will prevail!

They can run but they cannot hide!!!!

I hope that someday the whole America & the whole world will know what this 100+ years old company is doing to their everyday hardworking people in the Packaging Department.

Their unfair Labor Practices...They are a shame to America's Ideals!

I hope someday my friends & my co-workers there will not be scared to their dirty tricks just to ger rid out of the union. I hope someday they would be bravely enough to stand up for their rights & tell them "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"

I hope San Diegans would be aware on "How bad they treat their workers! It is not a joke!!!"

A lot of monkey business there, we want real business...REAL BUSINESS!

copy & paste this URL READ THIS>>> http://thecharmsquad.blogspot.com/


JeffofLincoln Nov. 11, 2012 @ 2:42 p.m.

I was an employee of the Copley organization for 37 years, first under Jim, then Helen and finally David and let go soon after David began selling off the newspapers in the Midwest. It was an incredible 37 years and an experience I would gladly repeat. The organization was very good to me. What's more, I know of no one who regrets being an employee while the organization was owned by the Copleys.


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 11, 2012 @ 5:06 p.m.

Then you didn't know very many employees at Colpey Jeff.

Copley had notorious labor problems, mainly but not limited to, with the rank and file unskilled/semi skilled employees.

What rock do you live under?


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