PETTY CRIME: THE USC MAFIA


Donald Segretti, Dwight Chapin, and Gordon Strachan 

THE USC MAFIA 

Shortly after illegal activity began in 1971 with the suppression of the Vietnam War protests, the organization of the Republican Party’s plan to re-elect the President began.  Dwight Chapin, who was in charge of the organization of appointments for the Republican Party, hired operative Donald Segretti to lead the dirty tricks undertaking in 1972.  Having been charged by Nixon’s demand to take revenge upon those who had held him out of power for such a prolonged period, Segretti took it upon himself to harass and confound the Democrats to the fullest extent of his potential.  Called “Republican Dick Tuck,” Segretti controlled a series of juvenile tricks played on Edmund Muskie, Nixon’s Democratic contender in the elections of ’72.  Also involved with Segretti on these operations was Gordon Strachan, Chief of Staff Haldeman’s assistant, and the man responsible for the conveying of information between the Committee to Re-elect the President, the Financial Committee to Re-elect the President, and the White House.  Called the "USC Mafia," Chapin, Segretti, and Strachan had been classmates at the University of Southern California, and had been involved with the Nixon Republicans since their early days of the 1962 gubernatorial elections.  Although the dirty tricksters quietly acknowledged  Haldeman’s involvement and attempted to keep his involvement as a White House connection silent, Charles Colson, the Special Counsel to the President, was intensely involved with Dwight Chapin, the appointment of Donald Segretti, and the harassment of Edmund Muskie.  These operations, however, were conducted without President Nixon’s knowledge.

 DIRTY TRICKS

The dirty tricks were, in essence, the playground pranks of the adult set.  With small juvenile acts that were not necessarily classified as crime, such as the incredibly large order of pizzas sent to a formal Democratic rally under Muskie’s name by Segretti’s operatives, the Republican Party hoped to slight Muskie’s character in the eyes of his potential supporters.  Helpful in such operations were Republican “moles,” spies placed within the Democratic Party lines to report back to Segretti and his team: an example of such a “mole” was Edmund Muskie’s personal chauffeur.  However, Segretti remained unable to distinguish such low-level pranks from higher level petty crime, such as the unauthorized checking of files containing classified information about the candidates in the search for sexually and politically fractious behavior.  Also included in Segretti’s criminal actions was the fabrication of information about the candidates’ sexual preferences, as well as the forging of mail from the candidates.

 

 THE CANUCK LETTER

One of the largest covert activities undertaken by Segretti’s group involved the last of these crimes against the Democratic Party, known commonly as the “Canuck Letter.”  On February 24, 1972, a fabricated news editorial entitled “Senator Muskie Insults Franco-Americans” appeared in William Loeb’s New Hampshire Manchester Union Leader.  The article published a letter allegedly from Muskie in which the senator used the derogatory term “Canuck” to address the minority of these Americans of French descent in the New Hampshire region where he was campaigning at the time.   “We don’t have blacks but we have Cannocks [sic],” claimed the letter. “Come to New England and see.”  As with the assumptions of the Committee for the Preservation of the Democratic Party in California, the Republicans banked on the support of that Franco-American minority in New Hampshire.  A second letter defaming Muskie appeared in the February 25 issue of the Manchester Union Leader, this time attacking Muskie’s wife in an editorial entitled “Big Daddy’s Jane.”  Criticizing Muskie’s wife for excessive smoking, drinking, and swearing to the press, this second article caused Muskie to lose the calm nature that had appealed to his constituents.  He lashed out at Loeb, reproving him as an attention-seeking liar.  Segretti’s fabrication of evidence sadly was quite effective in tarnishing Muskie’s hard-earned reputation.

 

  

 

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In His Own Words: The Haldeman Diaries, 1972 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE COORDINATOR

 

Dwight Chapin (left), hired Donald Segretti to recapture the spirit of '62

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THE OPERATIVE

 

Donald Segretti, the brains behind the temporary brawn of the Republican Party

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THE DEFAMER

 

William Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader (left)

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