Nicaraguan Freedom Fund
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
History & Background
"While no official link between the government and the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund has come to light, an article in the Village Voice reported that Natl Security Adviser Bud McFarlane received a memo from Col. Oliver North in which North suggested that 'The Nicaraguan Freedom Fund, Inc. , a 501(c)3 tax exempt corporation must be established.' North feared that Congress would not pass the upcoming bill on humanitarian aid to the Nicaraguan contras. North went on to write, 'Several reliable American citizens must be contacted to serve on its board of directors...' McFarlane noted his approval. Congress rejected the contra aid package in late April. And on May 8, 1985 Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave, announced that the Nicaraguan Freedom Foundation (NFF) had been formed by the Times to raise the $14 million for humanitarian aid to the contras that the Congress had recently rejected."
"...The White House brought together a coalition of 'retired' military men and right-wing millionaires to support the 'Nicaragua Freedom Fund,' chaired by Wall Street investment executive William Simon...The Fund claimed to raise over $20 million through activities such as a $250-a-plate 'Nicaraguan refugee' dinner in April 1985 attended by Casey and Simon and featuring a speech by Reagan. In reality, the Fund was a propaganda front, spending almost as much money as it raised. An audit of the 'refugee dinner' showed it had raised $219,525 but costs totaled $218,376, including $116,938 in 'consulting fees.'"
The main purpose of the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund was to divert attention from the covert channels through which real money flowed to the contras in violation of the Boland Amendment. One of those channels was a specialized PR firm, International Business Communications, which pleaded guilty in 1987 to fraud by using a tax-exempt foundation to raise funds to arm the contras. It had been a profitable business, according to the Iran/Contra congressional investigating committee, which concluded that IBC had kept about $1.7 million of the $5 million it channeled to the contras."
"Contributors included familiar right-wing figures like TV evangelist Pat Robertson, Colorado beer baron Joseph Coors, oil magnate Nelson Bunker Hunt, singer Pat Boone, and Soldier of Fortune magazine." "Col. Bo Hi Pak, top deputy to the Rev. Moon of the Unification Church, and president of the News World Communications, parent company of the Washington Times, kicked off the campaign with a donation of $100,000.It was reported that Jeane Kirkpatrick pledged $20,000 in lecture fees and Clare Booth Luce pledged $1,000. Jeane Kirkpatrick reportedly also donated a $2,500 fee she received from Ralston Purina Co for a photograph of her pet Siamese cat, Arthur.
"The Nicaraguan Freedom Fund had a very showy, but short existence. It opened its doors on May 8, 1985, and according to an interview with Midge Decter reported in the Village Voice, disappeared from the political scene--perhaps as soon as 10 days after it began. NFF was legally dissolved on September 9, 1985. The group's 1985 tax return for the fund reported donations of $165,648 to AmeriCares, an organization that delivered millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador between 1982 and 1986. AmeriCares used the conservative lay-Catholic group, the Knights of Malta to distribute the aid within the recipient countries. The other major expenditure from the reported income of $267,208 was $93,266.80 for newspaper ads. It can be presumed that the ads were similar to the one in the June 11th Los Angeles Times captioned 'Central America Burns... Congress Fiddles.' It carries two photos of small children with the caption, 'These are the victims. . They are the Contras.' The text talks about the "freedom fighters" and their need for the aid denied them by Congress. The ad, of course, contained a donation coupon."
- William Simon, chairman
- Jeane Kirkpatrick, vice pres
- James M. Tully, sec/tres
- Michael Novak, director
- Midge Decter, director
- Charlton Heston, director
One source includes Clare Booth Luce on the board of directors. Harold E. Eberle was the executive director and Jerris Leonard, the general counsel.
- "Group Watch Profile: Nicaraguan Freedom Fund," Right Web, December 26, 2006.
- "The War At Home: Cover for War in Central America," Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, Stauber & Rampton, Common Courage Press, 1995.
- "The North Trial Papers: A Window of the Effort to Circumvent Congress," Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times, April 14, 1989.
- "THE WHITE HOUSE CRISIS; EXCERPTS FROM THE TOWER COMMISSION'S REPORT APPENDIX C: The N.S.C. Staff and the Contras," New York Times, February 27, 1987.
- More Evidence of Mass Deception by James O. Goldsborough, San Diego Union-Tribune. Re Paul O'Neill's book.