In the fall
of 1996, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's latest foray into the high-priced world
of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists were
writing scathingly about Moon's plan to open a regional newspaper that the
77-year-old founder of the Korea -based Unification Church hoped would give
him the same influence in Latin America that the ultra-conservative
Washington Times had in the United States.
As opening day ticked closer for Moon's Tiempos del Mundo, leading South American newspapers were busy recounting unsavory chapters of Moon's history, including his links to South Korea's feared intelligence service, the KCIA, and his ties to neo-fascis ts in South America.
One Argentine publication, Clarin, reported that Moon's T'ong Il firm had supplied automatic weapons to Latin armies during some of the brutal counter-insurgency wars. The newspaper also reported that Moon's operatives had assisted in the infamous "Cocaine Coup" which saw drug lords seize control of Bolivia in 1980 with the help of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and younger right-wing terrorists.
During that same period, amid widespread human rights abuses in Argentina and Uruguay, Moon had used friendships with the military dictators there to invest heavily in those two countries. Moon was such a pal of the Argentine "dirty war" generals that he garnered an honorary award for siding with the junta in the Falklands War.
More recently, Moon had been buying large tracts of agricultural lands in Paraguay. On Nov. 19, 1996, La Nacion reported that Moon had discussed these business ventures with Paraguay's ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner, whose 34-year reign was best known for harboring Nazi war criminals.
fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine
news media of trying to sabotage the newspaper's inaugural gala in Buenos
Aires on Nov. 23. "The local press was trying to undermine the event,"
complained the church's internal newsletter, Unification News.
Given the public controversy and the Catholic Church's objections to Moon, Argentina's elected president, Carlos Menem, decided to reject Moon's invitation. But Moon had a trump card to play in his bid for South American respectability: the endorsement o f an ex-president of the United States, George Bush. Agreeing to speak at the newspaper's launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos Aires on Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem's official residence, the Olivos. But Bush failed to change the Argentine president's mind.
Still, Moon's followers gushed that Bush had saved the day, as he stepped before about 900 Moon guests at the Sheraton Hotel. "Mr. Bush's presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige," wrote the Unification News. "Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children [Moon's offspring] just a few feet from the podium."
Bush lavished praise on Moon and his journalistic enterprises. "I want to salute Reverend Moon, who is the founder of The Washington Times and also of Tiempos del Mundo," Bush declared. "A lot of my friends in South America don't know about The Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. The editors of The Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C. I am convinced that Tiempos del Mundo is going to do the same thing" in Latin America.
Bush then held up the colorful new newspaper and complimented several articles, including one flattering piece about Barbara Bush. Bush's speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon's followers.
"Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory," the Unification News exulted. "Everyone was delighted to hear his compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and 'nice' speech, but praise in Father's presence was more than we expected. ... It was vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from heaven."
of The Washington Times' editorial independence also was
not truthful. Almost since it opened in 1982, a string of senior editors and
correspondents have resigned, citing the manipulation of the news by Moon
and his subordinates. The first editor, James Whelan, resigned in 1984,
confessing to "blood on my hands" for helping the church achieve greater
But Bush's boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America. "The day after," the Unification News observed, "the press did a 180-degree about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of a U.S. president." With Bush's help, Moon had gained another beachhead for his worldwide business- religious- political- media empire.
After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon. "Bush told me he came and charged money to do it," Menem said. But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By last fall, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for possibly two decades. The ex-president also had been moonlighting as a front man for Moon for more than a year.
In September 1995, George and Barbara Bush gave six speeches in Asia for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a group led by Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush insisted that "what really co unts is faith, family and friends." Mrs. Moon followed the ex-president to the podium and announced that "it has to be Reverend Moon to save the United States, which is in decline because of the destruction of the family and moral decay."
In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. Bush addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon's connection to the event. Bush had no such qualms.
Throughout these public appearances, Bush's office has refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-president. But estimates of Bush's fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church have put the total Bush-Moon package in the millions, with one source telling me that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million.
Moon may have bought
more than Bush's flattery, too. A senior Argentine
official, who asked not to be identified by name, said Bush's intervention
opened the door for a private meeting between Moon and Menem to discuss
Moon's business ventures. Bush and Moon may have other joint business
interests as well. On Nov. 16, 1996, La Nacion quoted local businessmen as
saying that Bush and Moon were keeping an eye on plans to privatize the
hydroelectric complex of Yacyreta, a joint $12 billion Paraguayan-Argentine
project to dam the Parana River.
Still, the Bush-Moon alliance is not strictly about money -- and it did not start in Bush's post-presidency. According to U.S. officials interviewed in Washington and an Argentine press report in the magazine Noticias, Bush and Moon be gan their symbiotic relationship in 1976 when Bush was CIA director and Moon was emerging as a funder for anti-communist organizations from Asia to South America.
Though much of that history remains murky, the Bush-Moon nexus certainly had formed by the start of the Reagan-Bush era -- when Moon was a VIP guest at the inauguration in 1981. The linkage also could extend into the next century as the ex-president works to shore up conservative support for his eldest son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who is expected to run for the White House in 2000.
Sources close to Bush say the ex-president has worked hard to pull well-to-do conservatives and their money behind his son's candidacy. Without doubt, Moon is one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles, having financed important conservative activi sts from both the Religious Right, such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Inside-the-Beltway right-wing professionals.
A silent testimony to Moon's clout is the fact that his vast spending of secretive Asian money to influence U.S. politics -- spanning nearly a quarter century -- has gone virtually unmentioned amid the current controversy over Asian donations to U.S. politicians. With unintended irony, Moon's Washington Times repeatedly has featured stories about secret Asian money going to Democrats. The Times even has baited other news organizations to be more aggressive in chasing down the Asian dollar sources.
But in Moon's case, the Asian connection is especially relevant, because of scandals surrounding his early activities in America. U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence agencies monitored the church in the 1960s and '70s, considering it a potential national security threat to the United States. Internal reports by the CIA, the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency painted a picture of a secretive religion with close ties to the KCIA as well as to prominent right-wing industrialists linked to the Japanese mob, the yakuza.
In the late 1970s,
a congressional investigation drew on these reports in
tying the Unification Church to "Koreagate," an influence-buying scheme
directed by the KCIA against American targets. Investigators traced the
church's chief sources of money to bank accounts in Japan, but could follow
the cash no further.
When I inquired about the vast fortune that the Unification Church has poured into its American operations, the church's chief spokesman refused to divulge dollar amounts for any of Moon's activities. "Each year the church retains an independent accounting firm to do a national audit and produce an annual financial statement," wrote church legal representative Peter D. Ross. "While this statement is used in routine financial transactions by the church, [it] is not my policy to make it otherwise avail-ab le." Ross also refused to pass on interview requests to Moon and other church leaders.
For years, church officials have maintained that the money comes from U.S. fund-raising and from varied businesses, ranging from machine manufacturing to tuna fishing. But my interviews with a half dozen former senior church figures found solid agreement that the expense of just keeping The Washington Times afloat -- a figure that one ex-leader put at $100 million-plus a year -- far exceeds what the church generates in the United States. The newspaper and its sister publications -- Insight and The World & I -- have cost Moon an estimated $1 billion or more in losses over the past 15 years.
Moon's jingle of deep-pocket cash also has caused many conservatives to turn a deaf ear toward Moon's recent anti-American diatribes. With growing virulence, Moon has denounced the United States and its democratic principles, often referring to America as "Satanic." But these speeches have gone unreported, even though the texts of some sermons are carried on the Internet and their timing coincided with Bush's warm endorsements of Moon.
"America has become the kingdom of individualism, and its people are individualists," Moon preached in one sermon in Tarrytown, N.Y., on March 5, 1995. "You must realize that America has become the kingdom of Satan."
In similar remarks to followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed that the church's eventual dominance over the United States would be followed by the liquidation of American individualism. "Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people," Moon declared. "The world will reject Americans who continue to be so foolish. Once you have this great power of love, which is big enough to swallow entire America, there may be some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested."
During the same sermon, Moon decried assertive American women. "American women have the tendency to consider that women are in the subject position," he said. "However, woman's shape is like that of a receptacle. The concave shape is a receiving shape. Whereas, the convex shape symbolizes giving ... Since man contains the seed of life, he should plant it in the deepest place.
"Does woman contain the seed of life? [Followers: 'No.'] Absolutely not. Then if you desire to receive the seed of life, you have to become an absolute object. In order to qualify as an absolute object, you need to demonstrate absolute faith, love and obedience to your subject. Absolute obedience means that you have to negate yourself 100 percent."
On May 1, 1997, Moon told a group of followers that "the country that represents Satan's harvest is America."
These pronouncements contrast with Moon's praise of the United States disseminated for public consumption during his early forays to Washington. On Sept. 18, 1976, at a flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument, Moon said "the United States of America , transcending race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world." He called America "the chosen nation of God" and added that "I not only respect America, but truly love this nation."
Yet, even as Moon has soured on America, his recruiters continue to use that flag-draped scene of the Washington Monument to lure new followers. The patriotic image struck powerfully with John Stacey when the college freshman watched a video of that speech while undergoing Unification Church recruitment in 1992.
"American flags were everywhere," recalled Stacey, a thin young man from central New Jersey. "The first video they showed me was Reverend Moon praising America and praising Christianity." In 1992, Stacey considered himself a patriotic American and a faithful Christian. He soon joined the Unification Church.
Stacey became a Pacific Northwest leader in Moon's Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles [CARP]. "They liked to hang me up because I'm young and I'm American," Stacey told me. "It's a good image for the church. They try to create the all-American look, where [now] I think they're usurping American values, that they're anti-American."
At a 1995 leadership conference at a church compound in Anchorage, Alaska, Stacey met face-to-face with Moon who was sitting on a throne-like chair while a group of American followers, many middle-aged converts from the 1970s, sat at his feet like children.
"Reverend Moon looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'America is Satanic. America is so Satanic that even hamburgers should be considered evil, because they come from America,'" recalled Stacey. "Hamburgers! My father was a butcher, so that bothered me. ... I started feeling that I was betraying my country."
Moon's criticism of Jesus also unsettled Stacey. "In the church, it's very anti-Jesus," Stacey said. "Jesus failed miserably. He died a lonely death. Reverend Moon is the hero that comes and saves pathetic Jesus. Reverend Moon is better than God. ... That's why I left the Moonies. Because it started to feel like idolatry. He's promoting idolatry."
Despite a rash
of recent defections by young and old followers, Moon's
empire still prospers financially, backed by vast untracked wealth. "It's a
multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate," noted Steve Hassan, a
former church leader who has written a book about religious cults, entitled
Combatting Cult Mind Control. At his Internet site, Hassan has a 31-page
list of organizations connected to the Unification Church, many secretively.
"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his one-world theocracy," Hassan said. "Yet he's wined and dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
A couple of years ago, Moon shifted his personal base of operation to a luxurious estate in Uruguay. Moon had invested tens of millions of dollars in that nation since the early 1980s when he was close to the military government. In a sermon on Jan. 2, 1996, Moon was unusually blunt about how he expected to buy influence among the powerful in South America, just as he had in Washington.
"Father has been practicing the philosophy of fishing here," Moon said, through an interpreter who spoke of Moon in the third person. "He [Moon] gave the bait to Uruguay and then the bigger fish of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay kept their mouths open, w aiting for a bigger bait silently. The bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth. Therefore, Father is able to hook them more easily."
As part of his business strategy, Moon explained that he would dot the continent with small airstrips and construct bases for submarines which could evade Coast Guard patrols. His airfield project would allow tourists to visit "hidden, untouched, small places" throughout South America, he said. "Therefore, they need small airplanes and small landing strips in the remote countryside. ... In the near future, we will have many small airports throughout the world."
Moon wanted the submarines because "there are so many restrictions due to national boundaries worldwide. If you have a submarine, you don't have to be bound in that way." Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious operations, which sound like an invitation to drug traffickers. He boasted to his followers that with his vast array of political and media assets, he will dominate the new Information Age.
"That is why Father has been combining and organizing scholars from all over the world, and also newspaper organizations -- in order to make propaganda," Moon said. Central to that success in South America is Tiempos del Mundo.
Moon is modeling his South American schemes on his success in Washington where Ronald Reagan hailed The Washington Times as his "favorite" newspaper and it defended the Reagan-Bush administration's political flanks. In the mid-1980s, when journalists and Congress began prying into Oliver North's secret support for the Nicaraguan contras and their ties to drug trafficking, Moon's paper led the counter-attack.
"Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy" was the subtitle of one front-page Washington Times article criticizing a piece that Brian Barger and I had written for The Associated Press about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras.
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., uncovered more evidence of contra drug trafficking, The Washington Times denounced him. The newspaper first published articles suggesting that Kerry was on a wasteful political witch hunt. "Kerry's anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain," announced one Times article.
But when Kerry exposed more and more contra wrongdoing, The Washington Times changed tactics. In 1987, it began intimidating Kerry's staff with front-page accusations that they were obstructing justice. "Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe," shouted another Times article. It opened with the assertion that "congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance [the contras], federal law enforcement officials said."
As the Iran-contra scandal continued to spread and threatened Bush's public insistence that he was "out of the loop," Moon's paper turned its fire on special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Over and over, the paper attacked Walsh for minor indiscretions, such as allegedly wasting money with first-class air fare and room-service meals.
When former CIA clandestine services chief Clair George was on trial for false statements, The Washington Times published a front-page story with the two-column headline, "GOP Questions Walsh Spending." That morning, George's CIA support ers in the courtroom held the headline up so the jury could see the anti-Walsh allegations. Throughout the Iran-contra scandal, the paper played a crucial role in protecting the Reagan-Bush cover-up.
At the end
of the Reagan presidency, Moon's Washington Times readily
extended its loyalty to Bush. When Bush lagged behind Michael Dukakis in the
early days of the 1988 presidential race, the Times falsely implied that
Dukakis had undergone psychiatric care. The story drew national attention
and raised early doubts about Dukakis's fitness for the White House. To help
push Bush over the top, the Moon-connected American Freedom Coalition
distributed millions of pro-Bush flyers.
With Bush's victory, Moon's influence advanced again inside Washington. His front groups proliferated as more and more prestigious figures in politics, journalism and academia accepted Moon's money. In 1991, when Wesley Pruden was appointed Times' edi or-in-chief, Bush invited him to a private White House lunch "just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day."
In 1992, the newspaper pushed for Bush's re-election by running stories about Bill Clinton's collegiate trip to Moscow. The stories suggested that the Rhodes scholar was a spy for the KGB. Four years later, with the Republicans hoping to oust Clinton, The Washington Times reversed field with a contradictory banner story: "Was Bill Clinton a junior spy for the CIA?"
In 2000, Moon's newspaper could give similar boosts to the expected presidential candidacy of Gov. George W. Bush. Moon has succeeded in hooking many big fish in Washington -- "the bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth" -- but none bigger than former President George Bush.
On Jan. 28, 1995,
a beaming Rev. Jerry Falwell told his Good Time Gospel
Hour congregation news that seemed heaven sent. The televangelist hailed two
Virginia businessmen as financial saviors of debt-ridden Liberty University,
the fundamentalist Christian school that Falwell had made the crown jewel of
his Religious Right empire.
"They had to borrow money, hock their houses, hock everything," enthused Falwell. "Thank God for friends like Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas." Falwell's congregation rose as one to applaud. The star of the moment was Daniel Reber, who stood behind Falwell.
Thomas was not present.
Reber and Thomas earned Falwell's gratitude by excusing the Lynchburg, Va., school of about one-half of its $73 million debt. In the late 1980s, that flood of red ink had forced Falwell to abandon his Moral Majority political organization and nearly drowned Liberty in bankruptcy.
Reber and Thomas came to Falwell's rescue in the nick of time. Their non-profit Christian Heritage Foundation of Forest, Va., snapped up a big chunk of Liberty's debt for $2.5 million, a fraction of its face value. Thousands of small religious investors who had bought church construction bonds through a Texas company were the big losers. But Falwell shed no tears. He told local reporters that the moment was "the greatest single day of financial advantage" in the school's history.
Left unmentioned in the happy sermon was the identity of the other guardian angel who had protected Falwell's financial interests -- from a distance and without publicity. That secret benefactor was the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed South Kore and messiah who is controversial with many fundamentalist Christians because of his unconventional Biblical interpretations and his brainwashing tactics that tore thousands of young people from their families.
Covertly, Moon helped bail out Liberty University through one of his front groups which funnelled $3.5 million to the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation, the non-profit that had purchased the school's debt.
this Moon-Falwell connection while looking for something else:
how much Moon's Women's Federation for World Peace had paid former President
George Bush for a series of speeches in Asia in 1995. I obtained the
federation's Internal Revenue Service records but discovered that Bush's
undisclosed speaking fee was buried in a line item of $13.6 million for
There was, however, a listing for a $3.5 million "educational" grant to the Christian Heritage Foundation. A call to the Virginia corporate records office confirmed that the foundation was the one run by Reber and Thomas.
In a later interview, the Women Federation's vice president Susan Fefferman confirmed that the $3.5 million grant had gone to "Mr. Falwell's people" for the benefit of Liberty. "It was Dan Reber," she said. But she could not recall much else about the grant, even though it was the largest single grant which the federation awarded that year.
For details on the grant, Fefferman referred me to Keith Cooperrider, the federation's treasurer. Cooperrider is also the chief financial officer of Moon's Washington Times and a longtime Unification Church functionary. Cooperrider did not return several phone calls seeking his comment. Falwell also failed to respond to my calls. Reber did call back but refused to discuss the Moon money deal.
The full public record strongly suggests that Falwell solicited Moon's help in bailing out Liberty University. In a lawsuit on file in the Circuit Court of Bedford County -- a community in southwestern Virginia -- two of Reber's former business associate s alleged that Reber and Falwell flew to South Korea on Jan. 9, 1994, on a seven-day "secret trip" to meet "with representatives of the Unification Church."
The court document states that Reber and Falwell were accompanied to South Korea by Ronald S. Godwin, who had been executive director of Falwell's Moral Majority before signing on as vice president of Moon's Washington Times. Godwin apparently was the marriage broker between Falwell and the Moon organization.
According to Bedford County court records, Reber, Falwell and Godwin also had discussions at Liberty University in 1993 with Dong Moon Joo, one of Moon's right-hand men and president of The Washington Times. Though Reber was queried about the purposes of the Moon-connected meetings in the court papers, he settled the business dispute before responding to interrogatories or submitting to a deposition. He did deny any legal wrongdoing.
But Moon's secret aid to Falwell raise some sensitive political questions. For instance, did the $3.5 million from Moon's front group give Falwell the means to become a national pitchman for "The Clinton Chronicles" and other conspiracy videos which fingered President and Mrs. Clinton in a wide range of serious crimes, including murder? At the time of the Liberty bail-out, Falwell was using his costly TV time to hawk the videos.
Many of those lurid right-wing conspiracy theories have since been discredited, including allegations implicating the Clintons in the death of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster. But the Falwell-promoted videos did feed a Clinton scandal fever that helped the Republicans seize control of Congress in 1994.
When The Roanoke Times & World News interviewed Falwell about the Liberty University bail-out, the televangelist sat at his desk in front of two life-size, full-color cutouts of Bill and Hillary Clinton, whom he jokingly called his "advisers." The cut- outs were gifts from Liberty staffers in recognition of Falwell's success in distributing the Clinton-hating videos. Falwell did not mention the Moon money.
Falwell also might have been shy about disclosing his alliance with Moon because the Korean's theology upsets many Christians. Moon asserts that Satan corrupted mankind by sexually seducing Eve in the Garden of Eden and that only through sexual purification can mankind be saved. In line with that doctrine, Moon says Jesus failed in his mission to save mankind because he did not procreate.
Moon sees himself as a second messiah who will not make the same mistake. He has engaged in sex with a variety of women over the decades. The total number of his offspring is a point of debate inside the Unification Church.
also has turned stridently anti-American, another problem
for the Religious Right and its strongly patriotic positions. Still, Moon
continues to buy friends on the American right -- as well as among
African-American religious figures -- by spreading around vast sums of
money. Much of it targets political infrastructure: direct-mail operations,
video services for campaign ads, professional operatives and right-wing
Through The Washington Times and its affiliated publications -- Insight magazine and The World & I -- Moon has not only showcased conservative opinions, but he has created seemingly legitimate conduits to funnel money to individuals and companies he seeks to influence. In the early 1980s, for instance, The Washington Times hired the New Right's direct-mail whiz Richard Viguerie to conduct a pricey direct-mail subscription drive. The business boosted Viguerie's profit margin.
Another element of Moon's strategy is to approach a conservative leader when he's financially down. Moon quietly infuses money and gains the leader's gratitude. Again, Viguerie is an example of that tactic. When he fell on hard times in the late 1980s, Moon directed more business his way and had a corporation run by Moon's lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak, buy one of Viguerie's properties for $10 million.
With Moon's timely intervention, Viguerie survived financially and remains an important fixture in conservative political campaigns to this day. When Iran-contra figure Oliver North ran for the U.S. Senate in Virginia in 1994, his principal direct-mail contractor was Viguerie's company, according to Federal Election Commission records.
For some smaller enterprises, Moon-connected business can be a huge percentage of total income. That was the case with Falwell's benefactors, Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas, who ran a small company called Direct Mail Communications of Forest, Va. According to court records, $5 million -- more than one-third of its income in one year -- came from a direct-mail subscription drive for Moon's Insight magazine.
At times, Moon's penetration of conservative ranks has raised red flags among Republicans. In 1983, the GOP's moderate Ripon Society charged that the New Right had entered "an alliance of expediency" with Moon's church. Ripon's chairman, Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, released a study which alleged that the College Republican National Committee "solicited and received" money from Moon's Unification Church in 1981. The study also accused Reed Irvine's Accuracy in Media of benefitting from low-cost or volunteer workers supplied by Moon.
Leach said the Unification Church has "infiltrated the New Right and the party it [the New Right] wants to control, the Republican Party, and infiltrated the media as well." Leach's news conference was broken up when then-college GOP leader Grover Norqui st accused Leach of lying. (Norquist is now head of Americans for Tax Reform and a prominent ally of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.)
For its part, The Washington Times dismissed Leach's charges as "flummeries" and mocked the Ripon Society as a "discredited and insignificant left-wing offshoot of the Republican Party."
fretting over Moon's influence, conservatives continued to
accept his deep-pocket assistance. When President Reagan and Oliver North
were scratching for support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels, The Washington
Times established a contra fund-raising operation. Moon's international
group, CAUSA, also dispatched operatives to Central America to assist the
By the mid-1980s, Moon's Unification Church had carved out a niche as an acceptable part of the American right. In one speech to his followers, Moon boasted that "without knowing it, even President Reagan is being guided by Father [Moon]."
Yet, Moon also made clear that his longer-range goal was the destruction of the U.S. Constitution and America's democratic form of government. "History will make the position of Reverend Moon clear, and his enemies, the American population and government will bow down to him," Moon said, speaking of himself in the third person. "That is Father's tactic, the natural subjugation of the American government and population."
As Andrew Ferguson wrote in the right-wing American Spectator, Moon's church attracted U.S. conservatives by advocating a muscular anti-communism. "There is little else in Unificationism that American conservatives will find compelling," Ferguson noted -- except, of course, the money. "They're the best in town as far as putting their money where their mouth is," one Washington-based conservative told Ferguson.
Moon's money gave the right an important edge in attacking its enemies and defending its friends. After the Iran-contra scandal exploded in 1986, The Washington Times and other Moon operations battled aggressively to protect Reagan's White House and Oliver North. Godwin, the link between Falwell's Moral Majority and Moon's Washington Times, raised funds for North through a group called the Interamerican Partnership, which was a fore-runner to North's own Freedom Alliance.
Another Moon-connected group, the American Freedom Coalition, went to bat for North. According to Andrew Leigh, who worked for a Moon front called Global Image Associates, AFC broadcast a pro-North video, "Ollie North: Fight for Freedom," more than 600 times on more than 100 TV stations. Leigh quoted one AFC official as saying that AFC received $5 million to $6 million from business interests associated with Moon. AFC also bragged that it helped put George Bush into the White House in 1988 by distribut ing 30 million pieces of political literature.
Direct Mail Communications,
the firm owned by Reber and Thomas, aided North,
too, in building his famous mailing lists. [The firm has done direct-mail
work as well for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican National
Committee, and the National Rifle Association, according to The Roanoke
Times & World News.]
Indeed, the story of Direct Mail Communications, a small company based in a strip-mall shopping center off Route 221 in rural Forest, Va., underscores how intertwined Moon's operations have grown with American conservatism.
Reber and Thomas founded the company in September 1989, roughly the same time that Falwell's Liberty University began trying to refinance its worsening debt. Also, in 1989, Charles P. Keith, Roger M. Ott and Ronald Godwin -- all Washington Times executives -- created another firm called Mail America.
According to court records, Godwin introduced Keith and Ott to Reber and Thomas. The get-to-know-you quickly led to a deal. Keith, Ott and Godwin bought DMC for $2.5 million on Oct. 6, 1989, even though the company had existed for only one month. Reber and Thomas were retained to run the business.
Inside the firm, however, tensions grew. In 1991, Godwin split, selling his share of the business to Keith and Ott. Reber, who was getting a salary of $1,000 a day or $365,000 a year, spent too much time on discount work for conservative causes, Keith and Ott later complained. In one court filing, they alleged that a paid DMC staffer was sent to help a conservative Republican named Gene Keith run for Congress in Florida.
Falwell's Liberty University, Old Time Gospel Hour and Liberty Alliance also got discounts on their direct-mail solicitations, the owners charged. "Reber and Thomas never even collected an amount sufficient to pay all of DMC's actual postage expenses," Keith and Ott stated.
By summer 1993,
Reber began long absences from DMC while working on the
bail-out of Liberty University, according to the court papers. Keith and Ott
alleged that Falwell, Reber and Godwin met with The Washington Times'
publisher Dong Moon Joo in Lynchb urg in 1993 and flew to South Korea in
January 1994 for other meetings with Moon's representatives.
Reber's travels took him to "South America, Montana, Europe, Russia and the Republic of Korea," Keith and Ott said. Meanwhile, DMC was sliding into "extreme financial distress." So, after Reber returned from the South Korean trip, Keith and Ott fired him. That prompted Reber to file a wrongful termination suit in Bedford County Circuit Court on July 20, 1994. Keith and Ott countered by filing a fraud case against Reber and Thomas in Roanoke federal court in September 1994.
For his part, Falwell, who once boasted that he had spurned a $1 million speaking fee from Moon in the mid-1980s, now found himself caught in Moon's orbit. On July 26, 1994, Falwell prominently sat at the head table for Moon's inauguration of yet another front group, the Youth Federation for World Peace. Falwell also posed for a group photo with Moon and other dignitaries. Next to Falwell stood Ronald Reagan's daughter, Maureen.
Despite the DMC court battles, North still sent the direct-mail company some business during his 1994 Senate campaign. According to FEC records, North paid DMC $138,561 for its direct-mail work while DMC extended North the most credit of any vendor. When North's $19 million campaign ended with his narrow defeat, his largest single debt -- $89,033 -- was to DMC.
At about that same time, in January 1995, Reber and Thomas were completing their purchase of about one-half of Liberty University's debt, much of it for a fraction of the face value. The big losers included 2,500 bondholders who invested in the Texas-based Church & Institutional Facilities Development Corp., which had owned $12 million of the school's debt. Reber and Thomas scooped up the bonds at a bankruptcy fire sale for about 20 percent of their value, or $2.5 million.
were "mom and pops cashing in their IRA money because their
local minister and Falwell's letters said they'd be doing God's work,"
recalled Doug Hudman, a lawyer in the case. "The true victims are the
mom-and-pop believers who think their money was going to a good cause. All
it was doing was going to fund Mr. Falwell's continued indebtedness. It's
kind of sickening."
But Falwell told reporters that it was just a question of luck. "When the bankruptcy trustee called in all the notes and put them up for sale, anyone could have bought them," Falwell said. "That was fortunate for us."
After months of complicated legal maneuvering, Dan Reber also seems to have been fortunate enough to win out in the DMC power struggle. He now runs the direct-mail factory in Forest, Va., under the name, "Mail America."
But behind the good fortune that blessed Falwell and his friends appears to have been a timely contribution of $3.5 million from Rev. Moon's Women's Federation for World Peace.
Albion Monitor January 7, 1998 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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