John Bolton and the Corruption of Think Tanks; David Brooks on Conservative Sleaze


I have found some more on John Bolton’s think tank management controversy. Think tanks are usually organized as 501c3 organizations — organized for the public good but increasingly they are becoming money laundering operations for lobbyists or corporate consulting shops. It seems that John Bolton helped the National Policy Forum move well down this path.
The National Policy Forum of which John Bolton was President was stripped of its non-profit 501c3 status. Foreign money, mega-conference fundraisers, inappropriate political activity, possibly laundering foreign funds into political activities. John Bolton was an architect of this insidious mess.
Many conservatives have genuine concerns about the management of the United Nation’s after the “Oil-for-Food” scandal, even though it’s clear that the U.S. delegation to the U.N. knew what was going on.
But Bolton is a guy whose own past management experience and the blurring of legal lines in his own organization sounds a lot like what Bernie Ebbers would have looked for in his team at WorldCom or Ken Lay at Enron.
Here is an excerpt of a much longer brief worth reading:

A decade later Bolton was again entangled in money laundering schemes to support Republican candidates, but this time it involved money channeled from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the Republican Party by way of a “think tank” linked to the Republican National Committee (RNC).
In 1995-96 Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF), which, according to a congressional investigation, functioned as an intermediary organization to funnel foreign and corporate money to Republicans.
The NPF had been established in 1993 in anticipation of the 1994 general election. Founded by the RNC’s chairman Haley Barbour a few months after he assumed the party’s chairmanship, the forum was organized as a nonprofit, tax-exempt education institute, although the IRS later ruled that NPF was a subsidiary of the RNC and not entitled to its requested tax-exempt status.
A congressional investigation into foreign money and influence in the 1996 presidential campaign brought to light the role of the NPF, which, according to a minority report of the congressional committee, channeled $800,00 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle after having also used the same mechanisms to fund congressional races around the country in 1994.
When John Bolton became NPF president in 1995, the forum began organizing “megaconferences” as a hook to raise money for the party. These conferences brought together Republican members of congress, lobbyists, and corporate executives to discuss matters that were frequently the object of pending legislation. An NPF memo laid out the funding strategy: “NPF will continue to recruit new donors through conference sponsorships. … In order for the conferences to take place, they must pay for themselves or turn a profit. Industry and association leaders will be recruited to participate and sponsor those forums, starting at $25,000.”

Today, David Brooks has a stunningly good critique on the corruption of the conservative establishment titled “Masters of Sleaze.” Brooks does not mention Bolton, Barbour and the National Policy Forum, but these could easily be other chapters in a David Brooks book on the subject.
Brooks writes:

Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!
Before long, ringleader Grover Norquist and his buddies were signing lobbying deals with the Seychelles and the Northern Mariana Islands and talking up their interests at weekly conservative strategy sessions – what could be more vital to the future of freedom than the commercial interests of these two fine locales?
Before long, folks like Norquist and Abramoff were talking up the virtues of international sons of liberty like Angola’s Jonas Savimbi and Congo’s dictator Mobutu Sese Seko – all while receiving compensation from these upstanding gentlemen, according to The Legal Times. Only a reactionary could have been so discomfited by Savimbi’s little cannibalism problem as to think this was not a daring contribution to the cause of Reaganism.

Brooks best punch at the conservative establishment that has embraced sleaze and right-wingism:

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative,” embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.

I think Bolton really is in trouble. I’m sending a note to David Brooks today to share this column with him but also to let him know that standing up for better moral performance of our political leadership — on the right and the left — is patriotic and important.
John Bolton cut his teeth in the world of big money intrigue that David Brooks describes — and that makes him the wrong guy to pursue American interests at the United Nations at this point in the UN’s history.
— Steve Clemons